McDeid v. Johnston, Nos. A21-0042; A21-0043 (Minn. 2023)
Nature of Case: This case arises out of the delayed transfer of two individuals civilly committed to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (“MSOP”) following court orders directing their transfer to Community Preparation Services (“CPS”), a less restrictive environment within MSOP control. The Appellants claim that State Officials violated their due process rights by delaying transfer for over 2 years following the court orders and seek relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The State Officials seek to invoke qualified immunity against the Patients’ section 1983 claims.
The district court concluded Appellants each sufficiently alleged a violation of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights to a transfer to CPS within a reasonable amount of time following a CAP transfer order. The district court also determined, however, that qualified immunity shields the State Officials because the right to transfer to CPS within a reasonable time of the CAP transfer orders was not clearly established when the CAP transfer orders were issued. Consequently, the district court granted the State Officials’ motions to dismiss. In affirming the district court, the court of appeals assumed, without deciding, that the Patients had sufficiently alleged violations of their due process rights. But the court of appeals agreed with the district court that the right to a transfer within a reasonable time of the CAP transfer orders was not clearly established.
The Minnesota Supreme Court granted review on the sole issue decided by the court of appeals—whether the Patients’ right to timely implementation of the CAP transfer orders was clearly established.
Holding: The Minnesota Supreme Court held that MSOP patients had a clearly established right to transfer to CPS within a reasonable time following issuance of a Minnesota Commitment Appeals Panel transfer order. As a result, the Court reversed the holding of the court of appeals and remanded to the court of appeals to address whether the State Officials’ clear obligation to transfer the Patients to CPS within a reasonable time following a CAP transfer order gives rise to a federal due process right and, accordingly, whether the State Officials’ failure to do so is a violation of the Patients’ federal constitutional rights sufficient to support a section 1983 claim.