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Media Alerts - Wright v. O'Day -- Sixth Circuit
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March 19, 2013
  Wright v. O'Day -- Sixth Circuit
2013-02-11

Headline: Sixth Circuit requires state to grant a 13-year-old boy a hearing to challenge his listing on child-abuse registry.

Area of Law: Constitutional Law; Procedural Due Process

Issue(s) Presented: Whether a child's procedural-due-process rights are violated when the state lists him on the state's child-abuse registry without giving him an administrative hearing to challenge the listing.

Brief Summary: A teenager asked for an administrative hearing to challenge his listing on a state child-abuse registry, but the state refused his request. He sued the state alleging a denial of his due-process rights. The district court dismissed his claim, reasoning that his alleged injury was speculative because he was not yet old enough to apply for work and thus hadn't lost employment opportunities based on the listing. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the denial of a hearing violated his due-process rights because being listed on the registry was an actual injury.

Extended Summary: A 13-year-old boy was placed on the Tennessee child-abuse registry after another child claimed that the boy had groped his genitals and penetrated his anus with a finger. Through his mother, the accused boy asked for an administrative hearing to challenge his listing on the registry. The state denied the request, citing a regulation that allowed a hearing only if the state was about to release information about the accusations or if the accused was denied employment in a field affected by the listing.

The boy argued that being listed as a perpetrator of child sexual abuse prevented him from pursuing certain occupations. So he sued to force the state to grant him an administrative hearing to challenge the listing. The district court dismissed his claim because the boy's alleged injury only contemplated future events and the possibility of future harm. Because he was only 13, the district court explained, he was not yet seeking employment, and the state was not threatening to release information about the accusations.

The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the denial of a hearing violated the boy's procedural-due-process rights. The court reasoned that his claim did not merely contemplate future events because being a registered child abuser was the boy's present status. Because this label would not be removed without a hearing, the injury was "sufficiently imminent and concrete" to trigger his procedural rights, rather than being speculative. As the Sixth Circuit put it, the boy's injury was "actual because he has already been classified as a child abuser." Thus, he was entitled to an administrative hearing to challenge the listing.

Panel: Guy, Rogers, and US District Judge Hood sitting by designation.

Date of Issued Opinion: 02/08/2013

Docket Number: No. 12-5261

Decided: Reversed and remanded

Case Alert Author: Felix H. Sharpe II

Counsel: ON BRIEF: Melanie Stepp Lane, Jamestown, Tennessee for Appellant. Alexander S. Rieger, OFFICE OF THE TENNESEE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Hon. Judge John M. Rogers

Case Alert Supervisor: Mark Cooney

    Posted By: Mark Cooney @ 03/19/2013 03:34 PM     6th Circuit  

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