Federal Judge Says Texas Parole Officials Can Be Held Liable for Sex Offender Restrictions
Once again, a Federal Judge in Austin, Texas has slapped the hand of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles from imposing Condition X without due process.
In an order issued last week in Austin, Texas, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel blasted the state's refusal to provide due process hearings before imposing sex-offender restrictions (Condition X) on an offender never convicted of a sex crime.
Judge Yeakel ruled that the 7-member state Board of Pardons and Paroles, 12 parole commissioners, state parole director Stuart Jenkins and other parole officials can face monetary damages for their actions.
This determination, if not reversed on appeal, could prove costly for both the officials and taxpayers, if several pending inmate lawsuits are successful.
The order was the latest setback for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and state corrections officials, who have insisted for years that they could impose the same restrictions reserved for sex offenders on on parolees who have never been convicted of a sex crime without a due process hearing.
The latest ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by parolee Buddy Jene Yeary.
According to state records, Yeary pleaded guilty to drug charges in 2003 in Johnson County, south of Fort Worth, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
An inspection of state records show that when Yeary was paroled in the summer of 2007, parole officials required him to register as a sex offender, placed him under the restrictive sex-offender conditions of release and ordered him to participate in a sex offender treatment program.
In his order Friday, Yeakel ruled that the state has for six years been aware that it must provide hearings to parolees in such cases and that officials' failure to do so leaves them open to liability.
"In light of the resistance of the state of Texas to providing parolees with the procedural due process guaranteed them by the Constitution, even after receiving repeated mandates from federal and state courts, the court is unconvinced that Texas will not return to its unconstitutional policies and practices," the 31-page order states.
"Any stigmatic injury suffered by Yeary due to the imposition and continued enforcement of Special Condition X may entitle Yeary to compensatory damages."
Yeakel refused to dismiss Yeary's lawsuit, as state officials had asked. Instead, he said it would head to a trial.
The ruling comes after years of legal battling over parolees and Condition X.