Filed Date: Dec. 21, 2011
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On December 21, 2011, patients civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program filed this lawsuit pro se in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. The plaintiffs sued the Minnesota Department of Health & Human Services (DHS) and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Seeking injunctive and monetary relief, the plaintiffs alleged violations of the Fourteenth, First, and Fourth Amendments.
Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that recent amendments to the Minnesota sex offender treatment statutes and replacements in DHS and MSOP administration had caused a drastic change in the program. Despite being classified as civilly committed patients, the plaintiffs were now placed in a maximum security facility and repeatedly experienced violations of their personal liberty and dignity. They were provided limited access to the outside world: no access to the internet, exorbitant rates for telephone communications, and harsh and limited policies for in-person visits, including a pat-down of the visitor.
The patients further alleged that they were no longer able to have much of their previously allowed personal property and that any incoming property was systematically destroyed by the administration. The patients alleged negligent staff and negligent medical care, resulting in deaths of patients. The sex offender treatment was alleged to be grossly inadequate, resulting in a de facto inability to graduate out of the program and reintegrate into society. The plaintiffs also alleged that the administration deliberately spent the money provided for the sex offender program on the staff, and then unreasonably charges the patients for the inadequately provided basic necessities. The plaintiffs also allege inadequate grievance procedures.
The plaintiffs sought to proceed as a class and were provided representation by the state bar's Pro Se Project. On January 25, 2012, and February 6, 2012, Chief Judge Michael J. Davis stayed all other MSOP cases, pending the resolution of the class certification in this lawsuit. The case was also assigned to Magistrate Judge Jeffery J. Keyes on February 6, 2012.
The first amended complaint was filed on March 15, 2012. In it, the plaintiffs incorporated their previous allegations and added that their treatment also violated the Minnesota state Constitution and the Minnesota Civil Commitment and Treatment Act. The plaintiffs' complaint relied heavily on a March 2011 Evaluation Report on the Civil Commitment of Sex Offender issued by the Office of the Legislative Auditor for the State of Minnesota.
According to the complaint, several years before, a new Executive Director of the MSOP program had been hired and substantially altered program policies. The plaintiffs alleged that the result was vague treatment plans, a lack of qualified clinical staff, and a denial of proper medications and treatments. The plaintiffs also alleged that punishments included solitary confinement, denial of group therapy, denial of exercise, denial of employment opportunities and denial of treatment. In addition, the double-bunking of individuals had led to increased physical and sexual assaults. The plaintiffs alleged they were subjected to intrusive searches without reasonable suspicion, and that their correspondence was searched. Finally, there was no way to leave the program: only one patient had been released without revocation of discharge.
On April 30, 2012, all parties stipulated to the defendants' motion for an extended time to answer. This was presumably due to settlement negotiations, as preliminary settlement conferences were scheduled the following week.
On July 24, 2012, the defendants additionally stipulated to a temporary restraining order, and Judge Donovan W. Frank certified the plaintiff class of "[a]ll patients currently civilly committed in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program pursuant to Min. Stat. § 253B." 283 F.R.D. 514 (D. Minn. 2012). Because of these developments, on July 26, 2012, Judge Frank held that the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order was moot. 2012 WL 3061863.
On August 15, 2012, Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan found that further study was necessary to address these issues. The court ordered the Minnesota Commissioner of Human Services to create a Sex Offender Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force for two years. The court ordered the Task Force to provide the Commissioner with recommendations on less restrictive alternatives and other recommended legislative reforms. On October 5, 2012, Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan issued an order affirming the appointment of specific individuals to the Task Force. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes approved five more appointments to the Task Force on December 13, 2012,
Between August and September 2012, several individuals or groups of individuals committed to MSOP filed motions to intervene, to consolidate, to create a sub-class, or for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions. These were filed without the assistance or approval of the class counsel. On December 5, 2012, Judge Frank denied each such motion. 2012 WL 6044652.
