Justices Sideline Young Sex Offender's Appeal
(CN) - The 9th Circuit must dismiss an appeal of a former juvenile delinquent who contends a judge should not have ordered him to register as a sex offender since he committed his offense before passage of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
An unnamed juvenile male was charged in 2005 for sexually abusing another boy who was three years younger on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana.
The abuse had occurred for about two years, since the victim was just 10 years old and his attacker was 13. In 2006, after the attacker was adjudicated delinquent, Congress enacted the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), which imposes a registration requirement on sex offenders, including juveniles who have committed serious sex offenses.
A federal judge ruled in 2007 that the unnamed delinquent had violated the terms of his prerelease program, and he ordered the young man to register as a sex offender as part of his supervision "at least until" his release once he turned 21.
While appealing that requirement before the 9th Circuit in May 2008, the man turned 21. The 9th Circuit ruled a year later that the judge violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution by applying SORNA to a juvenile delinquent who committed his offense before the act's passage.
The government appealed to the Supreme Court, but the justices noted that the former juvenile has failed to demonstrate that he is suffering a continuing injury, citing guidance from the Montana Supreme Court.
"At the time of the Ninth Circuit's decision in this case, the District Court's order of juvenile supervision had expired, and respondent was no longer subject to the sex offender-registration conditions that he sought to challenge on appeal," according to the unsigned, seven-page decision. "As a result, respondent's challenge was moot before the Ninth Circuit unless he could 'show that a decision invalidating' the District Court's order would likely redress some collateral consequence of the registration conditions."
The high court vacated the 9th Circuit's ruling and ordered the court to dismiss the appeal on remand.
Though seemingly unanimous, the ruling notes that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor would have remanded with instructions for the 9th Circuit to consider the issue of mootness. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the court's consideration or decision of the case.