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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. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  2. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  3. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  4. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

  5. Unlike the federal judge who refused to protect me, the Virginia State Bar gave me a hearing. After the hearing, the Virginia State Bar refused to discipline me. VSB said that attacking me with the court ADA coordinator had, " all the grace and charm of a drive-by shooting." One does wonder why the VSB was able to have a hearing and come to that conclusion, but the federal judge in Indiana slammed the door of the courthouse in my face.

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