A federal judge Monday lifted the stay he issued last month that had kept the Nebraska State Patrol from putting juveniles on its sex offender registry if they weren't tried as adults.

Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf's ruling in John Doe v. Doug Peterson, the Nebraska Attorney General, and John Bolduc, the Superintendent of the State Patrol, was specific to one man, who lives in Omaha and was adjudicated in Iowa for second-degree sexual abuse when he was 14.

But last month's stay gave a temporary reprieve not only to him but also dozens of others who the State Patrol sent letters to in September telling them they now were required to register as sex offenders because of a recent Nebraska Supreme Court decision.

Now, that reprieve has ended.

It was the latest move in a complicated back-and-forth based on court rulings.

At a hearing last week on a motion for a preliminary injunction, Omaha attorney Joshua Weir argued his client wasn't being treated the same as Nebraska juveniles, who the state's lawmakers specifically excluded from the registry unless they are tried as adults.

But, Kopf said then, Weir's client had moved to Omaha as an adult, and Iowa chose to put him on its registry for life despite his case going through juvenile court.

If he lived in Iowa, he would be on the list there, too, he said.

"It seems to me, as we're sitting here now, he's being treated equally," Kopf said then.

He reiterated that in the order Monday denying the preliminary injunction and lifting the stay.

"Plaintiff's change of residency from Iowa to Nebraska has not been shown to have caused him any actual injury. Rather, the evidence shows plaintiff is seeking to benefit from SORA's exemption from registration of juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent in this state," the judge wrote.

But other individual lawsuits could follow.

In 2016, Kopf blocked the State Patrol from putting a 15-year-old boy on the list for something he did in Minnesota when he was 11 because he wouldn't be on the public registry there.

After the decision, the State Patrol removed 65 people adjudicated as juveniles in other states from the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry and told them they no longer had to register.

The 8th Circuit affirmed Kopf's decision in that case last year.

But this summer, the Nebraska Supreme Court disagreed with the federal appellate court's interpretation of the Nebraska law.

Instead, the court focused on a plain reading of the law, which provides the registry applies to anyone who after Jan. 1, 1997, enters the state and is required to register elsewhere as a sex offender.

Weir told Kopf the Nebraska Legislature considered a bill to correct the issue last session, but it didn't get out of committee. He said he expects it will be brought up again next year.

Kopf asked last week if it would make sense to hold off and see what the Legislature does.

But Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post objected to extending the temporary restraining order. And the judge issued his ruling a week later.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.



Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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