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Willman v. United States Office of Attorney General

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

October 1, 2019

M.S. WILLMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS [#18] AND CANCELLING THE OCTOBER 4, 2019 HEARING

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff M.S. Willman filed the instant action challenging the constitutionality of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), 34 U.S.C. § 20901 et seq., a federal law that requires sex offenders to “register, and keep registration current, in each jurisdiction where the offender resides, where the offender is an employee, and where the offender is a student.” 34 U.S.C. § 20913(a).[1]

         Presently before the Court is the Defendant United States Attorney General's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), filed on May 30, 2019. Plaintiff filed a Response to the Defendant's Motion on June 20, 2019. Defendant filed a Reply on July 3, 2019. Upon review of the parties' briefing, the Court concludes that oral argument will not aid in the disposition of this matter. Accordingly, the Court will cancel the hearing and will resolve the instant matter on the briefs. E.D. Mich. L.R. 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Defendant's Motion to Dismiss.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On November 2, 1993, Plaintiff was convicted of criminal sexual conduct assault with intent to commit sexual penetration and robbery. Compl.¶ 21. At the time of his conviction, SORNA did not exist. Plaintiff served a ten-year sentence and successfully completed parole. Id. at ¶ 29.

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff brings the following claims: Ex Post Facto Clause, Count I; Fifth Amendment Double Jeopardy Clause, Count II; Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment, Count III; First Amendment right to privacy, Count IV; Privileges and Immunities Clauses of Article IV and the Fourteenth Amendment, Count V; Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizure, Count VI; Overbreadth and Vagueness Doctrines of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, Count VII.

         Plaintiff seeks a declaration that SORNA, as applied to him and “any registrant, ” violates the above provisions of the United States Constitution. He also seeks an order requiring the removal of his name from the federal sex offender registry within 48 hours, and that he and “any registrant” need not comply with “any past, present, or future registration and reporting requirements” of SORNA.

         III. LAW & ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

          Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows the court to make an assessment as to whether the plaintiff has stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). Even though the complaint need not contain “detailed” factual allegations, its “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true.” Ass'n of Cleveland Fire Fighters v. City of Cleveland, 502 F.3d 545, 548 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 555).

         The court must construe the complaint in favor of the plaintiff, accept the allegations of the complaint as true, and determine whether plaintiff's factual allegations present plausible claims. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, plaintiff's pleading for relief must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (citations and quotations omitted). “[T]he tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). “Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. “[A] complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Id. The plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'- ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at 1950.

         B. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss

         1. Plaintiff's Duty to Comply with SORNA

         Plaintiff's main argument is that because Michigan removed him from the state sex offender registry in April of this year, he is no longer required to register under the federal SORNA.

         SORNA requires that every “sex offender, ” defined as “an individual who was convicted of a sex offense, 34 U.S.C. § 20911(1), “register, and keep the registration current, in each jurisdiction where the offender resides, where the offender is an employee, and where the offender is a student.” 34 U.S.C. § 20913. SORNA defines “sex offense, ” § 20911(5)(A), and federally classifies sex offenders into tiers according to the severity of their sex offense conviction. 34 U.S.C. § 20911(2)-(4). These tiers determine the amount of years an offender must register, § 20915, and how many in-person visits a sex offender must make per year. 34 U.S.C. § 20918. Thus, there is nothing in the statutory language of SORNA that ties federal registration to state-law requirements. This is consistent with SORNA's purpose to “establish[] a comprehensive national system for the registration of [sex] offenders.” 34 U.S.C. § 20901. Faced with “a patchwork of federal and 50 individual state registration systems, ” Reynolds v. United States, 565 U.S. 432, 435 (2012), Congress created a uniform federal registration duty to deal with “‘loopholes and deficiencies [that] allowed over 100, 000 sex offenders (about 20% of the total) to escape registration.” Gundy v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 2116 (U.S. Jun. 20, 2019) (plurality opinion).

         Thus, predicating a federal duty to register on a state-law registration requirement would undermine the very purpose of SORNA by re-implementing the “patchwork of . . . 50 individual state registration systems” with resulting “loopholes and deficiencies” which could allow some sex offenders to escape registration altogether. See United States v. DelValle-Cruz, 785 F.3d 48, 55 (1st Cir. 2015) (concluding that in light of SORNA's purpose of establishing greater uniformity, it would be “illogical” to allow individual states to determine the scope of federal registration).

         Moreover, the Sixth Circuit has already determined that a sex offender's obligations under SORNA do not depend on whether the sex offender has duties under applicable state sex offender registration laws. See United States v. Paul, 718 Fed.Appx. 360 (6th Cir. Dec. 11, 2017). Paul was convicted of rape in state court, but the judgment included a special condition releasing him from the obligation to register as a state sex offender under state law. Id. at 361. Paul argued that “the federal registration requirement is tied directly to the state requirement, such that only an individual who ...


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