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Eighth Circuit Initially Allows Non-Delegation Challenge to SORNA, then Reverses Course

Another challenge to the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) initially met with limited success, but ultimately failed.

Lindon Roy Knutson pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender under SORNA stemming from a 1974 rape conviction but reserved several issues on appeal, including a challenge under the non-delegation doctrine as well as challenges to the validity of the Attorney General’s interim rule and accompanying guidelines related to SORNA. The Eighth Circuit, after rejecting the latter arguments, remanded the case for consideration of Knutson’s non-delegation challenge.

SORNA, which went into effect in July 2007, requires “those convicted of certain sex crimes to provide state governments with (and to update) information, such as names and current address, for inclusion on state and federal sex offender registries.” Reynolds v. United States 132 S.Ct. 975 (2012) [PLN, Aug. 2012, p.20]. The Court of Appeals noted that it had “previously held that pre-Act offenders lack standing to challenge SORNA,” a position that was reversed by Reynolds.

The appellate court declined, however, to adopt Knutson’s argument that the interim rule promulgated by the Attorney General under the “good cause” exception of the Administrative Procedure Act was inappropriate, holding that the interim rule did not apply to him because he had pleaded guilty after the final rule went into effect. Knutson did not assert that the final rule was defective under the Administrative Procedure Act; the case was remanded for consideration of his non-delegation argument. See: United States v. Knutson, 680 F.3d 1021 (8th Cir. 2012).

Following remand Knutson moved to dismiss the indictment, which was denied by the district court upon a finding that “Congress has provided intelligible principles to guide the Attorney General’s exercise of the delegated authority.” The district court’s order was upheld by the Eighth Circuit on August 7, 2013, with the appellate court citing its interim ruling in United States v. Kuehl, 706 F.3d 917 (8th Cir. 2013).

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