Argued: September 20, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of North Carolina, at Raleigh. James C. Dever III,
Lee DiLauro, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh,
North Carolina, for Appellant.
Michael Lockridge, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.
P. McNamara, Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL
PUBLIC DEFENDER, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.
Stuart Bruce, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED
STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee.
DUNCAN, DIAZ, and THACKER, Circuit Judges.
January 2011, William Carl Welsh pleaded guilty in an Oregon
federal district court to failing to comply with the Sex
Offender Registration and Notification Act
("SORNA") and was sentenced to 673 days in the
custody of the Bureau of Prisons. Welsh admitted that he had
not updated his sex offender registration in Oregon when he
left the state to move to Belize. While in the custody of the
Bureau of Prisons for that offense, Welsh was certified as a
sexually dangerous person and civilly committed under §
4248 of Title 18, enacted by the Adam Walsh Child Protection
and Safety Act of 2006.
Supreme Court later held in a different case that the version
of SORNA then applicable to Welsh's offense did not
require a sex offender to update his registration in his
former homestate after moving to a foreign country. As a
result, Welsh successfully moved to have his SORNA conviction
vacated. He then sought relief from his civil commitment.
Welsh claimed that the judgment was void under Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) because he was never in the legal
custody of the Bureau of Prisons. He also sought relief under
Rules 60(b)(5) and 60(b)(6) because his civil commitment was
based on a now-vacated conviction.
Welsh's civil commitment judgment is not void under Rule
60(b)(4) and the district court had discretion to deny relief
under Rules 60(b)(5) and 60(b)(6), we affirm.
explaining our decision, we provide additional details of the
unusual events giving rise to this appeal.
noted earlier, Welsh pleaded guilty to failing to update his
registration as a sex offender as required by SORNA, 18
U.S.C. § 2250(a). While Welsh was confined for that
offense, the government certified him as a "sexually
dangerous person" and transferred him to the Butner
Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.
certification stayed Welsh's release pending a hearing to
determine whether he was a sexually dangerous person. 18
U.S.C. § 4248(a). Under federal law, a person is a
"sexually dangerous person" if he has "engaged
or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child
molestation and . . . is sexually dangerous to others."
18 U.S.C. § 4247(a)(5). A person is sexually dangerous
to others if he "suffers from a serious mental illness,
abnormality, or disorder as a result of which he would have
serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent
conduct or child molestation if released." 18 U.S.C.
§ 4247(a)(6). If, after a hearing, "the court finds
by clear and convincing evidence that the person is a
sexually dangerous person, the court shall commit the person
to the custody of the Attorney General." 18 U.S.C.
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North
Carolina found Welsh to be a sexually dangerous person and
ordered him committed. The court's determination rested
largely on Welsh's criminal history, which includes
repeated convictions for child molestation, sodomy, and
sexual abuse dating back to 1979. The court also
"considered Welsh's poor performance on supervision,
including his absconding to Belize." J.A. 59. And the
court relied on testimony from two experts who, after
evaluating Welsh, concluded that he met the criteria for
remains committed at the Butner Federal Correctional
Institution. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4247(e)(B), the
director of the facility provides the district court with an
annual report on Welsh's mental condition and whether his
commitment should continue. Most recently, in Welsh's
2017 annual report, a forensic psychologist concluded that
Welsh "continues to suffer from a severe mental illness,
abnormality, or disorder that would cause him to experience
serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent
conduct or child molestation if he was released to the
community" and that "[t]herefore, discharge or
conditional release is not recommended at this time."
2016, the Supreme Court decided in Nichols v. United
States that SORNA- before it was amended in February
2016-did not require a person to update his registration in a
state that he was leaving in order to travel to a foreign
country. 136 S.Ct. 1113, 1118 (2016). As a result, a federal
district court in Oregon granted Welsh's motion to vacate
his conviction for violating SORNA, concluding that "the
factual basis for the guilty plea . . . did not constitute a
federal crime." J.A. 73‒74.
vacatur in hand, Welsh moved for relief from his civil
commitment judgment in the Eastern District of North
Carolina, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
60(b)(4), (b)(5), and (b)(6). The district court denied the
motion. We review denial of a Rule 60(b)(4) motion de novo.
Wendt v. Leonard, 431 F.3d 410, 412 (4th Cir. 2005).
Denial of a Rule 60(b)(5) or 60(b)(6) motion is reviewed for
abuse of discretion. MLC Auto, LLC v. Town of S.
Pines, 532 F.3d 269, 277 (4th Cir. 2008).
obtain relief from a judgment under Rule 60(b), a moving
party must first show (1) that the motion is timely, (2) that
he has a meritorious claim or defense, and (3) that the
opposing party will not suffer unfair prejudice if the
judgment is set aside. Nat'l Credit Union Admin. Bd.
v. Gray, 1 F.3d 262, 264 (4th Cir. 1993). The party must
also satisfy one of six enumerated grounds for relief under
Rule 60(b). Id. at 266.
case, Welsh sought relief under Rules 60(b)(4), (b)(5), and
(b)(6). We start with Welsh's claim under Rule 60(b)(4),
which allows relief from a judgment that is void. The rule
applies "only in the rare instance where a judgment is
premised either on a certain type of jurisdictional error or
on a violation of due process that deprives a party of notice