October 23, 2012

Cases of Interest to the School Community 2002–2003 Term

Sex Offender Registries

Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, John, et al., No. 01-1231; Godfrey and Botelho v. John Doe I, et al., No. 01-729

In 1994, Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Law Enforcement Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 14071 et seq., to require the registration of sex offenders in all 50 states. The law is named after an 11-year-old boy who was abducted at gunpoint in the small rural community of St. Joseph, Minn., in October 1989 and who is still missing.

On May 17, 1996, President Clinton signed Megan's Law, Pub. L. No. 104-145, 110 Stat. 1345, which amended the Wetterling Act by adding a mandatory community notification provision that requires each state government to make private and personal information on such convicted sex offenders available to the public. The law is named after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who in 1994 was abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered by a neighbor who, unknown to Megan's parents, had two prior convictions for sexual offenses against children. Pursuant to Megan's Law, many states now post sex-offender registry information on the World Wide Web.

In Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe, John, et al., No. 01-1231, an offender now asks the Supreme Court whether the due-process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents Connecticut from listing him in a publicly disseminated sex offender registry without first affording him an individualized hearing on his current dangerousness.

Meanwhile, in Alaska, the offenders in Godfrey and Botelho v. John Doe I, et al., No. 01-729, contend that when their state's Registration Act is applied to sex offenders whose crimes were committed before the registration law's enactment, it is imposing "punishment" in violation of the Constitution's ex post facto clause. In this regard they note that the "ex post facto" clause, U.S. Const., art. I, § 10, cl. 1, forbids states from passing a law that would increase the punishment for a criminal act that was committed before the law's passage.

Read the Alaska Statute authorizing the central registry of sex offenders.

See what the Alaska Central Registry looks like.

Read the Constitution's Ex Post Facto Clause.

Read the Ninth Circuit's Opinion that, as to defendants whose crimes were committed before its enactment, the Alaska statute violates the ex post facto clause.

Read the Petitioner's Brief to the Supreme Court arguing that the Ninth Circuit erred because the Alaska statute does not violate the ex post facto clause.

Read the Second Circuit's Opinion that Connecticut's sexual offender registration law violates the Fourteenth Amendment's due-process clause.

Read the United States's Amicus Curiae Brief arguing that the Second Circuit erred because due process does not entitle convicted sex offenders to an individualized hearing on their current dangerousness before a state may include them in a publicly disseminated registry.

Read the Supreme Court's opinion.

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