But J. Clark Kelso, law professor at the McGeorge Law School in Sacramento, said that the court's criterion of a "serious difficulty in controlling their behavior" is likely to lead to new hearings for some inmates now being confined.
A Minnesota law professor who has closely tracked these cases agreed that inmates in a number of states will be able to get new hearings.
"The key message here is that they have to prove something more than the person has a mental disorder. It's a separate element to show a real lack of control," said Eric Janus, a professor at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.
Court to Take Up Utah Census Issue
In other action Tuesday, the court said it would hear Utah's complaint that a sampling technique used by the Census Bureau cost it one seat in Congress.
Three years ago, the justices said census officials could not adjust the state population totals through sampling. But that ruling was not seen as restricting the Census Bureau from estimating the size of some households based on their neighbors.
Utah officials say that process violates the Constitution's call for an "actual enumeration" of the population. The justices may not consider the issue until the fall (Utah vs. Evans, 01-714).
Times staff writer Maura Dolan contributed to this report.