On December 21, 2011, patients civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The plaintiffs sued the Minnesota Department of Health & Human Services [DHS] and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program [MSOP] under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Seeking injunctive and monetary relief, the plaintiffs alleged violations of the Fourteenth, First, and Fourth Amendments.
Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that recent amendments to the Minnesota sex offender treatment statutes and replacements in DHS and MSOP administration had caused a drastic change in the program. Despite being classified as civilly committed patients, the plaintiffs were now placed in a maximum security facility and repeatedly experiencing violations of their personal liberty and dignity. They were provided limited access to the outside world: no access to the internet, exorbitant rates for telephone communications, and harsh and limited policies for in-person visits, including a pat-down of the visitor.
The patients further alleged that they were no longer able to have much of their perviously allowed personal property, and that any incoming property was systematically destroyed by the administration. The patients alleged negligent staff and negligent medical care, resulting in deaths of patients. The sex offender treatment was alleged to be grossly inadequate, resulting in a de facto inability to graduate out of the program and reintegrate into society. The plaintiffs also alleged that the administration deliberately spent the money provided for the sex offender program on the staff, and then unreasonably charges the patients for the inadequately provided basic necessities. The plaintiffs also allege inadequate grievance procedures.
The plaintiffs sought to proceed as a class and were provided representation by the state bar's Pro Se Project. On January 25, 2012, and February 6, 2012, Chief Judge Michael J. Davis stayed all other MSOP cases, pending the resolution of the class certification in this lawsuit. The case was also assigned to Magistrate Judge Jeffery J. Keyes on February 6, 2012.
The first amended complaint was filed on March 15, 2012. In it, the plaintiffs incorporated their previous allegations and added that their treatment also violated the Minnesota Constitution and the Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment Act. The plaintiffs' complaint relied heavily on a March 2011 Evaluation Report on the Civil Commitment of Sex Offender
issued by the Office of the Legislative Auditor for the State of Minnesota.
According to the complaint, several years before, a new Executive Director of the MSOP program had been hired and substantially altered program policies. The plaintiffs alleged that the result was vague treatment plans, a lack of qualified clinical staff, and a denial of proper medications and treatments. The plaintiffs also alleged that punishments included solitary confinement, denial of group therapy, denial of exercise, denial of employment opportunities and denial of treatment. In addition, the double-bunking of sexual offenders had led to increased physical and sexual assaults. The plaintiffs alleged they were subjected to intrusive searches without reasonable suspicion, and that their correspondence was searched. Finally, there was no way to leave the program: only one patient had been released without revocation of discharge.
On April 30, 2012, all parties stipulated to the defendants' motion for an extended time to answer. This was presumably due to settlement negotiations, as preliminary settlement conferences were scheduled the following week.
On July 24, 2012, the defendants stipulated to a temporary restraining order, and Judge Donovan W. Frank certified the plaintiff class of "All patients currently civilly committed in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program pursuant to Min.. Stat. § 253B." 283 F.R.D. 514 (D. Minn. 2012). Because of these developments, on July 26, 2012, Judge Frank held that the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order was moot.
On August 15, 2012, Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan found that further study was necessary to address these issues. The Court ordered the Minnesota Commissioner of Human Services to create a Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force for two years. The Court ordered the Task Force to provide the Commissioner with recommendations on less restrictive alternatives and other recommended legislative reforms.
On October 5, 2012, Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan issued an order affirming the appointment of specific individuals to the Task Force. On December 13, 2012, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes approved five more appointments to the Task Force.
Over the next two years, the parties continued to concurrently participate in settlement negotiations and file motions against each other in court. The Commissioner also proceeded with his court-ordered evaluation of the program. On August 8, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint. On Dec 6, 2013, Judge Donovan W. Frank appointed experts under Rule 706 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
On February 19, 2014, Judge Donovan W. Frank granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the equal protection claim raised in the second amended complaint and denied all plaintiffs' and defendants' other motions. In the opinion, Judge Frank warned that he might ultimately find the program to be unconstitutional and urged the legislature to take action. 6 F.Supp.3d 916.