Over the next two years, the parties continued to concurrently participate in settlement negotiations and file motions against each other in court. The commissioner also proceeded with his court-ordered evaluation of the program. On August 8, 2013, the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint. On December 6, 2013, Judge Frank appointed experts under Rule 706 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
On February 20, 2014, Judge Frank granted the defendants' motion to dismiss the equal protection claim raised in the second amended complaint and denied all plaintiffs' and defendants' other motions. In the opinion, Judge Frank warned that he might ultimately find the program to be unconstitutional and urged the legislature to take action. However, he denied without prejudice several of the plaintiffs' requests for preliminary relief because he did not have access to the complete factual record. 6 F. Supp. 3d 916.
Having received expert recommendations, on June 2, 2014, Judge Frank ordered the defendants to show cause as to why the continued confinement of E.T. (one of the patients at MSOP) did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and why E.T. should not be immediately and unconditionally released from MSOP. On June 9, 2014, plaintiffs filed a motion for the immediate transfer of an individual the court identifies as R.B., on the basis of the same report. On June 11, 2014, the defendants issued a response to the court's order to show cause regarding E.T.'s continued confinement. On June 19, 2014, the Hennepin County Attorney filed an amicus memorandum on the applicable standard for discharge of persons committed as sexually dangerous persons under current Minnesota law as interpreted by the Minnesota Supreme Court. On June 27, 2014, the matter of E.T. and R.B were assigned to Judge Frank and Magistrate Judge Keyes following the show cause hearing in this class action and petitions for habeas corpus filed by E.T. and R.B. On August 11, 2014, Judge Frank declined to declare that confinement of E.T and R.B in MSOP was unconstitutional and refused to order the immediate discharge of E.T and immediate transfer of R.B. 6 F. Supp. 3d 958.
On September 9, 2014, Judge Frank denied the defendants' request for a jury trial and granted the plaintiffs' request for a bench trial. 2014 WL 4446270.
On October 27, 2014, Judge Davis stayed all “current and future civil rights cases brought by an individual or group of individuals who has or have been civilly committed to the MSOP that are sufficiently related to [Karsjens] . . . pending resolution of the [Karsjens] litigation.” On October 28, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint.
On November 6, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied the defendants' petition for review.
On February 2, 2015, Judge Frank denied defendants' partial motion to dismiss the third amended complaint as well as the defendants' motion for summary judgment. 2015 WL 420013. Then, on February 9, 2015, the bench trial commenced before Judge Frank.
After the six-week bench trial, on June 17, 2015, Judge Frank granted the plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief with respect to counts I and II of their third amended complaint. Judge Frank found that Minnesota's civil commitment statutory scheme was unconstitutional, both on its face and as applied. Applying the strict scrutiny standard, the court concluded that Minnesota's civil commitment statutory scheme was not narrowly tailored and was punitive without the criminal justice system's safeguards. The court also held that the determination that the MSOP and its governing civil commitment statutes were unconstitutional, concluding phase one of the trial. Judge Frank ordered that counts VIII, IX, and X, would be tried in the second phase of trial. 109 F. Supp. 3d 1139. Judge Frank also issued an opinion granting the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss counts IV, XI, XII, and XIII of the third amended complaint on the condition that the motion to dismiss be with prejudice. The order gave the plaintiffs the option to withdraw their motion if they did not wish to accept the condition of prejudice. 2015 WL 3755930. He had previously deferred ruling on the matter in an April 24, 2015 order. 2015 WL 1893191.
On July 22, 2015 Judge Frank denied the defendants' request for certification of appeal. 2015 WL 4478972. The next day, Judge Frank designated former Chief Justice Eric J. Magnuson as Special Master to oversee the injunctive relief imposed by the court. The special master would have “authority to monitor compliance with the remedies” and “authority to implement and enforce the injunctive relief imposed by the court and to mediate any dispute between the parties with regard to the implementation of the remedies.”
On August 7, 2015 Judge Frank denied various news agencies their request to obtain court records to intervene for the limited purpose of asserting public access to court proceedings. 2015 BL 254617.
