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May 7, 2009

NJ Supreme Court finds local residency restrictions preempted by state's Megan's law

As detailed in this press coverage, "The New Jersey Supreme Court today upheld a lower court ruling invalidating ordinances in Cherry Hill and Galloway Township that severely restricted where registered sex offenders could live."    Here is how the brief ruling in G.H. v. Township of Galloway, No. A-64/65 (NJ May 7, 2009) (available here), gets started:

We granted certification in this consolidated appeal to review an Appellate Division determination that Megan’s Law, see N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 to -19, preempted and required the invalidation of municipal ordinances enacted by Cherry Hill Township and Galloway Township.  The challenged ordinances each operated to prohibit convicted sex offenders from living within a designated distance of any school, park, playground, public library, or daycare center in its respective municipal jurisdiction.  We now affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division substantially for the reasons expressed in Judge Lisa’s comprehensive opinion.  G.H. v. Twp. of Galloway, 401 N.J. Super. 392 (2008).  Accordingly, we hold that Cherry Hill Township’s and Galloway Township’s ordinances, establishing residency restrictions that formed buffer zones for convicted sex offenders living within their communities, are precluded by the present, stark language of Megan’s Law.  It is that language which controls.

May 7, 2009 at 01:44 PM | Permalink

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I find it interesting and very disturbing that law makers here in NJ, DO NOT follow the Law in NJ.
Doe v. Poritz, The NJ Supreme Court case that questions the first sex offender law in NJ, Magen's Law. As NJ opened the door for the entire nation to create sex offender laws. BUT, The Supreme Court found that NJ's law (Magen's Law) was constitutional only WITH the understanding of the tier system. It was never the intention or feasible to require all citizens with a past sex offense to be party of the community notification policies, especially minor incidences in which CHILDREN were adjudicated or convicted. It was never the intention for the registration policies to be used for additional punishment, annihilation, stigma or for humiliating those citizen listed in any tier, these attributes would be in violation of the LAW.
I think everyone should read Doe v. Poritz this case in order to get a better understanding of why these laws passed constitutional grounds, then in 1995! Someone should give a copy of Doe v. Poritz to every legislators in NJ. And NJ should not be citing other state laws that conflict with OUR law. Especially residency restrictions from Iowa or Ohio or the Jessica Lunsford's Act modeled on legislation enacted by Florida which NJ legislator want for NJ. Although, every state across this entire Nation has cited certain aspects of the decisions of Doe v. Poritz as a basis in forming their laws. They all conveniently left out many areas of the opinions stated in Doe v. Poritz. (I believe Government Grant Money was the greatest influence!) Most other states were under the notion that just giving out information about a persons past offense was acceptable because NJ said it was legally sound and constitutional. But, NJ recognized that openly sharing information about everyone's past sex offense would create unrealistic fear. It is noted that the stigma would be very damaging to the registrant and cited the importance of forming a tier system in order to alleviate unrealistic fear and mass hysteria and/or create situations that would be then unconstitutional. Other states purposely chose to ignore the reasoning behind protecting those least likely of recidivism. Many states began listing anyone and everyone, even child sex offenders to their registry with the concept that the people have the right to know their neighbors past, in order to protect themselves and their family members from anyone who ever committed ANY sexual related offense. I believe this has certainly became one of the biggest problems with these laws. In reading Doe v. Poritz myself I find it unbelievable that these laws, with all it's restrictions, guidelines, notification and harmful effects have certainly crossed the lines, reasoning and constitutionality from the original intent of the law. In Doe v. Poritz it is impressed upon&n bsp; that the government, legislators, media and others would educate the public and explain the law and it's intention. It is stated that ANY harmful actions towards any registrant would not be tolerated and prosecution would follow! I can honest say that every law following this case has been deranged and even sadistic over the years and those in NJ are not following the opinions stated in this case. I have yet to hear any legislator in NJ speak of the tier system and it's purpose in any bills proposed since. In fact in contacting any Congressperson, senators and Governor Corzine in NJ it seems none of them are even aware of Doe v. Poritz or the actual intention described in NJ's sex offender laws. Now with the understanding that registrants are severely being harassed, banished, zoned, unduly imprisoned, banned from internet usage and forever being punished because of status as a registrant under these laws there is great conflict of law! I am very disappointed and bewildered that even NJ's head public defender in the "special hearings" unit, Michael Buncher ,who was always supposed to be defending NJ's registrants and protecting their legal rights has not taken his job seriously and the legislators are not fully informed that their never ending bills being proposed are actually illegal and far removed from the law, noted in Doe v. Poritz. I found it very disturbing that when Mr. Buncher spoke on behalf of NJ's registrants at the meeting on March 10th 2009 in front of the Assembly Judiciary concerning residency restriction, he did not mention any of the opinions described in Doe v. Poritz , which IS NJ law! He did not recite the law or the opinion of the Supreme Court Justice that registrants of EVERY tier, who has paid their debt to society and living respectable lives, should live as and among all citizens and must not be harassed, are free from any additional punishment and must left alone. That any residency restrictions is in complete conflict with the LAW. In listenin g to an audio of this meeting at: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/media/archive_audio2.asp?KEY=AJU&SESSION=2008. I found it very disturbing that Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, a sponsor of Bill 624 and a crusader in restricting past offenders of their right to reside where ever they choose certainly was not aware of Doe v. Poritz or NJ's law. I also found it very interesting, that when Mr. Michael Buncher stood before this committee to report his findings and professional view of residency restriction. Ms. Handlin response was very rude and unprofessional ignorantly naming sex offenders all pedophiles. She arrogantly dismissed Mr. Bucnher's expertise of the law and all assembly person's passed this bill to the senate although it is in complete conflict with the law as written in Doe. v. Poritz. It is truly amazing that all bills ever proposed for sex offenders have became laws, although, they are all in violation of the law. Many of these laws have passed through the Senate, Congress and NJ Governors and conflicting with the law as described in Doe v. Poritz and NO ONE questions or challenges them, that's the service the constituents get in NJ! It is sickening. In NJ we have thousands possibly 3000-4000 of youths with statistically reported low recidivism rates labeled as ADULT sex offenders. As adults they will be forced from their homes and communities and will never be allowed to reside or raise their families in black out zones although many are law abiding citizens and trying to overcome from a past adjudication. NJ has a tier system for a reason and everyone with a sex offense was NEVER supposed to be grouped and branded as dangerous predators and pedophiles.NJ is not following our laws and I want to know WHY? I have brought these matters to every entity in NJ government and they ALL say their is nothing they can do, it's the law. Really? The constituents with NO advocate, No government, No justice and NO legal protection from those braking the law? We had juvenile codes protecti ng NJ's youths from being ill effected in their adult lives but this has all vanished under these law. These past offenders are banned from Miami Beach forever, they face conviction in NJ and in every other state! If they slip up and violate any of the numerous ordinances, restrictions, guidelines they are imprisoned for YEARS,for crying out loud it doesn't matter how minor or non violent their past sex offense was, the tier system means nothing to the legislators, it is sickening! Magen Kanka was murdered, you know,and every sex offenders must be punished forever! It doesn't mean a thing if the consequences are illegally crafted by ill advised and ignorant law makers with a VIGILANTE purpose! The courts will claim it's all unintended,not punishment,very necessary for public safety and not the legislators intent, of course! But, who cares, these marked citizens of the US do NOT count or deserve to breath? Here is Something to think, 674,000+ citizens, from 8 to 80 are now listed, who's next? Be aware and watch your back, "especially" your vunerable child's back!

