(CN) - A convicted sex offender in Washington was not entitled to early release into the community under intense monitoring, the 9th Circuit ruled. Judge Smith said a state law outlining prisoners' eligibility for community custody does not create a "liberty interest" under the 14th Amendment.
The court overturned the underlying principle behind its ruling six months ago, when a three-judge panel said sex offenders had a right to transfer into community custody, except under circumstances outlined by the law.
One of the judges in the earlier decision, Judge Warren Ferguson, died before the court could deny a rehearing.
On review, the court said inmates are not entitled to the transfer. The judgment remained the same, however, because the court said prison authorities had valid reasons for denying inmate Joseph Carver's request for a transfer.
"There is no 'explicitly mandatory language' ... creating a substantive right to transfer to community custody," Judge Smith wrote in the current opinion. Instead, the statute says a convicted sex offender may become eligible for the transfer.
Carver had pleaded guilty to third-degree child molestation in 1999, following prior convictions on first-degree child molestation and third-degree assault charges. He was sentenced to 54 months in jail for the 1999 conviction.
He became eligible for the transfer, but prison officials rejected his release plan because they considered him a "sexually violent predator."
Judge Reinhardt concurred in judgment only.