April 12, 2013 4th Circuit published opinion

Jane Doe v Virginia Department of State Police

Doe was convicted of sexual abuse. Because of a change in Virginia law, she was classified as a violent sexual offender and placed on the sex offender registry. As a consequence she was prohibited form being on school of church properties when children were present. Without petitioning the state trial court or any school or church for access, she sued in federal court alleging violation of her constitutional rights. The district court dismissed all but one procedural due process count on standing grounds and dismissed the remaining count for failure to state a claim. The panel, 2-1 affirmed. The majority held that because Doe failed to petition the state trial court or any school or church for access, she failed to demonstrate any injury or any traceable or redressible harm. As to the procedural due process count which alleged injury from being listed on the registry, the majority held she had standing and the challenge was ripe, but, her claim was indistinguishable form one rejected by the united states Supreme court and dismissal was correct. One judge separately concurred reiterating that federal review is not appropriate yet because Doe has not taken the required steps of seeking permission form the state trial court and a school board for access. Until she does and is denied access, there is no live controversy and thus no case for the federal courts to exercise jurisdiction. The dissent argued that the case was ripe for adjudication as Doe has standing because the harm is caused by the statutory reclassification of Doe as a violent sexual offender despite the fact that she did not use violence is committing her crime. Thus, there is no need to for Doe to file in state court or with the board as neither of these entities can relive her form the designation. Declaring himself floored by the majority’s unwillingness to hear the case, he further expressed concern that this decision will prevent plaintiffs from enforcing important constitutional and civil rights in the future.

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