Shelved NY Sex-Crime|Law Costs State 6 Bucks

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Sex offenders who challenged former New York Gov. George Pataki’s controversial civil commitment laws before a jury can keep $1 each but nothing more, the Second Circuit ruled.
     In 2005, New York briefly instituted a law allowing the state to forcibly institutionalize convicted sex offenders outside the criminal process. The law was fueled by public outrage at the time over reports that a convicted rapist stabbed a 56-year-old woman to death in the parking lot a Westchester mall.
     Although similar programs exist across the United States, the so-called civil commitment initiative did not last long in New York.
     Several inmates confined under the program filed for habeas relief, and the New York’s top court — the state Court of Appeals — ordered that their cases should proceed under corrections rather than mental-health laws the next year.
     The New York State Legislature formally ended the program in 2007.
     In 2008, six men involuntarily institutionalized under the program sued Pataki and dozens of other officials for allegedly violating their Fourth and 14th Amendment protections against false imprisonment and right to due process.
     Robert Warren, one of these men, led the consolidated action in a case that went before U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff.
     In 2013, a federal jury rejected all but one procedural due-process charge, and awarded each of the men nominal damages of $1.
     On appeal, two of the men claimed that they deserved actual compensation, but did not get it because of pretrial rulings against them.
     The Second Circuit rejected those arguments Tuesday.
     “Because the jury found that the plaintiffs suffered no compensable injury that could be linked to their false imprisonment claim, no new trial on their false imprisonment claim is necessary,” Circuit Judge Robert Sack wrote in a 44-page opinion.
     Circuit Judges Peter Hall and Susan Carney joined the ruling.
     Attorneys for Pataki and the sex offenders declined to comment.
     In an editorial denouncing the practice, the New York Times reported that federal statute and the laws of 20 states and the District of Columbia permitted civil commitment as of Aug. 15, 2015.
     Debate and litigation continue to rage over the practice, pitting concerns for public safety against opposition to indefinite confinement — even for society’s most despised individuals.
     Within two months of the Times editorial, federal judges in Minnesota and Missouri both found each state’s program unconstitutional.

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