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Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

June 23, 2017

JOHN DOE, SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY BOARD NO. 326573
v.
SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY BOARD (and a consolidated case1 [1]).

          Heard: February 7, 2017.

         Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on November 21, 2014.

         A motion for preliminary injunction was heard by Gregg J. Pasquale, J., and the case was reported by him to the Appeals Court.

         The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review. Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on June 22, 2015. A motion for a preliminary injunction was heard by Heidi E. Brieger, J.

         A proceeding for interlocutory review was allowed in the Appeals Court by Judd J. Carhart, J. The Supreme Judicial Court granted an application for direct appellate review.

          Andrew S. Crouch for John Doe, Sex Offender Registry Board No. 326573, & another.

          John P. Bosse for the defendant.

          Dana Goldblatt, for Committee for Public Counsel Services, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.

          GANTS, C.J.

         In Moe v. Sex Offender Registry Bd., 467 Mass. 598, 616 (2014), we permanently enjoined the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) "from publishing on the Internet the registry information of any individual who was finally classified as a level two sex offender on or before July 12, 2013, unless the individual is subsequently reclassified a level two or level three sex offender." SORB contends in these two cases that, when it unsuccessfully seeks after July 12, 2013, to reclassify a level two sex offender as a level three sex offender, the individual is reclassified a level two sex offender for purposes of Moe, and SORB may therefore publish the individual's registry information on the Internet. We disagree. We conclude that, under Moe, a sex offender is "reclassified" only where a hearing officer allows SORB's motion to increase his or her classification based on new information indicating an increased risk of sexual recidivism, not, as here, where the hearing officer denied SORB's motion for reclassification and retained the earlier level two classification. We therefore remand these cases to the Superior Court for the issuance of a permanent injunction barring publication of each plaintiff's registry information on SORB's Web site on the Internet unless and until the offender is reclassified a level three sex offender.[2]

         Background.

         For over two decades, the Commonwealth has maintained a registration system for individuals convicted of a sex offense as defined by the sex offender registry law, G. L. c. 6, §§ 178C-178Q. See St. 1996, c. 239, § 1. A sex offender is required to register with SORB upon release from custody or, if not sentenced to confinement, upon notification by the court of the obligation to register. See G. L. c. 6, § 178E (a.), (c) . "Upon review of any information useful in assessing the risk of reoffense and the degree of dangerousness posed to the public by the sex offender, including . . . any materials submitted by the sex offender, " SORB prepares a "recommended classification" of each offender. G. L. c. 6, ยง 178L (1). The offender has the right to challenge SORB's recommended classification, and where the offender chooses to exercise that right, a panel of three SORB members or a hearing examiner designated by SORB finally classifies the ...


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