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Second Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment for Connecticut Prisoner Allegedly Misclassified as a Sex Offender

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has reversed a grant of summary judgment for a Connecticut prisoner who had alleged that he was misclassified as a sex offender.

Joe Vega sued Connecticut Department of Corrections (DOC) officials alleging defamation without due process. Vega was convicted of stabbing a teenage girl that he had a relationship with. During the course of the attack, Vega cut off the girl’s right nipple and made her swallow it. The DOC classified Vega as a sex offender.

The district court held that the DOC had erred in designating Vega as a sex offender without first affording him a hearing. The DOC appealed.

The Second Circuit recognized the possibility of a prisoner making a “stigma-plus” claim under the due process clause based on misclassification as a sex offender. In Vega’s case, however, there was no error in his classification as a sex offender because he cut off a sexual organ – a nipple – belonging to his victim, the court held. The judgment of the district court was accordingly reversed. See: Vega. v. Lantz, 596 F.3d 77 (2nd Cir. 2010).

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Related legal case

Vega. v. Lantz