Supreme Court rules sex offender registration suit moot

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website], ruled Monday in a per curiam opinion [text, PDF] in US v. Juvenile Male that the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had no authority to rule that the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act of 2006 (SORNA) [text] violate the ex post facto [Cornell LII backgrounder] clause of the Constitution when applied to juveniles adjudicated as delinquent before SORNA's enactment. The Supreme Court in a per curiam order [text, PDF; JURIST report] issued last year sent a certified question to the Montana Supreme Court [official website] seeking to determine if there was still a live controversy in the case because the challenged federal sex offender registration had expired. The certified question asked whether the ongoing sex offender registration required under state law is dependent upon the defendant's former federal sex offender registration, which would indicate a live dispute, or is required independent of federal law, rendering the ex post facto claim moot. The Supreme Court held that the ex post facto claim was moot because the defendant's "state law duty to remain registered as a sex offender is not contingent upon the validity of the conditions of his federal supervision order, but is an independent requirement of Montana law." Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor would remand the case to the Ninth Circuit for the court to consider mootness in the first instance. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the decision.

The defendant was found delinquent by the US District Court for the District of Montana in 2005 after pleading "true" to engaging in sex acts with a minor under 12, and was later required to register as a sex offender under SORNA. On appeal, the defendant challenged this registration on ex post facto grounds in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion text] in favor of the defendant, finding an ex post facto violation.

 

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