ST. LOUIS (AP) - The Latest on oral arguments before a federal appeals court on the constitutionality of the Minnesota Sex Offender Program:

-- 3:50 p.m. --
Minnesota officials are asking a U.S. appeals court to overturn a federal judge's ruling that the state's sex offender treatment program is unconstitutional.

Solicitor General Alan Gilbert told the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis on Tuesday that District Judge Donovan Frank "lost his neutrality" when he made critical comments before ruling last summer. The judge had declared that the program, which keeps sex offenders confined indefinitely after they complete their prison sentences, needs to be reformed.

Only a handful of offenders have been provisionally released to community-based settings in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program's 20-plus-year history.

The attorney representing 14 plaintiffs on behalf of the more than 700 civilly committed offenders countered that Frank's comments only cited publicly available information and were intended to encourage a swifter resolution of the legal challenge.

The three-judge appellate panel did not immediately issue a ruling.