The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling in a case on Monday more than seven years after the matter was first filed, and hours after TPM published an article about the delay.
The 81-page ruling was per curiam, meaning that all three judges on the panel – Ed Carnes, Jill Pryor, and Kenneth Ripple, visiting from the 7th Circuit – signed off on it, but no one judge claimed authorship.
The case first hit the 11th Circuit in 2015. Michael McGuire, a homeless Black man living in Montgomery, had sued in 2011 to overturn Alabama’s sex offender registry law, alleging that it was unconstitutional.
The district court found that McGuire was being forced to live under a bridge because of the law, and struck down two portions of it which imposed additional reporting and travel requirements on the homeless as unconstitutional.
The 11th Circuit took the case in 2015, and held oral arguments in February 2016.
Over the ensuing years, attorneys for both McGuire and the state of Alabama asked the court for updates. First, in 2019, McGuire petitioned the appeals court for a status update. Later, in 2021, Alabama’s attorney general took the stunning step of moving for a ruling from the court. The three-judge panel replied that the case presented “a number of complex issues” and added that “The Court has worked diligently on the case and continues to do so, but more work remains to be done.”
The panel granted that motion for a ruling in August 2021 but still didn’t issue a ruling.
Hours after TPM published its story about the unheard-of delay in the ruling, the 11th Circuit issued its opinion.
The chief judges of appellate courts typically act as enforcers on the court, former appellate clerks told TPM, ensuring that opinions get in on time. Carnes, one of three judges on the panel, was chief judge of the 11th Circuit from 2013 to 2020.
The current chief judge is William Pryor. TPM reached out to Pryor on Friday for comment prior to publishing its story, but did not hear back.
The court ruled against McGuire across the board in the order, and vacated the district court’s decision to rule parts of the Alabama law unconstitutional.
Read the opinion: