In March 1996, the Plaintiffs--convicted sex offenders who were incarcerated, on parole, or on probation when New York's original Sex Offenders Registration Act ("SORA") took effect on January 21, 1996--filed a class action in the District Court, alleging that the Act violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution and deprived the Plaintiffs of their due process and equal protection rights. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Judge (Judge Denny Chin) concluded that the SORA's community notification provisions violated the Ex Post Facto Clause and enjoined enforcement of these provisions against the Plaintiffs. Doe v. Pataki, 940 F. Supp. 603 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). On appeal, the Second Circuit reversed the District Judge’s (Judge Chin) ruling that the community notification procedures violated the Ex Post Facto Clause and remanded the case for consideration of the Plaintiffs' other claims. Doe v. Pataki, 120 F.3d 1263, 1285 (2d Cir. 1997). On remand, the Plaintiffs again moved to enjoin enforcement of the SORA, this time on procedural due process grounds. The District Judge (Judge Chin) concluded that the registration and community notification provisions of the SORA implicated protected liberty interests, and that the procedures by which risk levels were assigned did not provide adequate due process for protecting these interests. The District Judge (Judge Chin) entered an injunction requiring that an offender (1) be given a court hearing; (2) receive advance notice of the hearing, its purpose, and the recommended risk level classification; (3) be given the right to retain counsel or the right to have counsel appointed if he cannot afford to retain counsel himself; (4) be given pre-hearing discovery of the evidence on which the risk level recommendation is based; and (5) be given the right to appeal. Doe v. Pataki, 3 F. Supp. 2d 456, 471-2 (S.D.N.Y. 1998). Moreover, the Judge concluded, the State must bear the burden of proof and must prove the facts supporting the risk level recommendation by clear and convincing evidence. The court enjoined the State from classifying the Plaintiffs at a risk level other than level one until it reclassified them in accordance with the procedures required by the ruling.
After the District Judge’s (Judge Chin) procedural due process ruling, the parties began settlement discussions. On November 22, 2000, having received no report of a final settlement, the District Judge (Judge Chin) issued an order dismissing the case without prejudice to reinstatement within sixty days if the parties were unable to reach a final settlement agreement. The parties neither reached agreement within sixty days nor requested an extension of time. Nonetheless, as was represented at the first of two oral arguments, the parties continued to operate as if the injunction was in effect notwithstanding the termination of the case. The parties completed settlement negotiations in June 2004, at which time they jointly moved for reinstatement of the case and approval of a Stipulation of Settlement ("the Stipulation"). The District Judge (Judge Chin) reinstated the action and "so ordered" the Stipulation on June 4, 2004. The District Court (Judge Chin) noted later that the Stipulation was the equivalent of a consent decree, Doe v. Pataki, 427 F. Supp. 2d 398, 404 (S.D.N.Y. 2006), a determination the State did not appeal.
The Stipulation, the stated purpose of which was to "settl[e] the disputes between [the parties] and avoid further litigation," specified detailed procedures for conducting redetermination hearings for level two and level three Plaintiffs and for notifying them of their right to such hearings. Paragraph fifteen of the Stipulation provides, among other things, that a Plaintiff whose risk level is determined to be at level two "will be considered to be a level two offender as of March 11, 2002" and that, "therefore, the duration of the registration requirement will be 10 years from the date of his or her original registration." Attached to the Stipulation were a general notice of settlement to be sent to the Plaintiffs and specific notices to be sent to level two and level three Plaintiffs, which explained level two and level three Plaintiffs' right to redetermination hearings, the procedures by which redetermination hearings would take place, and the duration-of registration and scope-of-notification requirements for those classified under level one, two, or three.
In January 2006, the Sex Offenders Registration Act was amended, to increase the duration of the registration requirement for level one and level two offenders. Plaintiffs filed a motion in the District Court for an order enforcing the Stipulation and enjoining the State from requiring level one or level two Plaintiffs to register beyond ten years. The Plaintiffs contended that paragraph fifteen of the Stipulation and the attached notices bound the State to a ten-year registration requirement for level one and level two Plaintiffs and that the application of the 2006 amendment to these Plaintiffs therefore breached the Stipulation. In response, the State argued that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to enforce the Stipulation, and that, in any event, the Stipulation could not be construed to impose a ten-year limit on registration because it was concerned with the procedures for assessing risk levels, not the substantive consequences of such assessments.
The District Judge (Judge Chin), after first rejecting the State's jurisdictional argument, concluded that the parties had bargained for a ten-year registration period and that application of the January 2006 legislative amendment to level one and level two Plaintiffs therefore breached the parties' agreement. The District Judge (Judge Chin) enjoined enforcement of the January 2006 amendment to level one and level two offenders covered by the Stipulation, but stayed his order pending appeal. Doe v. Pataki, 427 F. Supp.2d 398 (S.D.N.Y. 2006).
The legislature amended the Act again in June 2006, but in an order entered July 18, 2006, the District Judge (Judge Chin) further enjoined the State from applying that and any subsequent amendments to level one and level two Plaintiffs. Doe v. Pataki, 439 F. Supp. 2d 324 (S.D.N.Y. 2006). The District Judge (Judge Chin) subsequently denied the State's motion for clarification of the July 2006 injunction and later denied the State's motion for a stay of that injunction. In denying the State's stay motion, the District Judge (Judge Chin) reasoned that the Stipulation, by referring to the attached notices specifying "the community notification provisions applicable to each risk level," bound the State to the community notification provisions in effect in 2004 when the Stipulation was approved. He concluded, "The New [June 2006] [a]mendment . . . would increase the extent of public notification for both level 1 and level 2 class members beyond what the parties bargained for--and the Court 'so ordered'--in the Stipulation." The State timely appealed both injunctions; the appeals were consolidated.
The Second Circuit reversed, vacating the two injunctions. The Court (Jon Newman, J.) held that while the stipulation was negotiated to avoid litigation over the procedures by which plaintiffs-convicted sex offenders' risk levels would be redetermined, and plaintiffs were entitled to the benefit of those bargained-for procedures; plaintiffs did not bargain to have the stipulation assure them the continued scope of state statutes existing at the time of the stipulation; and therefore the stipulation could not be interpreted to preclude the application of subsequent legislative changes on matters distinct from the subject matter of the litigation. Doe v. Pataki, 481 F.3d 69, 2007 WL 705031 (C.A.2 (N.Y.)).
On October 24, 2007, the District Court (Judge Chin) denied plaintiffs’ application for modification of the consent decree. On December 3, 2007, the case was closed administratively pursuant to Memorandum from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts dated June 15th, 1973.Margo Schlanger - 04/20/2007
Frances Hollander - 02/21/2016