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Otey v. Director of Alabama Law Enforcement Agency

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

April 10, 2017

RANDALL BENJAMIN OTEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DIRECTOR OF ALABAMA LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          R. DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On March 23, 2017, the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation was entered and Plaintiff was allowed therein fourteen (14) days in which to file objections to the recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. (Doc. # 22). On March 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint. (Doc. # 24). The court has liberally construed some of Plaintiff's allegations in his motion to amend the complaint as objections to the Report and Recommendation. On April 4, 2017 and April 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. (Docs. # 25, 26). After careful review, and for the reasons explained below, the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation is due to be affirmed and adopted, Plaintiff's motion to amend is due to be denied, and this action is due to be dismissed without prejudice.

         I. Standard of Review

         When reviewing a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the court reviews the portions to which an objection has been raised de novo. Tauber v. Barnhart, 438 F.Supp.2d 1366, 1373 (N.D.Ga. 2006). The court reviews those portions that are not specifically objected to under the “clearly erroneous” standard. See Liberty Am. Ins. Grp., Inc. v. WestPoint Underwriters, L.L.C., 199 F.Supp.2d 1271, 1276 (M.D. Fla. 2001).

         Although the court has direction to grant or deny a motion to amend, it must freely grant a plaintiff leave to amend the complaint when justice so requires. Bryant v. Dupree, 252 F.3d 1161, 1163 (11th Cir. 2001) (quoting Thomas v. Town of Davie, 847 F.2d 771, 773 (11th Cir. 1988)). Generally, a court should grant a plaintiff one opportunity to amend his or her complaint before it dismisses an action with prejudice. Id. The court does not need to grant leave to amend the complaint, though, when a plaintiff has failed to cure prior deficiencies or when an amendment would be futile. Id.

         II. Analysis of Plaintiff's Objections to the Report and Recommendation

         A de novo review of the Report and Recommendation and the record, and a review of Plaintiff's objections to the Magistrate Judge's thorough analysis of the claims in this action reveal no ground for departing from the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that all of Plaintiff's claims are due to be dismissed.

         A. The Magistrate Judge Committed No Error in Concluding that Sex Offenders do Not Constitute a Suspect Class

         In his objections to the Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff argues that sex offenders are a suspect class because the Alabama Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act (“ASORCNA”) imposes additional burdens on that class. (See Doc. # 25 at 2). He also contends that ASORCNA classifies sex offenders as individuals with an “incurable disorder.”

         (Doc. # 26 at 2). However, the Magistrate Judge correctly asserted that sex offenders are not generally considered a suspect class under Eleventh Circuit law. (Doc. # 22 at 9-10) (citing Doe v. Moore, 410 F.3d 1337, 1346 (11th Cir. 2005)). Thus, this objection provides no basis for overruling the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that Plaintiff's equal protection claim is due to be dismissed.

         B. The Magistrate Judge Did Not Err by Relying on the Alabama Legislature's Legislative Findings as Rational Bases for ASORCNA

         In his objections to the Report and Recommendation, Plaintiff argues that the court should not rely on the recidivism rate of sex offenders as a rational basis for ASORCNA because many judicial opinions have used a 1997 report from the U.S. Department of Justice as evidence that sex offenders re-offend at a higher rate than other criminals. (See Doc. # 25 at 2). Plaintiff contends that the Alabama Legislature should be required to produce updated recidivism statistics to support ASORCNA. (Id.).

         When enacting ASORCNA, the Alabama Legislature found that “[r]egistration and notification laws are a vital concern as the number of sex offenders continues to rise. The increasing numbers coupled with the danger of recidivism place society at risk.” Ala. Code § 15-20A-2(1). The Alabama Legislature did not cite a specific source for its finding that sex offenders present a danger of recidivism. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court observed in 2003 that “[t]he risk of recidivism posed by sex offenders is ‘frightening and high.'” Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84, 103 (2003) (quoting McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 34 (2002)). The Court relied on two 1997 reports from the U.S. Department of Justice to support this recidivism assessment. Id. The Court determined that a state could reasonably conclude that sex offenders present a “substantial risk of recidivism” because such a conclusion is consistent with prior studies of the recidivism rate for sex offenders. See Id. When denying a similar equal protection claim to that presented in this action, the Eleventh Circuit held that the Alabama Legislature articulated “several reasonable bases for enacting [ASORCNA].” Windwalker v. Governor of Ala., 579 F. App'x 769, 774 (11th Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff's objection presents insufficient grounds to overrule the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the court dismiss the equal protection claim. Plaintiff provides no evidence to contest the Legislature's finding that sex offenders present a danger of recidivism. (See generally Doc. # 25). Additionally, the Alabama Legislature provided several reasons other than recidivism for enacting ASORCNA, including increasing public awareness of sex offenders, maintaining contact between sex offenders and law enforcement, ensuring that juvenile sex offenders receive treatment, protecting the public from criminals who might use physical violence, and protecting vulnerable populations from harm. See generally Ala. Code ยง 15-20A-2. Plaintiff has not raised any challenge to relying on these other articulated reasons as rational bases for ASORCNA. Accordingly, the court finds no ground for disagreeing with the Eleventh ...


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