Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Adam Walsh Act Has Low Standard for Hearing on Motion to Release

US v. Maclaren: In 2009 the Government declared that Maclaren was a "sexually dangerous person" and subject to indefinite detention under the Adam Walsh Act (the opinion doesn't report what his initial conviction was for, but a footnote states he is "believed to have sexually abused" over 38 children over  period of more than 40 years). In 2013, the district court found the Government had met its burden and ordered Maclaren committed. In 2015, Maclaren filed a motion seeking a hearing on whether he should be discharged pursuant to a conditional release plan. The district court denied the motion, holding that Maclaren had not shown in his motion that his condition had improved since his commitment and he had failed to provide information about a release plan.

On appeal the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, but not on the merits. Rather, the issue was what showing a person like Maclaren had to show in such a motion to get a hearing, not get release. The court agreed with Maclaren that "a successful motion for a discharge hearing need only plausibly allege that the detainee is entitled to discharge." The district court erred by treating the motion as an vehicle for reaching the substantive issue of whether Maclaren should be released, not whether he was entitled to a hearing on whether he should be released.

Congrats to the Defender office in the ED North Carolina on the win!

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