Pierre v. Vasquez, et al., No. 20-51032 (5th Cir. 2022)
Nature of Case: In 2015, Appellant was indicted in the District of Arizona and pled guilty to knowingly attempting to transport an individual from Arizona to Texas to engage in prostitution in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2421. The district court sentenced Appellant to 16 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Appellant was not required to register as a “sex offender” under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) as a condition of his supervised release.
During his term of supervised release, Appellant’s federal supervision officer asked the Texas Sex Offender Registration Bureau (“SORB”), a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”), whether Appellant was required to register. SORB responded that although Appellant’s conviction “is not substantially similar to a Texas reportable conviction or adjudication” he would nevertheless be required to register as an “extrajurisdictional” registrant for 15 years.
Appellant filed the present lawsuit challenging this registration requirement, naming three defendants, Sheila Vasquez, the manager of SORB, Steven McCraw, the director of DPS, and DPS itself.
The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas dismissed Appellant’s claim against DPS concluding that it was entitled to sovereign immunity. Appellant did not challenge that determination. As to Appellant’s claims against Vasquez and McCraw, the district court concluded that Appellant failed to sufficiently allege an injury, and therefore lacked standing. Appellant timely appealed.
Holding: The Fifth Circuit’s unpublished opinion reversed the decision of the district court and remanded the case, noting that the District Court erred in evaluating whether Appellant could identify a “liberty interest” where the relevant question is whether Appellant’s alleged injury is “concrete,” “particularized,” and “actual or imminent.” The Court concluded that the damaging reputational consequences of bearing the sex offender label are a “concrete” form of injury sufficient to support standing, that the harm is “particularized” to Appellant, and that the injury is “imminent” based on defendants’ continued efforts to require Appellant to register. For those reasons, the Court stated that Appellant has a sufficient “personal stake” to satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement of standing.