On August 10, 2015, Judge Frank granted the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss counts IV, XI, XII, and XIII of the third amended complaint with prejudice, and overruled objections filed by plaintiff class members. On August 20, 2015, a further amended stay order was entered, staying all current and future civil rights cases sufficiently related to this case, pending resolution of the appeal.
On October 29, 2015, Judge Frank entered an interim injunctive relief order, requiring the defendants to conduct independent risk and phase placement reevaluation of all current patients at the MSOP. These independent risk assessments aimed to determine whether each patient (1) continued to meet the constitutional standard for commitment as set forth in Call v. Gomez, 535 N.W.2d 312 (Minn. 1995); (2) could be appropriately transferred or provisionally discharged; (3) could be housed in or monitored by a less restrictive alternative; and (4) was in the proper treatment phase. The defendants were required to complete these assessments within 30 days. 2015 WL 6561712.
On October 29, 2015, the defendants filed an appeal to the Eighth Circuit regarding the interim relief order. Accordingly, on November 23, 2015, Judge Frank denied defendants' motion to stay or suspend the interim order, pending the Eighth Circuit appeal. 2015 WL 7432333. The Eighth Circuit granted the defendants' motion for a temporary administrative stay on December 2, 2015. The Circuit Court heard oral argument on April 12, 2016.
Back in the district court, on April 14, 2016, the Court Chief Judge John R. Tunheim lifted the 2012 stays 16 individual cases. He held that these cases “were not integral” to the relief orders in Karjsens. All other cases not identified remained stayed under previous district-wide stay orders.
On January 3, 2017, the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and vacated the injunctive relief order from October 2015. It found that the district court applied an incorrect standard of scrutiny when it considered the plaintiffs’ due process claims. Specifically, the Eighth Circuit posited that a proper standard was whether MCTA bared a rational relationship to a legitimate government purpose and not the strict scrutiny standard that the district court applied. 845 F.3d 394 (8th Cir. 2017). It remanded the case to district court “for further proceedings on the remaining claims in the Third Amended Complaint.” Id. As a result of this ruling, the plaintiffs filed a motion for rehearing en banc on January 31, 2017. This motion was denied on February 22, 2017.
On March 14, 2017, the District Court Judge Donovan W. Frank ordered a temporary stay pending the parties’ submission on whether the case and other stayed cases with similar claims should remain stayed pending further appeal, and the next steps in this case if the claims are not stayed.
On May 3, 2017, Judge Frank again stayed the case pending the plaintiffs’ motion for certiorari in the Supreme Court as to the Eight Circuit's January 3rd ruling. At that point, the following claims remained open in the case:
- Fourteenth Amendment Failure to Provide Treatment
- Fourteenth Amendment Freedom from Punishment
- Fourteenth Amendment Denial of Less Restrictive Alternatives
- Fourteenth Amendment Freedom from Inhumane Treatment
- First and Fourteenth Amendment Religious Freedom
- First Amendment Free Speech and Association
- Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure
2017 WL 1743511.
Judge Frank stayed the case for an additional 60 days on August 16, 2017.
On October 2, 2017, the Supreme Court denied certiorari, refusing to hear the case. 2017 WL 2266349.
In light of the Eighth Circuit's opinion, on December 8, 2017, the defendant's filed a motion for summary judgment as to the following claims contained in the plaintiffs' third amended complaint: First Amendment Free Speech and Association, First and Fourteenth Amendment Religious Freedom, Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure.
On August 23, 2018, Judge Frank addressed the remaining claims as a result of the Eighth Circuit’s decision and the defendant's renewed motion for summary judgment. The court ultimately granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment, dismissing the surviving claims from the Third Amended Complaint without prejudice, as well as dismissing the remaining four remaining earlier claims, also without prejudice. The court dismissed the early claims (Fourteenth Amendment failure to provide treatment, freedom from punishment, denial of less restrictive alternatives, and freedom from inhumane treatment). The district court did so in accordance with the Eighth Circuit's opinion and the rational basis standard for liability they articulated: conduct must be conscience-shocking to support substantive due process liability. Additionally, the district court was bound by the Eighth Circuit’s decision to conclude that the defendants were not liable under the Fourteenth Amendment for failing to provide less restrictive alternatives to the plaintiff class.
