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SCOTUS accepts Indiana offender-registry case

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The nation's highest court has taken an Indiana case that asks whether someone can be criminally prosecuted under a federal sex-offense registry law if that defendant's underlying offense and move to another state predated the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act's passage.

At its daylong opening conference Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari in Thomas Carr v. United States, No. 08-1301, a case from the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division, that the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled on late last year.

The certiorari petition was filed April 22, 2009, with the government's opposition brief filed in August. The petitioner's reply brief is here.

The Carr case was the first its kind in the Circuit. It's now one of 10 cases the justices accepted, including two others from the 7th Circuit - one asks whether the Second Amendment is incorporated into constitutional clauses in order to be applicable to the states, thereby invalidating home handgun possession ordinances; the other case asks whether someone must file a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the employer's use of the discriminatory practice or awareness of the practice.

In the Carr case, justices will delve into an issue that's been surfacing more nationally and has brought disagreement from state and federal courts. The 7th Circuit issued its ruling in December 2008, combining it with the related case of U.S. v. Marcus Dixon, No. 08-1438. Judges found that a reasonable grace period is required before the federal government can enhance a convicted sex offender's punishment for not registering after a move to a new state and that time frame falls somewhere between zero days and five months.

The judges dismissed claims that federal law was unconstitutional on several fronts and instead focused mostly on the notice received from the federal government before a criminal failure to register with state authorities is enhanced to a federal crime. Overall, the court determined the law isn't unconstitutional and any convicted sex offender must register even if they came to the state prior to the federal law's passage.

But in its certiorari petition, attorneys argue that the requirement violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution and that failure to register under the federal law is not a continuing offense under the clause.

Fort Wayne attorney Stanley Campbell with law firm Swanson & Campbell is one of Carr's lawyers, joining a cast of defense and federal prosecuting attorneys from Washington, D.C., and other jurisdictions.

The high court hasn't yet set a date for arguments in this case.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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