The 8th Circuit Court has ruled in favor of a 15-year-old boy whose family sued the Nebraska State Patrol to keep him from being put on the state's sex offender registry for a juvenile case in Minnesota.
Attorney Joshua Weir, who represented the boy and his family, said Monday that common sense finally prevailed.
He said he didn't realize that the State Patrol was putting minors — whose cases were handled in juvenile court in other states and who later moved to Nebraska — on the public registry until this case came up.
It never made any sense, Weir said.
Nebraska's registry excludes juveniles prosecuted in Nebraska unless they were prosecuted criminally in adult court. Minnesota's juvenile registry isn't public.
From the start, the Nebraska Attorney General's office conceded that if the boy had done in Nebraska exactly what he did in Minnesota, he wouldn't have been required to register as a sex offender.
But the way the Nebraska law is written, all sex offenders who move here must register, regardless of age, Assistant Attorney General Ryan Post argued in May.
He said the State Patrol, which maintains the list, was just trying to apply the plain language of the law as written.
Post said the state was seeking review of a Nebraska federal district judge's ruling, which banned the state from putting the boy on the registry, because "we're not just talking about one juvenile."
There are 76 juveniles on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry who were adjudicated as juveniles in other states.
Spokesman Cody Thomas said in an email that the State Patrol "has reviewed the ruling and has begun the process to remove affected individuals from the registry."
Later in the week, he said some of the 76 had reoffended as adults and will remain on the registry. But they were removing about 65 names.
The boy at issue in the lawsuit was 11 when he was adjudicated for criminal sexual conduct in juvenile court in Minnesota. A judge there ordered him to complete probation, counseling and community service, and his name went on a part of that state's predatory offender list that is visible only to police.
When he moved to Nebraska to live with relatives he registered with the State Patrol, which determined he should be on the public registry, by its reading of state law.
Weir sued before that happened. And, last year, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf banned the state from adding the boy's name to the registry, saying that it made no sense to believe Nebraska statutes were intended to be more punitive to juveniles adjudicated elsewhere than those that go through the system here.
The state appealed.
In Monday's decision, Judge C. Arlen Beam of Lincoln said the Attorney General's office argued, "rather perfunctorily," that the language of the state statute plainly and unambiguously supported its view that the boy should be on the registry.
But, he said, a juvenile court adjudication is not a conviction under Minnesota or Nebraska law, "and therefore falls outside the ordinary understanding of sex offender."
In a footnote, the judge said even if the appeals court had found the boy to be a sex offender, judges had serious constitutional concerns about Nebraska applying the sex offender registry and its public notification requirements differently to minors who go through juvenile court in Nebraska versus out of state.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office declined to comment or say if it would seek further review.