The change occurred after an 8-0 ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in May affirmed what several federal courts previously had ruled: The parole board cannot unilaterally decide whether to brand a prisoner as a sex offender if he or she has not been convicted of a sexual offense.In June, an attorney who's knowledgeable on the subject predicted to Grits "that most cases will have Condition X withdrawn by transmittal to a Board panel, and not by a mass of hearings," which turned out to be exactly what's happening. Attorney Gary Cohen told Ward, "If they had (changed the policy) years ago, as they should have, they would have saved a lot of money and litigation."
By officials' earlier estimates, as many as 6,900 of the 80,600 parolees could be affected by the change. To review those cases would require perhaps as many as 1,000 hearings a week — an impossible number, some parole officials had said.
My question: Should we now expect a class action lawsuit from parolees who've lived for years under wrongfully assigned sex offender conditions? A federal judge already said parole board chair Rissie Owens' behavior in the face of wrongfully assigned sex-offender conditions was some combination of "indecisive, insensitive, inattentive, incompetent, stupid, (or) weak-kneed." Given that, I wouldn't be surprised if the board's dawdling has created significant civil liability for the state. It'd be hard to argue that this wasn't a "pattern and practice," and a federal court has already ruled their due process rights were violated.
MORE: From the Austin Statesman.
See related Grits posts:
- New parole rules require due process for sex-offender conditions
- Court: Parole board can't impose sex-offender conditions without evidentiary hearing
- Judge Sam Sparks: Parole chief Rissie Owens is "indecisive, insensitive, inattentive, incompetent, stupid, (or) weak-kneed"
- Federal judge: Parole board may have improperly labeled thousands as 'sex offenders'
- Federal litigation seeks individualized review of sex-offender cases by parole board