Left: U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr); Right: Judge Sarah Netburn/Senate Judiciary Committee

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sits on a committee that is expected to vote soon on the appointment of a U.S. District Court nominee who recommended that a transgender convicted sex offender be moved to a women’s prison.

Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn was nominated by President Joe Biden to be elevated to a full judgeship on the Southern District of New York’s federal district court earlier this year. Awaiting confirmation or rejection from the United States Senate, Judge Netburn’s recommendation that a transgender convicted sex offender be moved to a women’s prison became a major focal point of a recent U.S. Senate hearing.

The transgender inmate Judge Netburn recommended for transfer, William McClain, was convicted of molesting a 9-year-old boy and raping a 17-year-old girl and spent 18 years in prison, according to National Review. After violating his parole, McClain was sentenced to an additional six years in prison before eventually being released in 2015.

Upon release, McClain began taking “cross-hormone injections,” National Review reported. McClain now goes by the name “July Justine Shelby.”

McClain was subsequently arrested for distributing child pornography in 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Following his sentencing, McClain asked for a transfer to a women’s prison. Multiple requests were not granted.

However, Judge Netburn eventually authored a report which recommended that McClain be moved to a female prison. In that report, Netburn stated that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) violated McClain’s rights, saying, “The BOP has violated Petitioner’s Eighth Amendment rights by refusing to transfer her to a women’s facility, and that refusal is not reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.”

During a U.S Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 22, Netburn was questioned regarding her recommendation in the McClain case. When asked if she stands by her decision to recommend the biological male be transferred to the women’s prison, she responded: “Yes. I faithfully applied the law to the facts in reaching my recommendation.”

Additionally, Netburn told senators at the committee that she couldn’t answer if chromosomes defined sex as she “never studied biology.”

Following the hearing, current and former female inmates expressed their concerns with housing males in female prisons, according to letters shared with National Review.

“Most incarcerated women have already experienced sexual trauma and violence during our lives,” said former female inmate Amie Ichikawa. “We are trying to heal and prepare to be productive citizens after serving out our sentences. Having men in our prison systems disrupts all of this. We fear for our safety.”

The Independent Women’s Law Center (IWLC) also objected to Netburn’s nomination in a letter to the Judiciary Committee.

“Many incarcerated women have experienced sexual trauma and abuse, indeed many are in prison due to abusive relationships. To physically lock them in small, dark rooms with criminal males is cruel and a violation of their rights. This is obvious to the vast majority of Americans. That it is not obvious to Judge Netburn shows her judgment has been horribly manipulated by activism,” wrote IWLC Director May Mailman.

Alpha News has learned that the Judiciary Committee was expected to discuss Netburn’s nomination Thursday but has instead delayed taking any further action until the beginning of July. According to Fox News, the committee was also expected to take up Netburn’s nomination last week, but didn’t.

Alpha News reached out to Sen. Klobuchar, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, to inquire about how the Minnesotan intends to vote on Judge Netburn’s nomination. However, her office has not responded to the media inquiry.


Hayley Feland

Hayley Feland previously worked as a journalist with The Minnesota Sun, The Wisconsin Daily Star, and The College Fix. She is a Minnesota native with a passion for politics and journalism.

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