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SCOTUS reverses 7th Circuit on sex offender registration

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The nation’s highest court reversed the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals today on an Indiana case, holding that that a federal sex offender registry law does not apply to those convicts whose interstate travel happened before the 2006 statute took effect.

In a 6-3 decision that divided the court’s traditional ideological lines, a majority of justices ruled on Thomas Carr v. United States, No. 08-1301, which the 7th Circuit had decided more than a year ago.

The case goes back to 2004, when petitioner Thomas Carr was first convicted of first-degree sexual abuse in Alabama and registered there after his release from custody. When Carr moved to Indiana at the end of that year, he failed to register here. That was discovered in July 2007 – after the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act had gone into effect in 2006 and made it a crime for convicted offenders to travel between states and not register locally. Carr later entered a conditional guilty plea in the Northern District of Indiana and appealed on an ex post facto claim.

In December 2008, the 7th Circuit ruled on the case -- the first of its kind in this Circuit -- and held that Carr’s rights weren’t violated because he had about five months to register and failed to do so. The appellate panel held that 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 Carr appealed to the SCOTUS and six of the nation’s top justices disagreed, reversing that decision but not addressing the constitutional question presented. Justice Sonya Sotomayor authored the 18-page majority opinion with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, and Stephen Breyer joining her. Justice Antonin Scalia concurred in part and with the final judgment, while Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined in a 15-page dissent.

“Having concluded that (18 U.S.C. §2250) does not extend to preenactment travel, we need not consider whether such a construction would present difficulties under the Constitution’s Ex Post Facto Clause,” Justice Sotomayor wrote, after the court analyzed the legislative intent and wording of the federal act.

But Justice Alito wrote that the majority “misinterprets and hobbles” the federal act provision and the rationale used to reach that conclusion is unsound based on the reading of the provision. Congress didn’t intend for the law to apply only to those traveling after the statute went into effect, but aimed the measure at targeting those “missing offenders” who may not have registered prior to the new law, he wrote.

“When an interpretation of a statutory text leads to a result that makes no sense, a court should at the minimum go back and verify that the textual analysis is correct,” Justice Alito wrote. “Here, not only are the Court’s textual arguments unsound for the reasons explained above, but the indefensible results produced by the Court’s interpretation should have led the Court to double-check its textual analysis.”

Justice Alito would have affirmed the 7th Circuit’s decision.
 

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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