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O.K. to Ban Suspicious Indiana Sex Offender from Parks

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a registered sex offender who had been observed behaving suspiciously could be permanently banned from a city?s parks.

Robert Brown, a registered sex offender who had a single conviction for child molestation, was observed by park officials in Michigan City, Indiana?s Washington Park once or twice a day. Brown engaged in such activities as sitting in his RV watching park patrons on a beach and driving slowly past the park?s children?s camp while watching the children. The city attorney told Brown he was banned from the park. The Michigan City Parks and Recreation Board (MCPRB) then sent Brown a letter notifying him of a hearing on the issue to be held inside the park he was banned from entering. The MCPRB banned Brown and all other registered sex offenders (RSOs) from the park.

Brown sued in federal district court under § 1983, alleging the ban violated his and other RSOs? due process rights, and moved for class certification. The MCPRB then changed the ban to include only Brown. In response, Brown withdrew the motion for class certification.

The district court granted the city summary judgment on the basis of Brown having no constitutionally-protected liberty or property interest in going to city parks and thus he was not entitled to procedural due process; that the labeling of Brown as a threat to children failed to meet the ?stigma plus? test of Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976) and failed to show a change in Brown?s legal status; that he was given sufficient notice of the hearing ? even if it was held in the park he was banned from ? and that there was no fundamental right to enter a public space so that Brown was not deprived of substantive due process. Brown appealed.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that Brown?s loss of his resident?s pass to enter the park did not imply a protected property interest, that his behavior of watching park patrons from his RV using binoculars and while possessing a camera, coupled with his prior conviction for child molestation, could reasonably be seen by city officials as requiring them to act upon their legitimate government function to protect children from abuse.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the trial court in all other areas of its reasoning. See: Brown v. City of Michigan City, Indiana, 462 F.3d 720 (7th Cir. 2006), petition for rehearing en banc denied.

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Related legal case

Brown v. City of Michigan City