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SCOTUS declines to review cases involving sex offender registration and commitment

At last week’s “long conference” the Supreme Court denied petitions for certiorari in two potentially significant cases dealing with sex offenders.

The issue in the first case, Snyder v. Doe, was whether various aspects of Michigan’s sex-offender registration law imposed “punishment” in violation of the ex post facto clause. The Sixth Circuit answered that question “yes,” Does #1-5 v. Snyder, 834 F.3d 696 (6th Cir. 2016), so Michigan petitioned for certiorari. The Court’s action means the Sixth Circuit’s opinion stands and may be relied on in challenges to other states’ sex offender registration laws. For commentary on the decision, see this recent article.

The second case, Karsjens v. Piper, involved a challenge to the Minnesota sex offender commitment regime. A district court judge held the Minnesota statute violated due process because it provides no regular or meaningful risk assessments to those in custody and fails to provide for release of those who have completed the “treatment” plans and whom state doctors agree will present no threat to public safety. But the Eighth Circuit reversed, so the class action plaintiffs sought certiorari review. (Our post on the cases is here; the cert petition here.) The denial of cert puts an implicit imprimatur on Minnesota’s system and, as this recent commentary argues, the Court’s refusal to review the case represents an abdication of constitutional oversight of sex offender commitment laws.

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