Having received expert recommendations, on June 2, 2014, Judge Frank ordered the defendants to show cause as to why the continued confinement of E.T. (one of the patients at MSOP) did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and why E.T. should not be immediately and unconditionally released from MSOP.
On June 9, 2014, plaintiffs filed a motion for the immediate transfer of an individual the court identifies as R.B., on the basis of the same report.
On June 11, 2014, the defendants issued a response to the Court's order to show cause regarding E.T.'s continued confinement. On June 19, 2014, the Hennepin County Attorney filed an amicus memorandum on the applicable standard for discharge of persons committed as sexually dangerous persons under current Minnesota law as interpreted by the Minnesota Supreme Court.
On June 27, 2014 the matter of E.T. and R.B were assigned to Judge Donovan W. Frank and Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes following the show cause hearing in this class action and petitions for habeas corpus filed by E.T. and R.B.
On August 11, 2014, Judge Donovan W. Frank declined to declare that confinement of E.T and R.B in MSOP was unconstitutional, and refused to order the immediate discharge of E.T and immediate transfer of R.B. 6 F.Supp.3d 958.
On September 9, 2014, Judge Frank denied the defendants' request for a jury trial, and granted the plaintiffs' request for a bench trial. 2014 WL 4446270.
On October 28, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint.
On November 6, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied the defendants' petition for review.
On February 2, 2015, Judge Frank denied defendants' partial motion to dismiss the third amended complaint as well as the defendants' motion for summary judgement.
On June 17, 2015, Judge Frank granted the plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief with respect to counts I and II of their third amended complaint. Judge Frank found that Minnesota's civil commitment statutory scheme was unconstitutional, both on its face and as applied. After applying the strict scrutiny standard, the Court concluded that Minnesota's civil commitment statutory scheme was not narrowly tailored and was punitive. The Court also held that the determination that the MSOP and its governing civil commitment statutes were unconstitutional concluding phase one of the trial. Judge Frank ordered that counts VIII, IX, and X, would be tried in the second phase of trial. 2015 WL 3755870. Judge Frank also issued an opinion dismissing counts IV, XI, XII, and XIII of the third amended complaint. 2015 WL 3755930.
On July 22, 2015 Judge Frank issued an opinion denying the defendants' request for certification of appeal. The next day, Judge Frank designated former Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson as Special Master to oversee the injunctive relief imposed by the Court.
On August 7, 2015 Judge Frank denied various news agencies their request to obtain court records to intervene for the limited purpose of asserting public access to court proceedings. 2015 BL 254617.
On August 10, 2015 the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss counts IV, XI, XII, and XIII of the third amended complaint was granted, objections filed by plaintiff class members were overruled, and counts IV, XI, XII, and XIII of the third amended complaint were dismissed with prejudice.
On August 20, 2015, a further amended stay order was entered, staying all current and future civil rights cases sufficiently related to this case, pending this litigation or until further order of from the court.
On October 29, 2015, Judge Frank entered an interim relief order, requiring the defendants to conduct independent risk and phase placement reevaluation of all current patients at the MSOP. These independent risk assessments aimed to determine whether each patient (1) continued to meet the constitutional standard for commitment as set forth in Call v. Gomez, 535 N.W.2d 312 (Minn. 1995); (2) could be appropriately transferred or provisionally discharged; (3) could be housed in or monitored by a less restrictive alternative; and (4) was in the proper treatment phase. The defendants were required to complete these assessments within 30 days.
On October 29, 2015, the defendants filed an appeal to the Eighth Circuit regarding the interim relief order.
On November 23, 2015, Judge Frank denied defendants' motion to stay or suspend the interim order, pending the Eighth Circuit appeal.
On December 2, 2015, the Eighth Circuit granted the defendants motion for a temporary administrative stay. The oral argument was set for April 12, 2016.
On April 14, 2016, the Court Chief Judge John R. Tunheim lifted the 2012 stays of all pending MSOP cases.
This case is ongoing.Emily Goldman - 02/28/2013
Priyah Kaul - 11/09/2014
Lakshmi Gopal - 05/14/2016