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Judge certifies sex offender's class-action suit

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A federal judge has certified a convicted sex offender's suit against the Indiana Department of Correction as a class action. The plaintiff claims registrants have no procedure to correct errors on the sex and violent offender registry.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed suit in October 2009 on behalf of David Schepers, who is listed on the Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry as a sex offender and a violent offender. Schepers was convicted of two sex offenses - rape in 1987 and two counts of child exploitation in 2006. He is challenging his listing as a sexually violent predator and that the registry states he was convicted of two rapes instead of one.

Schepers claims because the DOC doesn't have a process to challenge factually erroneous information or inform registrants of such a process, this violates his due process rights and the due process rights of all other registrants.

The DOC challenged Schepers' motion for class certification, arguing his class definition isn't specific enough, and others haven't come forward to say their information is incorrect and there's no way to fix it.

U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence of the Southern District of Indiana found Schepers' suit satisfies the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b). His proposed class is specific enough: those who are on the registry are putative class members; those who are not on it are excluded from the class. The number of registered offenders is so large that joinder of all of them would be impracticable.

Schepers doesn't have to show that others want to challenge their listing in the registry, only that the DOC has failed to inform registrants how to challenge their listing. In addition, Schepers has shown he is an appropriate class representative, and if he prevails on the merits, injunctive relief will be appropriate.

A bench trial for David Schepers, et al., v. Commissioner, Indiana Department of Correction, No. 1:09-CV-1324, has been scheduled for 9 a.m. on Aug. 1, 2011.

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