Marion forced to abandon tough sex offender ordinance over lawsuit threat

posted in: In the News, Litigation | 0

Marion forced to abandon tough sex offender ordinance over lawsuit threat for sex offenders

Jennifer Luna
Friday, October 7, 2016 12:00 am

The city of Marion was given an ultimatum recently, as Texas Voices For Reason and Justice (TVRJ) and the Law Office of Richard Gladden sent a letter asking the city to repeal a local sex offender ordinance.

“There’s not a single council member, and/or person in the audience, or staff that wanted that rescission of that ordinance,” Marion Mayor Bill Seiler said.

The letter addressing the ordinance reads:

“This letter is to provide your city and its representative officials with notice, in accordance with the Sections 101.101 and 311.034 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code of a legal claim that I intend to file for TVRJ on behalf of its members … against the city of Marion.”

During a phone interview on Tuesday, Gladden explained that in 2007, current Governor of Texas Greg Abbott, who was then the Attorney General wrote a legal opinion that said general-law cities — cities with less than 5,000 population — do not have legal authority under Article 11, Section 4 of the Texas Constitution to implement permanent residency restrictions for sex offenders.

Abbott’s legal opinion says “A general-law municipality is a political subdivision ‘created by the State and, such as, possess(es) those powers and privilege that the State expressly confers upon [it].’ Tex. Dep’t of Transp. v. City of Sunset Valley, 146 S.W.3d 637 , 645(Tex.2004). We have found no law authorizing a general-law municipality to adopt this type of residence restriction. Thus, unless the Legislature expressly authorizes it, a general-law municipality may not adopt an ordinance restricting where a registered sex offender may live.”

The original Marion ordinance, Sect. 1 states:

“The City Council of the city of Marion finds that sex offenders who are required to register as a sexual predator under V.T.C.A., Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 62, present an extreme threat to the health, safety and welfare of children … locations where children regularly congregate in concentrated numbers wherein certain registered sex offenders and sexual predators are prohibited from loitering or prohibited from establishing temporary or permanent residency.”

California Settles Sex-Offender Lawsuit Over Halloween Signs

posted in: In the News, Litigation | 0

California Settles Sex-Offender Lawsuit Over Halloween Signs

By The Associated Press:SACRAMENTO, Calif

California’s corrections department has agreed not to require sex offenders to post do-not-disturb signs on their doors during Halloween.

A sex offender from Chula Vista sued the state last year, saying he’d been ordered to post a warning that he doesn’t participate in trick-or-treating.

The lawsuit argued such warnings violate offenders’ due process and free speech rights and could make them targets for vigilantes.

Corrections officials say the signs were never a statewide policy. But on Tuesday officials said they agreed not to require the signs and to pay $14,000 in attorney’s fees to a lawyer who filed the lawsuit.
The agreement affects California’s Operation Boo, which aims to protect young trick-and-treaters from pedophiles by imposing a Halloween curfew on sex offenders.

A deal is a deal: Pa. Supreme Court blocks retroactive registration boosts for sex offenders

posted in: In the News, Litigation | 0

A deal is a deal: Pa. Supreme Court blocks retroactive registration boosts for sex offenders

By: Matt Miller;; The Patriot News
September 29, 2016 at 4:30pm, updated September 30, 2016 at 7:52 am

Sex offender registration requirements can’t be increased for people who reached deals to plead guilty to sex crimes before Pennsylvania’s latest registration law took effect, the state Supreme Court has decided.
The high court reached that conclusion in an opinion Justice Max Baer issued this week on three consolidated cases involving York County sex offenders.

Wayne Shower, Gabriel Martinez and Adam Grace all pleaded guilty to sex crimes before Megan’s Law was superseded by the more stringent Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act in December 2012. Shower was sentenced in 2006, Martinez in 2010 and Grace in 2011.

All three men pleaded to crimes that, under Megan’s law, required them to register with state police as sex offenders for 10 years. Under SORNA, however, the crimes to which Shower and Martinez pleaded carry lifetime registration requirements, while a 25-year registration would apply in Grace’s case.
The registration dispute came to the Supreme Court after the county district attorney’s office appealed rulings by a York County judge and a state Superior Court panel that sided with Shower, Martinez and Grace.
Like the lower courts, Baer’s court essentially agreed that a deal is a deal and that the plea agreements constituted enforceable contracts.

When Showers, Martinez and Grace reached their plea agreements with county prosecutors, the government was bound by the terms that then limited their registration periods to a decade, Baer concluded.
“In this commonwealth, when trial courts accept plea agreements, the convicted criminals…are entitled to the benefits of their bargains,” he wrote.

Sixth Circuit panel concludes Michigan sex offender registration amendments “imposes punishment” and thus are ex post unconstitutional for retroactive application

posted in: In the News, Litigation | 0

Sixth Circuit panel concludes Michigan sex offender registration amendments “imposes punishment” and thus are ex post unconstitutional for retroactive application

August 25, 2016 at 12:29 PM


In a significant panel ruling today, the Sixth Circuit has concluded in Does v. Snyder, No. 15-1536 (6th Cir. Aug. 25, 2016) (available here) that Michigan’s amendments to its Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA) “imposes punishment” and thus the state violates the US Constitution when applying these SORA provisions retroactively.  Here is some of the concluding analysis from the unanimous panel decision reaching this result: We conclude that Michigan’s SORA imposes punishment.  And while many (certainly not all) sex offenses involve abominable, almost unspeakable, conduct that deserves severe legal penalties, punishment may never be retroactively imposed or increased.  Indeed, the fact that sex offenders are so widely feared and disdained by the general public implicates the core countermajoritarian principle embodied in the Ex Post Facto clause.  As the founders rightly perceived, as dangerous as it may be not to punish someone, it is far more dangerous to permit the government under guise of civil regulation to punish people without prior notice.  Such lawmaking has “been, in all ages, [a] favorite and most formidable instrument[] of tyranny.” The Federalist No. 84, supra at 444 (Alexander Hamilton).  It is, as Justice Chase argued, incompatible with both the words of the Constitution and the underlying first principles of “our free republican governments.” Calder, 3 U.S. at 388–89; accord The Federalist No. 44, supra at 232 (James Madison) (“[E]x post facto laws . . . are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation.”). The retroactive application of SORA’s 2006 and 2011 amendments to Plaintiffs is unconstitutional, and it must therefore cease.

