Judge certifies sex offender suit as class action

A federal judge ruled today that a challenge to Minnesota's sex offender program can be tried as a class action suit.

The class action suit involves about 600 sex offenders who have been indefinitely detained by the state beyond their sentences. U.S. District Judge Donovan Frank ruled that hearing each case individually would have been an "enormous drain" on resources.

Sex offenders committed to the program have completed their prison sentences. They're being held under Minnesota's civil commitment law.

Bill Lubov is the attorney for Clarence Opheim, who is the only civilly committed sex offender to be provisionally released from a prison-like facility to a halfway house. Lubov said the judge's ruling will likely draw greater attention to the legal challenge.

"Whereas a single lawsuit would maybe only have peripheral interest to the general community, a lawsuit that affects an entire group of people certainly has the potential to draw the attention of everyone, especially considering the political stakes," Lubov said.

Previously, courts have ruled that the program is constitutional. But the lawsuit argues the state has not provided adequate treatment to offenders, and that Minnesota's civil commitment law is unconstitutional.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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