Menges v. Knudsen

Citation538 F.Supp.3d 1082
Decision Date11 May 2021
Docket NumberCV 20-178-M-DLC
Parties Randall MENGES, Plaintiff, v. Austin KNUDSEN, Attorney General of the State of Montana; Gary Seder, Bureau Chief of the Montana Crime Information Bureau; and Sara Malikie, Head of the Sexual and Violent Offenders Program for the Missoula County Sheriff's Office, each in their official capacities, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Montana

Elizabeth K. Ehret, Missoula, MT, Matthew Strugar, Pro Hac Vice, Law Office of Matthew Strugar, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiff.

Hannah E. Tokerud, Matthew T. Cochenour, Montana Attorney General, J. Stuart Segrest, Montana Department of Justice, Helena, MT, for Defendants.


Dana L. Christensen, District Judge

The central question in this case is whether Montana may, in conformance with the United States and Montana Constitutions, force Plaintiff Randall Menges ("Menges") to register as a sexual offender for engaging in consensual oral or anal sex with another male in 1993. For the reasons stated herein, the Court concludes it cannot. Accordingly, the Court will afford Menges the relief he requests and enter judgment in his favor.

I. Factual Background.

In 1993, Menges, then 18 years old, engaged in sexual activity with two 16-year-old males while employed at a youth foster program and working ranch in Gem County, Idaho. (Doc. 33 at 3.) In response, Idaho charged him with three counts of "Crimes Against Nature," in violation of Idaho Code 18-6605. (Id. at 3; Docs. 9-2 at 2; 9-5 at 1.)1 In 1994, Menges pled guilty to the first count (Doc. 9-2 at 3) and was sentenced to a total of 15 years imprisonment, 5 of which was determinate and 10 years of which was indeterminate. (Id. at 2; 9-5 at 1.)2

Menges was ultimately incarcerated for approximately 7 years, before serving the remainder of his sentence on probation. Upon release from imprisonment, Menges was required under Idaho law (and still would be required) to register as a sexual offender. See Idaho Code § 18-8303(1)(a) (1993) ; Idaho Code § 18-8304(1)(a) (2020). At some point, Menges re-located to Montana. But he could not escape the registration requirement, because under Montana's Sexual or Violent Offender Registration Act, Menges must register as a sexual offender in Montana. (Doc. 33 at 1, 4.)

This is because, under Montana's Sexual or Violent Offender Registration Act, sexual offenders must, among other things, register "with the appropriate registration agency." Mont. Code Ann. § 46-23-504(1), (2). A "sexual offender" is anyone who has been convicted of a "sexual offense." Id. § 46-23-502(10). Critical to this case, a "sexual offense" includes "any violation of a law of another state ... for which the offender was required to register as a sexual offender after an adjudication or conviction." Id. § 46-23-502(9)(b). Due to Menges’ 1994 conviction under Idaho's Crimes Against Nature statute, which is codified at Idaho Code § 18-6605, he must register as a sexual offender in Idaho. Idaho Code § 18-8303(1)(a) (1993) ; Idaho Code § 18-8304(1)(a) (2020). Accordingly, pursuant to the provisions of Montana Code Annotated §§ 502(9)(b), (10), and 504(1), (2), Menges must register as a sexual offender under Montana law.3

Menges officially registered in Montana on December 12, 2018. (Doc. 33 at 4.) When registering, Menges was fingerprinted, photographed, and swabbed for DNA. (Doc. 33 at 4; Mont Code Ann. § 46-23-504(3).) He also had to disclose various private information, including all "email addresses and screen names," a description of any vehicles owned, his residential address, and his driver's license number. (Id. ) Menges must notify the State within 3 days of any change in his residence, employment, or academic enrollment status. (Doc. 33 at 5; Mont. Code Ann. § 46-23-505(1).)

Menges must also provide notice if he wants to leave the county in which he is registered for longer than 10 days. (Doc. 33 at 6; Mont. Code Ann. § 46-23-505(4).) He must complete and submit an updated registration form annually. (Doc. 33 at 6; Mont. Code Ann. § 46-23-504(6)(a)(iii).) Any registration related costs are his financial burden to bear. (Doc. 33 at 6; Mont. Code Ann. § 46-23-504(8).) Failure to abide by any registration requirement is a felony. (Doc. 33 at 6; Mont. Code Ann. § 46-23-507.) These requirements are generally imposed for life. Mont. Code Ann. § 46-23-506(1).

