The Dobbs Wire: TODAY at the US Supreme Court

Washington, DC:  Today the US Supreme Court will be talking about two important sex offense cases, the justices are back from summer break and will be meeting privately.  Any decisions made will be announced in the near future, possibly as soon as next week.  More below about Karsjens v. Piper and Does v. Snyder, have a look.   –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire


Karsjens v. Piper concerns so-called civil commitment for sex offenses in Minnesota.  About 20 states and the federal government have laws that allow putting people with a sex offense record into locked facilities, for the purpose of treatment.  Civil commitment is generally done after incarceration, individuals are detained not for what they’ve done but for what they might do, a hunch.  The Minnesota Sex Offender Program is one of the worst in country.  More than 700 people have been taken to facilities at Moose Lake and St. Peter where treatment becomes an illusion as stays stretch out indefinitely and death becomes the only way out; virtually nobody has been released alive.  A class action lawsuit by detained individuals resulted in a six week-long trial that ended with a federal judge, Donovan Frank, slamming the program as unconstitutional.  Next, the state of Minnesota managed to convince a federal appeals court to overturn the ruling and approve the state’s ‘program.’  Now the US Supreme Court has been asked by those trapped inside to review that terrible federal appeals court decision.  If the Supreme Court grants the request for review there are many possibilities, let’s hope the court remedies what is a human and constitutional rights nightmare, a 21st century gulag used to disappear people.  Stay tuned.  Over 5,000 individuals are held in civil commitment around the country.  Good luck to Kevin Karsjens and all those fighting for their rights, the legal eagles led by Dan Gustafson, and Eric Janus who spearheaded an effort to support the petition for review with a strong array of amicus briefs.  One of the four briefs is especially interesting for illuminating and confronting the “moral panic” aspect of this case and is online here.   


Karsjens v. Piper – Petition to the US Supreme Court seeking review, amicus briefs in support and other case documents:


Cato Institute | June 22, 2017

Even Sex Offenders Have Constitutional Rights

By Ilya Shapiro and David McDonald

Excerpt:  The high court should intervene and repair the damage done by the unfettered confinement of sex offenders and restore the appropriate level of constitutional scrutiny to serious deprivations of liberty. MORE:


American Constitution Society | Sept. 13, 2017

The Real Test Arrives:  Will the Supreme Court Abdicate Constitutional Oversight for Sex Offender Civil Commitment Schemes?

By Bidish Sarma

Excerpt:  If it passes constitutional muster for an individual to face indefinite deprivation of physical liberty with almost no means of obtaining release, it becomes difficult to imagine whether our Constitution provides any limits on the government’s ability to curtail liberty on the basis of predicted future dangerousness.  MORE:



Snyder v. Does concerns Michigan’s sex offense registry law.  A federal appeals court (the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals) ruled in Aug. 2016 that Michigan’s registry law *is* punishment and that it cannot be applied retrospectively.   Many courts have claimed the registry is not a big deal, just an administrative scheme to keep track of ex-offenders.  The 6th Circuit dispensed with that charade, ruling that, in the eyes of the law, registration with all its requirements and penalties is a major burden and constitutes punishment.  Michigan, like many states, has been changing its laws to make things tougher for registrants.  The 6th Circuit said no to that – piling on more punishment after a person has been sentenced and paid the price is unconstitutional.   Takeaway:  The Snyder decision is ground-breaking and important.  Michigan’s attorney general, however, is not happy and has asked the US Supreme Court to review it.  If the court refuses review, the 6th Circuit decision will be the law in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.  If the Supreme Court grants review – anything can happen….it could overturn the decision, uphold it or change it.  Michigan is a serious scarlet-letter state, more than 40,000 people are on its registry making it one of the biggest in the country.   New York, with twice the population, has fewer registrants than Michigan.  Stay tuned for further news.  Best of luck to all the Does and the legal eagles including co-counsel Miriam Aukerman of the Michigan ACLU and Paul Reingold of the Michigan Clinical Law Program at the University of Michigan Law School.


Snyder v. Does — US Supreme Court – Petition requesting review


Does v. Snyder — 6th Circuit Court of appeals decision filed Aug. 25, 2016


News coverage and blog stories about the 6th Circuit ruling


Washington Post | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Fred Barbash

Court says Michigan sex offender registry laws creating ‘moral lepers’ | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Jacob Sullum

6th Circuit Says Mich. Sex Offender Registry Is Punitive and, Not Incidentally, Stupid


Mimesis Law | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Andrew Fleischman

Sixth Circuit: Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry Is Punitive


Simple Justice | Aug. 27, 2016 | By Scott Greenfield

The 6th Circuit Finally Said The Magic Word: Punitive


Michigan Radio | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Jack Lessenberry

Michigan’s sex offender law is unfair and probably unconstitutional


Slate | Aug. 26, 2016 | By Mark David Stern

Appeals Court Issues Scathing Ruling Against Michigan Sex Offender Penalties






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