2 efforts in Illinois attempt to change sex offender laws

posted in: In the News, Litigation | 0

 2 efforts in Illinois attempt to change sex offender laws

By The Associated Press

Posted Jul. 25, 2016 at 2:48 PM

CHICAGO — Two separate efforts have arisen in Illinois that attempt to alter laws governing sex offenders in Illinois.

A group of five registered child sex offenders has filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago, saying Illinois sex offender laws are unconstitutional because they’re too vague.

Separate from the legal challenge, the Illinois legislature is also tackling the issue of whether laws governing those convicted of sex crimes involving children need to be reconsidered. A bill passed by lawmakers and awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s consideration would form a task force dedicated to assessing whether sex offenders should be classified by the type of risk they pose.

The public’s fear of such offenders means that any attempt to loosen restrictions is likely to face resistance, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“My sympathies are limited,” said Sean Black, spokesman for the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “I’m much more concerned about the victim than the offender. That doesn’t mean there can’t be tweaks to try to make it better and more rehabilitative.”

Black said the organization believes sex offenders need to be monitored in order for the public to be safe, as many offenders have more than one victim.

A U.S. Department of Justice study in 2004 found that 5 percent of sex offenders were rearrested for another sex crime within three years.

Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside, said he supports sex offender laws, but that they might be burdensome for police to enforce. He said streamlining them could protect the public further.

“The one time that person reoffends, the hue and cry from the public will be, ‘Lawmakers, you failed us,'” he said.

Federal Judge Temporarily Stops Residency Restrictions in California City

posted in: In the News, Litigation | 0

Federal Judge Temporarily Stops Residency Restrictions in California City

Federal judge Virginia Phillips issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) today that prohibits the City of Murrieta from enforcing its residency restrictions against a registrant who moved to his sister’s home earlier this month.  The TRO will remain in effect until August 15 when a hearing will be held to determine whether the judge will grant additional injunctive relief.

“This is a great victory for registrants,” stated attorney Janice Bellucci.  “For the first time, a federal judge has stopped the enforcement of a city’s residency restrictions in the state of California.”
 According to the decision, the city’s application of its restrictions to the plaintiff violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it was the result of blanket enforcement and did not consider the actual risk posed by the plaintiff.  The plaintiff has a Static-99 score of zero and is physically disabled.  He moved to Murrieta under an interstate compact, approved by the CA Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in order to obtain medical care and financial support.
In its decision, the court considered as evidence a recent report issued by the CA Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) which concluded that “residence restrictions are likely to have the unintended effect of increasing the likelihood of sexual re-offense.”  The report also found that residence restrictions lead to homelessness and are associated with an unstable lifestyle that includes housing instability unemployment.
In its decision, the court noted that the CASOMB report “suggests that allowing Plaintiff to reside with his sister in Murrieta may promote the public’s interest in child safety, as it would provide stability to Plaintiffs’ life and decrease the likelihood he would re-offend.  The court also noted that “allowing Plaintiff to remain in his sister’s house may actually further Defendant’s (Murrieta’s) legitimate interest in protecting children.”
Law Office of
Janice M. Bellucci

llinois bill that forms a “Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration Task Force”

posted in: In the News, Litigation | 0

I am pleased to announce that the Illinois bill that forms a “Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration Task Force” to recommend reforms to Illinois laws and restrictions passed the Illinois Senate today and heads to the Illinois Governor for signature!  The bill recognizes that the current laws do not assess or differentiate former offenders based on likelihood for re-offense or risk posed to public safety and challenges the task force to use evidence based practices to recommend changes to the Illinois General Assembly that would more effectively classify SOs based on their risk of re-offense.

 You can read the text of the bill here:

Illinois Voices has been working this bill with Illinois legislators since last October!  We are hopeful that the governor will sign the bill (there has been no indication that he will not sign the bill) and hopefully this task force will get organized later this year.  There’s a possibility that Illinois Voices will have a seat on the task force — see sub-section (U) in the bill.

Gunter could face lawsuit after refusing to repeal sex offender restrictions

posted in: In the News, Litigation | 0


Gunter could face lawsuit after refusing to repeal sex offender restrictions

Gunter could face lawsuit after refusing to repeal sex offender restrictions 

By Miranda Wilcox

Herald Democrat GUNTER —

One of the last acts Gunter initiated in 2015 was an amendment to an ordinance restricting where sex offender can live within the city. It was an action that Gunter Mayor Tim Slattery said was designed to look out for the best interests of the city’s residents.   “We  amended our original ordinance to fall more in line with what would protect the city versus what was previously in place,” he said.  The amendment was sparked by demand letters Gunter, Whitewright and Pottsboro received in November from the Texas Voices of Reason and Justice, an advocacy group that speaks out against the ineffectiveness of ordinances regarding sex offenders. The letters cited then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s opinion that cities with a population of less than 5,000 could not restrict how close sex offenders reside to schools and public parks, and gave these cities 45 days to repeal those ordinances. Pottsboro, Gunter and Whitewright were just a few of the 46 total cities that received this letter from Texas Voices, and in the designated time both Pottsboro and Whitewright repealed their ordinances.