On December 21, 2011, patients who were civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program filed this pro se federal lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Minnesota. The plaintiffs sued the Minnesota Department of Health & Human Services and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP). The plaintiffs asked the court for a temporary restraining order or permanent injunction, claiming that they were threatened with unfavorable treatment reports, transfers, unwarranted searches to confiscate legal materials, and termination of supervised release.
The plaintiffs sought to proceed as a class and gained representation from the state bar's Pro Se Project. The first amended complaint was filed on March 15, 2012. The plaintiffs sought injunctive relief and damages, alleging that the defendants violated the Due Process Clause, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Minnesota Constitution, and the Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment Act. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that the defendants failed to provide adequate treatment to the plaintiff class; punished class members instead of treating them; denied class members less restrictive alternative confinement, and incarcerated them under inhumane conditions; denied them religious freedom, free speech, and free association; and subjected them to unreasonable searches and seizures.
In or around 2008, a new Executive Director of the MSOP program was hired, and he was alleged to have imposed more restrictive policies. The plaintiffs alleged that they had vague treatment plans, a lack of qualified clinical staff, and that they had been denied proper medications and treatments. The plaintiffs alleged that punishments included solitary confinement, denial of group therapy, denial of exercise, denial of employment opportunities, and denial of treatment. They also alleged that the double-bunking of sexual offenders led to increased physical and sexual assaults. They claimed that they were subjected to intrusive searches without reasonable suspicion, and that legal correspondence was searched. The plaintiffs also claimed that only one patient had been released without revocation of discharge.
On January 25, 2012, and again on February 6, 2012, the Court (Judge Michael J. Davis) stayed all pending MSOP cases.
On July 24, 2012, the parties filed an agreement with the Court, outlining protections against searches of plaintiffs' legal materials. On July 24, 2012 the Court (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." (Karsjens v. Jesson, 283 F.R.D. 514 (D. Minn. 2012)). Because of these developments, on July 26, 2012, the Court (J. Frank) held that the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order was moot.
On August 15, 2012, the Court (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, the Court (J. Boylan) issued an order affirming the appointment of specific individuals to the Task Force. On December 13, 2012, the Court [Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes] approved five more appointments to the Task Force.
On August 8, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint. On February 19, 2014, the court (J. Frank) granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the equal protection claim and denied all plaintiffs' and defendants' motions. In the opinion, Judge Frank warned that he may ultimately find the program to be unconstitutional and urged the legislature to take action.
The plaintiffs subsequently filed a third amended complaint on October 28, 2014. The court (J. Davis) stayed all current and future civil rights cases related to Karsjens pending the resolution of the litigation.
On November 6, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied the defendants' petition for review. The case was scheduled to go to trial in front of Judge Frank in February 2015.
On June 15, 2015, the Court 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 concluded Phase One of this case. The next question was what remedy should address this problem. 2015 WL 3755870 (D. Minn. June 17, 2015).
To this end, on July 23, 2015, former Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson was designated as Special Master. He was authorized to oversee the injunctive relief imposed by the Court. A Special Master was deemed necessary to coordinate the efforts of the parties following the Court's determination of the defendants' liability on Counts I and II of the plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint, to accommodate the public interest in achieving prompt and just solutions to the serious constitutional problems identified by the Court, and to lessen the expense and strain of resources on the Court and the parties in a case of this magnitude.
On August 20, 2015, a Third Amended Stay Order was entered. The purpose was to stay, all current and future civil rights cases that were sufficiently related to this case and were brought by an individual or group of individuals who has or have been civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, pending the litigation in Karsjens, or until further order of the Court stating otherwise.
On October 29, 2015, the Court entered the First 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 the same day the defendants filed a Notice of Appeal to the 8th Circuit with regard to the First Interim Relief Order.
The case is ongoing.Emily Goldman - 02/28/2013
Priyah Kaul - 11/09/2014
Lakshmi Gopal - 11/24/2015