Regarding the surviving claims from the Third Amended Complaint, the district court dismissed them due to several factors. For the First and Fourteenth Amendment Religious Freedom claim, the court concluded that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment due to the fact that even if the plaintiffs could establish that the defendants’ policies respecting religion impose a substantial burden on the class members’ religious practices, the plaintiffs failed to identify record evidence by which a jury could conclude that the MSOP’s policies applied to the class as a whole are not reasonably related to legitimate therapeutic and institutional interests. In evaluating the plaintiff's First Amendment freedom of speech and association claim, the court reasoned defendants were entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiffs failed to raise a genuine dispute over whether the defendants’ policies implicating speech and association are an unreasonable restriction on plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights as applied to the class as a whole.
Furthermore, the court granted summary judgment on the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment search and seizure claim because the record lacked substantial evidence showing that MSOP’s policies were unnecessary or unjustified responses to problems of institutional security, and thus the court was bound to defer to defendants’ institutional judgment regarding the need for particular search policies.
As a result of this district court order, the plaintiffs appealed to the Eighth Circuit on October 24, 2018. The appeal was limited to the court's dismissal of the following Fourteenth Amendment claims: failure to provide treatment, freedom from punishment, denial of less restrictive alternatives, and freedom from inhumane treatment. On December 20, 2018, Judge John R. Tunheim issued a stay pending the outcome of the plaintiff's appeal to the Eighth Circuit.
The appeals court issued their opinion on February 24, 2021, affirming in part and vacating in part the district court's judgment. 988 F.3d 1047. In the opinion written by Judge Shepherd, the appeals court concluded that the district court employed the wrong legal standard in evaluating some of these claims. First, however, the appeals court approved the district court's dismissal of the claim of constitutionally inadequate treatment, holding that the trial court correctly applied the "shocks the conscious" standard. The court next addressed the three remaining conditions of confinement claims — punishment, denial of less restrictive alternatives, and freedom from inhumane treatment. The court held that the district court should have applied the deliberate indifference standard to the inadequate medical care claim. Regarding the other conditions of confinement claims, the court held that they should be evaluated under the Bell standard which typically applies to pretrial detainees. Here, the court held that it should be applied to civil confinement and the trial court must review the totality of circumstances of plaintiffs class' confinement.
The Eighth Circuit remanded the case to the district court, where it is ongoing as of March 31, 2021.
Emily Goldman (2/28/2013)
Priyah Kaul (11/9/2014)
Lakshmi Gopal (5/14/2016)
MJ Koo (10/16/2017)
Michael Beech (3/23/2019)
Lily Sawyer-Kaplan (3/31/2021)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/5044229/parties/karsjens-v-minnesota-department-of-human-services/
Benton, William Duane (Missouri)
Alpert, Steven H (Minnesota)
Boese, Brandon L (Minnesota)
Anfinson, Mark R. (Minnesota)
Benson, Michael (Minnesota)
Benton, William Duane (Missouri)
Boylan, Arthur J. (Minnesota)
Colloton, Steven M. (Iowa)
Davis, Michael James (Minnesota)
Frank, Donovan W. (Minnesota)
Kelly, Jane Louise (Iowa)
Keyes, Jeffrey J. (Minnesota)
Magnuson, Paul Arthur (Minnesota)
Montgomery, Ann D. (Minnesota)
Murphy, Diana E. (Minnesota)
Nelson, Susan Richard (Minnesota)
Schiltz, Patrick Joseph (Minnesota)
Shepherd, Bobby E. (Arkansas)
Tunheim, John R. (Minnesota)
Last updated Aug. 8, 2023, 3:13 a.m.
State / Territory: Minnesota
Filing Date: Dec. 21, 2011
Case Ongoing: Yes
All patients currently civilly committed in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program pursuant to Min.. Stat. § 253B.
Public Interest Lawyer: No
Filed Pro Se: Yes
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: None Yet / None
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Content of Injunction:
Type of Facility: