Committed SOs in North Dakota Land Two Hard Blows Toward Freedom

…In summary, the court hereby adopts the magistrate judge’s report and Recommendation and Supplemental Report and Recommendation in their entirety and hereby incorporates the analyses by reference in this order. Upon de novo review, the undersigned is not persuaded by any of the evidence submitted or arguments advanced for reversing the magistrate judges analysis set forth in the Report and Recommendation or Supplemental Report and Recommendation.  For the reasons stated therein, summary judgement is GRANTED in favor of all defendants as to the following claims:

(1) all claims based on allegations that Rodney K. Ireland, Matthew Graha, Christopher Simon, John Westlie, Michael Kruk, and Robert Lilley were minors during their SOI commitment proceedings;

(2) plaintiffs; equal protection claim based on the plaintiffs being similarly situated to persons incarcerated because of criminal convictions;

(3) plaintiffs; equal protection claim based on plaintiffs being similarly situated to persons requiring treatment under chapter 25-03.1;

(4) plaintiffs; claim that chapter 25-03.3 is unconstitutional on its face because it does not include a right to a jury trial in SDI commitment proceedings; and

(5) allegations in the Sixth Amended Complaint that chapter 25-03.3’s allowing for indefinite commitment; allowing for commitment without a criminal conviction; or allowing for commitment based on clear and convincing evidence violates substantive due process on its face.

Summary judgement is GRANTED in favor of plaintiffs as to the following claim:

  1. Chapter 25-03.3 is unconstitutional on its face because it does not require that the defendants initiate court proceedings for release of individuals who no longer meet SDI criteria…”

Rodney J. Ireland et al. v. State of North Dakota, et al,. 2017 US Dist LEXIS 151998 (D.N.D. July 31, 2017. Magistrate Judge Alice R. Senechal)


In this class action, the plaintiffs challenge certain aspects of North Dakota’s system for civil commitment of persons who have been found to be sexually dangerous individuals (SDIs).  Defendants are the North Dakota Department of Human Services(DHS), the North Dakota State Hospital (NDSH), the heads of both entities, and the State of North Dakota.

The North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) and the director of that agency were dismissed from the litigation on May 23, 2017, based on a stipulation of the parties. (Doc. #543).  The plaintiffs now move to set aside that dismissal because of newly discovered facts. (Doc. #549).  If the dismissal is set aside, the plaintiffs seek reconsideration of an order which denied their motion to add Jeffrey Wright as a plaintiff. Though not explicitly stated, if Wright were added as a party, it appears the plaintiffs would then seek reconsideration of an order which denied certification of a proposed DOCR Class.

Summary of Recommendation

…The Sixth Amended Complaint includes claims that policies and practices of DOCR deprive certain DOCR inmates of procedural and substantive due process rights.  Those claims center on DOCR actions prior to referral of inmates for evaluation for civil commitment as SDIs.  An earlier order discussed the factual basis of the claims against DOCR and its director (hereinafter collectively, DOCR claims);

The procedural due process claim alleged by the plaintiffs concerns DOCR’s pre-petition process…

The plaintiffs maintain that this process unconstitutionally deprives them of liberty without notice because the DOCR does not inform an inmate of possible detention for commitment proceedings until immediately before the scheduled release date from DOCR custody.  The lack of notice, according to plaintiffs, result in few contested probable cause hearings.  Ties into his claim is plaintiff’s’ claim that the defendants have violated substantive due process rights because DOCTOR’s referral process lacks a rational basis for utilizing “discredited actuarial instruments” in the selection of inmates to be referred for SDI proceedings.

[ The Magistrate Judge Recommended reopening dismissal and adding Wright as a plaintiff.]

[The following adopted that R&R, reopening dismissal & adding Wright as Plaintiff,]

Rodney J. Ireland et al. v. State of North Dakota et al., 2017 US Dist LEXIS 150890 (D.N.D. September 18,2017, District Judge Ralph R. Erickson)

Originally appeared in “The Legal Pad” Volume 2, Issue 10 (October 20th, 2018) by Cyrus P. Gladden Ⅱ

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