The city of Indianapolis, Indiana, as consolidated with Marion County, adopted an ordinance in May 2006, barring certain sex offenders (primarily, ones convicted of offenses against children or judicially found to be violent sexual predators) from being within a thousand feet of a public playground, recreation center, bathing beach, swimming or wading pool, sports field or facility, when children are present, unless the offender is accompanied by an adult not required to register as a sex offender. That same month, the new ordinance prompted several plaintiffs (using John Doe pseudonyms) to file a civil complaint against the city and the county sheriff, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on July 25, 2006, dropping two plaintiffs, leaving a total of four.
The plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, alleged that the ordinance (1) was unconstitutionally vague, violated the plaintiffs' right to interstate travel, and was fundamentally irrational and arbitrary, all in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, (2) was an unconstitutional ex post facto punishment of persons already convicted, as well as a violation of the Fifth Amendment's double jeopardy clause, as incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment, and (3) was an unconstitutional impediment to voting, in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, insofar as it precluded the plaintiffs from common polling places, such as schools. The plaintiffs alleged they were persons that the ordinance would, for example, prevent from taking their own children to a playground, from performing their jobs which involved driving on roadways which passed with a thousand feet of the named type of facilities, from leaving their subdivisions (because to do so would bring them within a thousand feet of a playground or school), and from voting at their assigned polling places (schools). Plaintiffs pointed out numerous terms and provisions in the ordinance that were unclear, undefined, and which set conditions which were impossible for plaintiffs to know in advance so that they might conform their conduct to the law. (For example, how were they to know in advance whether children were present at a playground within a thousand feet of where a plaintiff might be driving?) The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys from the ACLU of Indiana.
Early in the case, on August 7, 2006, District Judge Richard L. Young allowed the plaintiffs to proceed anonymously, overruling the defendants' motion to dismiss (for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted) which alleged that the plaintiffs had failed to disclose the real party in interest. Judge Young determined in his unpublished order that the plaintiffs' need for anonymity outweighed any prejudice to the defendants and the public in knowing the identity of the plaintiffs. On August 10, 2006, the judge heard oral argument upon the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.
The court issued the requested preliminary injunction on October 5, 2006. Among its findings was that there were few, if any, areas in Indianapolis through which one could travel and not be within a thousand feet of public playgrounds, recreation centers, bathing beaches, swimming or wading pools, sports fields or sports facilities, due to the number and dispersal of such locations throughout the city. After reviewing the impact of the ordinance on each of the John Doe plaintiffs, Judge Young ruled that the law was void for vagueness, was an unconstitutional ex post facto law and an overbroad burden on the right to vote, and could not be made constitutional by severing the 1000 foot limitation from it (since the "accompanied by" language remained unacceptably vague).
In another unpublished order, on November 20, 2006, the judge granted the plaintiffs' motion for class certification. He defined the class as did the plaintiffs: "All persons who currently, or will in the future, live in, work in, or visit Marion County, and who are, or will be, persons within the category of sex offenders specified in Section 631-106(a) of Chapter 631 of the Revised Code of the Consolidated City and County," and agreed to certify as a subclass, "All members of the class who will vote and whose voting places are within a thousand feet of the areas specified in Section 631-106(a) of Chapter 631 of the Revised Code of the Consolidated City and County."
Settlement discussions ensued, with the parties reaching an agreement at a January 8, 2007, settlement conference. On April 19, 2007, the parties filed a stipulation that a permanent injunction against enforcement of the ordinance should be entered as a final judgment in the case, after notice to the class and a fairness hearing. The stipulation also agreed that attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $40,000 would be paid by the defendants to plaintiffs' counsel. A fairness hearing before Judge Young on June 21, 2007, resulted in his unpublished order the next day approving the settlement stipulation, making the preliminary injunction permanent, decreeing the payment to plaintiffs' counsel, and entering final judgment in the case.
We have no information indicating post-settlement activity in the case.Mike Fagan - 06/03/2008