The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Brown v. Montoya on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.
The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision. Respondent pled guilty to two counts of false imprisonment in New Mexico state court. When he was released from custody, his probation officer, Petitioner, directed him to register as a sex offender and placed him in the sex offender probation unit. Petitioner alleged that he acted on information that the victim in Respondent’s false imprisonment case was a minor, and, under Petitioner’s understanding of the law, Respondent was properly classified as a sex offender. Respondent sought and won in state court an order removing his name from the sex offender registry and removing him from the sex offender probation unit.
Respondent then filed suit seeking damages from Petitioner and New Mexico Secretary of Corrections Joe Williams in their individual capacities. Respondent alleged he was wrongly directed to register as a sex offender and wrongly placed in the sex offender probation unit. Petitioner and Secretary Williams filed an answer containing an affirmative defense of qualified immunity and moved to dismiss. They also contended they were protected by statutory immunity. Secretary Williams further argued that he was protected by absolute legislative immunity. The district court denied the motion, and Petitioner and Secretary Williams appealed.
The Court had jurisdiction over the qualified immunity and absolute legislative immunity issues, but lacked jurisdiction over the statutory immunity issue. Because Respondent had not alleged sufficient facts to establish that Secretary Williams violated any of his constitutional rights, the Court reversed the district court’s decision on qualified immunity grounds. However, Respondent has alleged sufficient facts to establish that Petitioner violated his clearly established procedural due process right. The Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Petitioner’s motion to dismiss the procedural due process claim; “the Complaint’s allegations overcome the qualified immunity defense.” But since Respondent has not alleged sufficient facts to establish that Petitioner violated a clearly established substantive due process right or that he violated his equal protection right, the Court reversed the district court’s denial of Petitioner’s motion to dismiss those claims.