Montana's registration requirement has unsurprisingly had a negative impact on Menges’ life. He moved from Washington to Montana in March of 2020. (Id. at 5.) A few months later he was marked noncompliant in Montana's registration database and was consequently kicked out of two different homeless shelters. (Doc. 9-2 at 3.) Having nowhere else to go, Menges was forced to sleep on the street. Menges inclusion on the registry has also cost him two different employment opportunities.4 (Doc. 9-2 at 3–4.) In March 2021, Menges returned to Montana and established a residence in Butte. (Doc. 33 at 5.)

II. Procedural Background.

Menges filed suit on December 9, 2020. (See generally Doc. 1.) He complains that Montana's registration requirement is unconstitutional, as applied to him, in violation of: (1) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) Article II, § 10 of the Montana Constitution. (Id. at 9–12.) Menges has also moved for a preliminary injunction, requesting that this Court enjoin the Defendants, "their officers, agents, employees, attorneys, and any person who in active concert or participation with them from requiring him to register as a sex offender with the Montana Sexual or Violent Offender Registry." (Doc. 9.)

In response, Defendants moved to stay this matter in light of Menges’ parallel Idaho federal court suit challenging, among other things, the Idaho statute that requires him to register on the basis of his 1994 conviction. (Doc. 15.) Defendants have also moved to dismiss Menges’ complaint for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 24.) This motion contends that Menges lacks standing and his claims are Heck barred. (Doc. 25.) The Court set a hearing on these three motions (Doc. 26) and provided advance notice of its intent to consolidate the hearing with a trial on the merits (Doc. 32.) Neither party objected to the consolidation and the hearing commenced on March 30, 2021 during which Menges testified and the Court heard argument from counsel on the legal issues presented. (Doc. 34.)


At this juncture, the case presents several distinct legal questions, which are addressed in the following order. First, the Court will address the parties’ arguments regarding standing and application of the Heck doctrine, both of which implicate subject matter jurisdiction to resolve the remaining issues. After finding the Court has jurisdiction, the analysis proceeds, sua sponte , to the Eleventh Amendment issues posed by Menges’ claims. Finding no Eleventh Amendment barrier the Court next examines whether the matter should nonetheless be stayed. Concluding it should not, Menges’ claim for permanent injunctive relief is analyzed. Ultimately, the Court finds that Menges’ claims enjoy actual success on the merits and will accordingly grant him the remaining relief he requests and enter judgment in his favor.

I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction.

"It is a fundamental precept that federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction."

Owen Equip. & Erection Co. v. Kroger , 437 U.S. 365, 374, 98 S.Ct. 2396, 57 L.Ed.2d 274 (1978). This notion is derived from the United States Constitution itself, which limits the Court's subject matter jurisdiction to justiciable "cases" or "controversies." U.S. Const., Art. III, § 2. The federal courts’ limited jurisdiction "is founded in concern about the proper—and properly limited—role of the courts in a democratic society." Summers v. Earth Island Inst. , 555 U.S. 488, 492–93, 129 S.Ct. 1142, 173 L.Ed.2d 1 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

As such, it is incumbent upon this Court to ascertain whether subject matter jurisdiction exists before analyzing the merits of a litigant's claims. Arbaugh v. Y&H Corp. , 546 U.S. 500, 514, 126 S.Ct. 1235, 163 L.Ed.2d 1097 (2006). Indeed, this Court is to presume it is without jurisdiction to hear a case until a contrary showing is made. Stock West, Inc. v. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation , 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989). In essence, subject matter jurisdiction is "the courts’ statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate the case." Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't , 523 U.S. 83, 89, 118 S.Ct. 1003, 140 L.Ed.2d 210 (1998). This includes underlying concepts such as standing, In re Palmdale Hills Prop., LLC , 654 F.3d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 2011), and common law limitations such as the Heck doctrine, Lockett v. Ericson , 656 F.3d 892, 895–96 (9th Cir. 2011). Each is discussed in turn below.

But first, the Court must address its ability to look outside the pleadings in resolving the questions of whether Menges has standing or his claims are Heck barred. Because, as noted above, both of these issues implicate this Court's subject matter jurisdiction, they are properly advanced through a Rule 12(b)(1) motion.5 See Id. ( Heck ); White v. Lee , 227 F.3d 1214, 1242 (9th Cir. 2000) (standing). "A Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack may be facial or factual." Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer , 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). A facial attack argues there is want of jurisdiction based on the allegations in the complaint alone. Id. A factual attack, however, relies "on extrinsic evidence and [does] not assert lack of subject matter jurisdiction solely on the basis of the pleadings." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

This distinction is critical, because Rule 12(b)(1) factual attacks, as opposed to Rule 12(b)(1) facial attacks, permit the Court to "look beyond the complaint ... without having to convert the ...

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