662 F.3d 1152 (10th Cir. 2011), 10-2269, Brown v. Montoya

Docket Nº:10-2269.
Citation:662 F.3d 1152
Opinion Judge:MATHESON, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Ray BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Daniel MONTOYA, in his individual capacity; Joe R. Williams, in his individual capacity and official capacity as Secretary of Corrections, Defendants-Appellants, and Liz Aguilar, in her individual capacity; Manuel Gonzales, III, in his individual capacity and official capacity as Bernalillo County Sheriff; John Doe
Attorney:Alfred A. Park (Lawrence M. Marcus, with him on the briefs), Park & Anderson, L.L.C., Albuquerque, NM, appearing for Appellants. Paul J. Kennedy (Arne R. Leonard, with him on the brief), Kennedy & Han, P.C., Albuquerque, NM, appearing for Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before KELLY, SILER [
Case Date:November 08, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
 
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Page 1152

662 F.3d 1152 (10th Cir. 2011)

Ray BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Daniel MONTOYA, in his individual capacity; Joe R. Williams, in his individual capacity and official capacity as Secretary of Corrections, Defendants-Appellants,

and

Liz Aguilar, in her individual capacity; Manuel Gonzales, III, in his individual capacity and official capacity as Bernalillo County Sheriff; John Does 1 through 50, Defendants.

No. 10-2269.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.

November 8, 2011

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Alfred A. Park (Lawrence M. Marcus, with him on the briefs), Park & Anderson, L.L.C., Albuquerque, NM, appearing for Appellants.

Paul J. Kennedy (Arne R. Leonard, with him on the brief), Kennedy & Han, P.C., Albuquerque, NM, appearing for Appellee.

Before KELLY, SILER [†], and MATHESON, Circuit Judges.

MATHESON, Circuit Judge.

This appeal comes to us from the district court's denial of the defendants-appellants' motion to dismiss a complaint alleging 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against them for violation of the plaintiff-appellee's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to substantive due process, procedural due process, and equal protection. The appellants argued, among other things, that their qualified immunity from suit required dismissal. Our review is limited to that issue.

Ray Brown pled guilty to two counts of false imprisonment in New Mexico state court. When he was released from custody, his probation officer, Daniel Montoya, directed him to register as a sex offender and placed him in the sex offender probation unit. Officer Montoya alleged that he acted on information that the victim in Mr. Brown's false imprisonment case was a minor, and, under Officer Montoya's understanding of the law, Mr. Brown was properly classified as a sex offender. Mr. Brown sought and won in state court an order removing his name from the sex offender registry and removing him from the sex offender probation unit.

Mr. Brown then filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court. His Complaint included damages claims against Officer Montoya and New Mexico Secretary of Corrections Joe Williams in their individual capacities. 1 Mr. Brown alleged he was wrongly directed to register as a sex offender and wrongly placed in the sex offender probation unit. Officer Montoya and Secretary Williams filed an answer containing an affirmative defense of qualified immunity and moved to dismiss.

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They also contended they were protected by statutory immunity. Secretary Williams further argued that he was protected by absolute legislative immunity. The district court denied the motion, and Officer Montoya and Secretary Williams have appealed.

We lack jurisdiction over the statutory immunity issue. We do have jurisdiction to review the district court's rulings on Officer Montoya's and Secretary Williams's motions to dismiss based on their qualified immunity defenses and Secretary Williams's absolute legislative immunity defense.

As to Mr. Brown's claims against Secretary Williams in his individual capacity, we reverse the district court's denial of the motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds. We need not reach Secretary Williams's claim of absolute legislative immunity.

As to Mr. Brown's procedural due process claim against Officer Montoya, we affirm the district court's denial of the motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds. We reverse the denial of the motion to dismiss on the substantive due process and equal protection claims.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Relevant New Mexico Statutes and Policy

We start with an overview of pertinent New Mexico statutes and the New Mexico Department of Corrections Policy.

Mr. Brown pled guilty to New Mexico's false imprisonment offense: " False imprisonment consists of intentionally confining or restraining another person without his consent and with knowledge that he has no lawful authority to do so." N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-4-3. New Mexico's criminal statutes do not include a specific offense for false imprisonment of a minor.

Two New Mexico postconviction statutes bear on Mr. Brown's § 1983 claim: the Probation Statute, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31-20-5.2, and the Registry Statute, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 29-11A.