The Intent and guidelines of Magen's Law!
Doe v. Poritz : Supreme Court states:

Excerpts: The concern for the potential unfairness of identification has some justification, but it is wrong to assume the people of this State and the media will not understand that potential. The Attorney General points to information, far from complete because of the injunction against the implementation of these laws, that suggests that harassment and vigilantism have been minimal. This Court has no right to assume that the public will be punitive when the Legislature was not, that the public, instead of protecting itself as the laws intended, will attempt to destroy the lives of those subject to the laws, and this Court has no right to assume that community leaders, public officials, law enforcement authorities, will not seek to educate the public concerning the Legislature's intent, including appropriate responses to notification information, responses that are not at all punitive, but seek merely to protect their children, their families, and others from re offense. And this Court has no right to assume the media will not act responsibly.

The dissent's historical analysis, though relevant, is followed by, and ultimately amounts to, a prediction of a destructive and punitive community reaction that converts the statutory protection into punishment. As we have noted in this opinion, we do not believe the Court should determine this constitutional question based on such a prediction. The Attorney General has strongly warned that vigilantism and harassment will not be tolerated; we have no reason to believe that the Governor and the Legislature will tolerate it; and, for the purpose of constitutional adjudication, despite the branding, stocks, and pillory of prior centuries, we have no right to assume the public will engage in it. We assume that the strongest message will be delivered, and repeated, by the Governor and other public officials at all levels, as well as by community and religious leaders and the media, that this is a law that must be used only to protect and not to punish, and that all citizens must conform their conduct accordingly, a message given at community meetings, schools, churches, synagogues, and everywhere throughout the state.
Excerpts:
The Registration and Notification Laws are not retributive laws, but laws designed to give people a chance to protect themselves and their children. They do not represent the slightest departure from our State's or our country's fundamental belief that criminals, convicted and punished, have paid their debt to society and are not to be punished further. They represent only the conclusion that society has the right to know of their presence not in order to punish them, but in order to protect itself. The laws represent a conclusion by the Legislature that those convicted sex offenders who have successfully, or apparently successfully, been integrated into their communities, adjusted their lives so as to appear no more threatening than anyone else in the neighborhood, are entitled not to be disturbed simply because of that prior offense and conviction; but a conclusion as well, that the characteristics of some of them, and the statistical information concerning them, make it clear that despite such integration, re offense is a realistic risk, and knowledge of their presence a realistic protection against it.

Posted by: Honest Opinion | Jul 24, 2009 10:12:10 AM

With regards to public punitiveness, courts have every right to consider the punitive nature of "the public" when it comes to sex offenders and sex offenses. It does not matter whether there has been minimal violence against these offenders or not. What is relevant is that the violence does occur, and one act of violence by someone of the public or by a group of people of the public is one too many.

Posted by: Benoliwal | Nov 19, 2009 12:03:41 AM

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