Koch v. Village of Hartland, No. 22-1007 (7th Cir. 2022)
Nature of Case: Plaintiff sought to challenge an ordinance enacted in the Village of Hartland, Wisconsin, which prohibited “designated offenders” from establishing residence in Hartland until the saturation level for designated offenders reached a factor of 1.1 or lower. Plaintiff falls under the definition of “designated offender” and is prohibited from establishing residence in Hartland based on his guilty plea fifteen years prior to Repeated Sexual Assault of the Same Child and two counts of Second-Degree Sexual Assault of a Child.
Plaintiff brought suit challenging the constitutionality of Hartland’s Ordinance arguing that it violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution as a form of retroactive punishment. Both parties moved for summary judgment.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin denied Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, granted defendant’s motion and dismissed the case with prejudice. In making that determination the Court stated that it was bound to follow Seventh Circuit precedent, United States v. Leach, 639 F.3d 769 (7th Cir. 2011) and Vasquez v. Foxx, 895 F.3d 515 (7th Cir. 2018), and concluded that under that precedent the Ordinance did not apply retroactively because it only applied to conduct occurring after enactment, in other words the Ordinance only applies to Plaintiff because he now desires to move to Hartland.
Plaintiff filed a timely appeal.
Holding: The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded the case, overturning the circuit’s prior holdings in Leach and Vasquez, which held that a law which “targets only  conduct undertaken … after its enactment” is not retroactive. Concluding that Leach-Vasquez rule governing retroactivity was no longer tenable, the Court articulated a new standard, stating “[t]he critical question is whether the law changes the legal consequences of acts completed before its effective date.” However, because the the district court never considered the second prong of the Ex Post Facto analysis, whether the law was punitive, the Seventh Circuit remanded for the district court to conduct that fact intensive inquiry in the first instance.