The Probation Statute provides the terms and conditions of probation for sex offenders. See id. § 31-20-5.2. Its definition of sex offender does not refer to false imprisonment. See id. § 31-20-5.2(F). The Probation Statute requires that " [p]rior to placing a sex offender on probation, the district court shall conduct a hearing to determine the terms and conditions of supervised probation for the sex offender." Id. § 31-20-5.2(A).

The Registry Statute establishes New Mexico's sex offender registry. See id. § 29-11A-2. Its definition of sex offender includes those who have pled guilty to " false imprisonment, as provided in [N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-4-3], when the victim is less than eighteen years of age and the offender is not a parent of the victim." See id. § 29-11A-3(E)(7). The Registry Statute also states: " A sex offender who willfully or knowingly fails to comply with the registration requirements set forth in this section is guilty of a fourth degree felony." Id. § 29-11A-4(N).

The New Mexico Department of Corrections implements both the Probation Statute and the Registry Statute through Department Policy No. CD-053200 (" Policy" ), titled Probation-Parole Division Sex Offender Registration, Tracking, and Supervision. The Policy defines a sex offender as " [a]ny person convicted of a sex offense on or after July 1, 1995" and defines " sex offense" to include " [f]alse imprisonment when the victim is under 18 years of age and the offender is not the parent of the victim in the fourth degree." Policy at 2.

The Policy enumerates requirements that apply to sex offenders on probation.

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Sex offenders must register with the local sheriff within ten days of their release from prison. Id. at 3. The Policy states that sex offenders' " travel, employment and residency are subject to restrictions that may be more stringent than those normally imposed on other types of offenders." Id. at 4.

B. Mr. Brown's State Prosecution, Sentencing, and Probation

On March 29, 2007, Ray Brown pled guilty in New Mexico state court to several criminal charges arising from an armed robbery, including two counts of false imprisonment in violation of N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-4-3. On April 24, 2007, the state court sentenced him to four years of incarceration to be followed by five years in New Mexico's Intensive Supervised Probation (" ISP" ) program. Mr. Brown alleged that, at his sentencing hearing, the court did not suggest that he should be placed in the sex offender probation unit or that he needed to register as a sex offender.

In early 2009, Mr. Brown was released from incarceration and placed on probation.2 He alleged that, when he was released, his probation officer, Daniel Montoya, directed him to register with New Mexico's sex offender registry, see Complaint, para. 33, and placed him in the sex offender probation unit, see id., paras. 4, 23, 26.3 Mr. Brown alleged that Officer Montoya claimed he had information indicating that Mr. Brown's victim was a minor, but did not state how he obtained this information.

Mr. Brown alleged that neither the indictment that charged him nor the plea agreement he signed mentioned his victim's age. Mr. Brown alleged that he did not even know his victim's age.

On May 26, 2009, Mr. Brown moved in the court that sentenced him to modify his probation conditions by removing him from the sex offender probation unit. At a hearing on June 24, 2009, the state did not oppose Mr. Brown's motion, saying it " could find no link between the crimes for which [Mr. Brown] was being charged and him being placed in a sex offender unit." ROA at 15. Officer Montoya attended the hearing and said that he placed Mr. Brown in the sex offender probation unit because the offense involved a minor. The court asked the prosecutor if the case involved " any sexual offenses against a juvenile." Id. at 16. He replied: " None whatsoever. None within the police reports. None within the indictment." Id.

The court granted Mr. Brown's motion and stated that he should not have been placed in the sex offender probation unit and should not have been directed to register as a sex offender. On July 21, 2009, the court issued a written ruling ordering that Mr. Brown's name be removed from the sex offender registry and that Mr. Brown be removed from the sex offender probation unit.

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C. Mr. Brown's Section 1983 Suit

On February 1, 2010, Mr. Brown filed his Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal district court in New Mexico against Officer Montoya in his individual capacity and Secretary Williams in both his individual and official capacities. Mr. Brown also named as defendants Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales, III, Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriff Liz Aguilar, and fifty unnamed state and local officials. Mr. Brown alleged that the defendants, acting under color of law, violated his constitutional rights by wrongly directing him to register as a sex offender and placing him in the sex offender probation unit.

Mr. Brown alleged deprivation of his constitutional rights to substantive due process, procedural due process, and equal protection. He sought damages and injunctive relief.

Officer Montoya and Secretary Williams filed a joint answer. They raised, among other defenses, qualified...

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