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Case Name McGuire v. Murphy CJ-AL-0008
Docket / Court 2:11-CV-1027-WKW ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Attorney Organization Equal Justice Under Law
Case Summary
On December 2, 2011, a private individual filed this lawsuit in the Middle District of Alabama, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, against the City of Montgomery Police Department, the Chief of Police, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department, and the Alabama Department of Public Safety ... read more >
On December 2, 2011, a private individual filed this lawsuit in the Middle District of Alabama, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, against the City of Montgomery Police Department, the Chief of Police, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department, and the Alabama Department of Public Safety. Represented by Equal Justice Under Law and local private counsel, the plaintiff alleged that the application of Alabama's sex offender registration law violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law and denied him equal protection; subjected him to ex post facto laws, in violation of Article I Section 10; subjected him to illegal search and false imprisonment, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; subjected him to false imprisonment and false arrest, in violation of Alabama law; and tortiously intentionally inflicted emotional distress on him.

The Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act ("ASORCNA") applied to adult offenders convicted of one of thirty-one offenses defined as a sex offense under Alabama law, as well as those convicted in another jurisdiction of a crime that, "if it had been committed in [Alabama] under the current provisions of law, would constitute" one of the enumerated offenses. The entire scheme is retroactive, capturing any enumerated or similar offense regardless of when it was committed. ASORCNA restricts where a registrant may live and work, requires the distribution of community-notification flyers to those living near a registrant's residence, and provides for a "public registry website maintained by the Department of Public Safety." The website was required to include specific information regarding each registrant. Registrants must "appear in person to verify all required registration information" quarterly; homeless registrants who reside in municipalities ("in-town registrants"), such as the plaintiff in this case, must also register weekly - and in person - with both the local police and county sheriff.

Additionally, ASORCNA required registrants who intended to be away from their county of residence for three or more consecutive days to "report such information in person immediately prior to leaving" and to complete a travel permit form providing "the dates of travel and temporary lodging information." When a registrant obtained a permit, the registrant's local sheriff must "immediately notify local law enforcement" in the registrant's destination. Importantly, in-town registrants were required to obtain travel permits from both the local police and county sheriff, despite the fact that the forms for obtaining travel permits were virtually identical for both jurisdictions. ASORCNA's provisions applied for life and without regard to the nature of the offense, the age of the victim, or the passage of time since the underlying sex offense.

On January 17, 2012, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed all claims against the City of Montgomery Police Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department and various named individuals. On March 16, 2012, the plaintiff dismissed all claims against the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

On March 29, 2012, the District Court (Chief Judge William Keith Watkins) granted the defendants' motion to dismiss with respect to all but Claim IV, which alleged that the retroactive application of Alabama's sex offender registration law violated the plaintiff's rights under the Ex Post Facto Clause. That claim was heard at trial by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins in March and April of 2014.

At trial, the plaintiff argued that the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act ("ASORCNA") retroactively applied a set of restrictions that was "so punitive in its cumulative effects that it violates the ex post facto clause of the United States Constitution." The plaintiff alleged that ASORCNA caused him to be homeless by banishing him from his mom's home, his brother's home, his wife's home, and over 80% of the housing stock in Montgomery. He further alleged that ASORCNA contributed to, if not directly caused, the homelessness of dozens of other registrants across the state, and that it contributed to, if not directly caused, a 50% unemployment rate (over eight times the statewide average) amongst registrants. He described the ways in which ASORCNA imposed direct barriers on intra- and interstate travel, publicly branded all registrants, and created crushingly burdensome reporting obligations. He further argued that, under the United States Constitution, such extreme punishments could not be applied retroactively.

On February 5, 2015, the District Court issued an order declaring that, with respect to sex offenders convicted before the passage of ASORCNA in 2011, ASORCNA was unconstitutional under the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution to the extent that it required (1) in-town homeless registrants to register on a weekly basis with two separate law-enforcement jurisdictions, and (2) all in-town registrants to complete travel permit applications with two separate law-enforcement jurisdictions.

The court explained that the issue in the case centered on the question of whether ASORCNA could fairly be characterized as criminal, imposing a retroactive punishment, or if it was more properly categorized as civil and non-punitive. Although he concluded that the plaintiff did not show by the clearest proof that ASORCNA's scheme as a whole was so punitive either in purpose or effect as to negate the Legislature's stated non-punitive intent, Judge Watkins reasoned that the two dual-jurisdiction requirements "are so punitive in their effect as to negate the Alabama Legislature's stated non-punitive intent by the clearest proof."

Judge Watkins declined to enjoin enforcement of the law, stating that he "is confident that state officials will abide by the judgment of this court declaring that [certain provisions of] ASORCNA [are] unconstitutional." Because the the Alabama Legislature expressed its intention that ASORCNA's provisions be severable and because the Act could be given effect absent the unconstitutional requirements, the remainder of ASORCNA remains "intact and in force."

Both parties appealed. Oral argument was held on Feb. 26, 2016. The court remanded the case on the limited issue of determining if the plaintiff was still homeless or if the issue was moot. The plaintiff confirmed his ongoing homeless status on April 6, 2016. Meanwhile, in the district court, the parties argued over attorney's fees.

The case is still ongoing in the Eleventh Circuit.

Rebecca Eisenbrey - 03/16/2015
Virginia Weeks - 01/27/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Ex Post Facto
Right to travel
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Law-enforcement
General
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
False arrest
Over/Unlawful Detention
Sex offender regulation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Alabama Department of Public Safety
City of Montgomery
City of Montgomery Police Department
Montgomery County Sheriff's Department
Plaintiff Description Plaintiff was convicted of sexual assault in Colorado in 1986 and served a prison sentence there; when he returned to his hometown of Montgomery, AL, in 2010, he was required to register as a sex offender.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Equal Justice Under Law
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 2011
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
2:11-CV-1027-WKW (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/25/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-AL-0008-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/02/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying P's Motion for a TRO] [ECF# 15] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/13/2011
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Complaint and Motion for Injunctive Relief and Declaratory Judgment [ECF# 74]
CJ-AL-0008-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/09/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [Granting D's Motions to Dismiss as to Counts I–III and V–XII of Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint] [ECF# 112] (2013 WL 1336882) (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/29/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Denying P's Motion for PI] [ECF# 113] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/29/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [denying P's motion to amend and motion to stay] [ECF# 120] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/29/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Pretrial Hearing [ECF# 214] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/12/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 283] (2015 WL 476207) (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-0010.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 02/05/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Judgment for Declaratory Relief [ECF# 284] (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/05/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Coody, Charles S. (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Watkins, William Keith (M.D. Ala.)
CJ-AL-0008-0002 | CJ-AL-0008-0005 | CJ-AL-0008-0006 | CJ-AL-0008-0007 | CJ-AL-0008-0008 | CJ-AL-0008-0009 | CJ-AL-0008-0010 | CJ-AL-0008-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Faulk, Elizabeth Peyton (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
McGuire, Joseph Mitchell (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-0001 | CJ-AL-0008-0004 | CJ-AL-0008-9000
Telfeyan, Phil (District of Columbia)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Crook, Charles M. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Davis, James William (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Gallion, Thomas T. III (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Howell, Laura Elizabeth (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Lowe, J. Haran (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
McCollum, Frank Timothy (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Means, Tyrone Carlton (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Parker, William G. Jr. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Paulk, Jason Cole (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Payne, Joshua Kerry (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Reed, Stacy Lott (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Sinclair, Winfield J. (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Smyczek, Peter John (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000
Walker, Constance Caldwell (Alabama)
CJ-AL-0008-9000

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