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October 31, 2012

Split federal court ruling on local Halloween sex offender ordinance in California

10080121_E_HALLOWEEN_0824As reported in this local article, headlined "Judge temporarily blocks part of Simi Valley Halloween sex offender law," a notable constitutional lawsuit resulted in a split outcome in California federal court. Here are the details:

A federal judge Monday temporarily blocked enforcement of a key provision of Simi Valley's new Halloween sex offender law but left the rest of the ordinance intact. U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson's ruling came days before the holiday on Wednesday.

Anderson temporarily blocked the city from requiring its several dozen convicted child sex offenders listed on the Megan's Law website to post signs on their front doors on Halloween saying: "No candy or treats at this residence."

But Anderson let stand requirements that the offenders refrain from opening their doors to trick-or-treating children and decorating the outside of their homes or front lawns with Halloween ornaments. The convicts also must turn off outdoor lighting on their properties from 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday.

Attorney Janice Bellucci, who last month filed a lawsuit saying the law was unconstitutional, said she was pleased with the ruling even though she had sought to have enforcement of the entire ordinance temporarily blocked pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

Simi Valley City Attorney Marjorie Baxter said the ruling was "a big victory on the majority of the ordinance." The Simi Valley City Council on Sept. 10 enacted the law — the only one of its kind in Ventura County — to try to prevent sex offenders from having contact with trick-or-treating children. It was championed by Mayor Bob Huber, a lawyer who is seeking re-election Nov. 6.

Bellucci, president of the board of a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws, filed the suit Sept. 28 on behalf of five registered sex offenders, three of their spouses and two of their children, all Simi Valley residents. It says the law violates the First and 14th Amendments of the Constitution because it "suppresses and unduly chills protected speech and expression."

Private attorneys representing the city in the lawsuit disagree. "Convicted child molesters have no constitutionally protected right to hand out candy at Halloween," they said in court papers. "Children, on the other hand, do have a constitutionally protected right to be safe from sexual assault."

I find intriguing the city's assertion that children have a "constitutionally protected right to be safe from sexual assault," in part because taking that claim seriously could subject the city to liability if and whenever the city failed to keep children safe from sexual assault in other settings.

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October 31, 2012 at 11:04 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"Convicted child molesters have no constitutionally protected right to hand out candy at Halloween," they said in court papers. "Children, on the other hand, do have a constitutionally protected right to be safe from sexual assault."

I'm pretty sure both of those statements are false. Also, since there hasn't been a trick or treating sexual assault in decades, what's the urgency?

Posted by: NickS | Oct 31, 2012 11:23:18 AM

I have read the constitution several times and can find no reference to a right to be free from assault, except perhaps from a government actor since that is what the constitution is supposed to restrain.

Posted by: Ala JD | Oct 31, 2012 11:35:44 AM

Correct, Nick and Ala. Janice actually called the injunction a "win" as well, primarily because of the elimination of the sign. In California, low level offenders are not on the Internet, and mid-level offenders are listed only by zip code but not by address, so for all offenders to place a sign on the door is tantamount to publicizing their status in violation of California Megan's Law statutes currently on the books.

But back to Constitutionality: What the judge inferred by his decision is that the "rights" of NON-sex offenders who live at the same residence as sex offenders are ALSO deprived. This is something that needs to be addressed in the full suit, and frankly, they now have full civil litigation leverage now that their rights have been officially deprived.

The bottom line is that Judge Percy Anderson felt he was, as most jurists and justices, that they are between a rock (scared parents, politicians) and a hard place (the Constitution). So basically, he had to play Solomon, almost literally, by denying some children their rights to share in Halloween.

The bottom line is that there is NO evidence, anecdotal or real, that shows ANY children had been harmed by a registered sex offender ANYWHERE in the country, in decades. However, over 300 children have been killed, and thousands injured, many by DUI drivers, since 1980. Frankly, DUI checkpoints would be far more protective of children than banning sex offenders from Halloween.

This leads to the ONLY reason such laws exist: a combination of FEAR and LOATHING. Sex offenses are the ONLY crimes in which the offenders are more despised than the crime itself. While child safety must always be Job One of society, the Job STILL must be conducted within the constraints of Constitutional authority. Otherwise, actual danger still persists... but the pitchfork and torch crown remains satisfied that they have "done something."

Posted by: Eric Knight | Oct 31, 2012 1:09:57 PM

The issue of whether or not children have a right to be free from sexual assault aside, this measure is dubious in its efficacy. As far as I know children are no more likely to be sexually assaulted by sex offenders than by any other class or group of people on Halloween. These laws are driven largely by the Halloween sadism scares that the media likes to gin up -- scary imaginings without any substance.

The problem, of course, is that this sort of feel-good legislation comes at the cost of further disenfranchising and alienating a group of peoples who have paid the price for their crimes and are now tasked with the unenviable task of reintegrating into a society that doesn't understand sexual offenses and would be much happier to keep its head in the sand as opposed to focus its efforts on doing anything that might actually keep children safe.

Posted by: Guy | Oct 31, 2012 1:22:20 PM

Eric Knight (Oct 31, 2012 1:09:57 PM):

Congratulations to you fighting these criminals. That takes guts.

You might suggest to some of these criminal governments that if they are actually serious about protecting children instead of just showing off, that they pass a law that requires ALL children to be supervised by a non-Registry-using, responsible adult. Criminal governments could do that, couldn't they? That seems very enforceable. And it's a no-brainer to people who aren't Registry Stupid.

Also, "people" who despise "sex offenders" are not good people. They are no-accounts whom I never worry about running over. There are some people in my neighborhood who won't even wave to me, let alone speak to me. Evidently they think they are too good for me? Regardless, it's funny.

What is also funny is that there is always drama wherever I live. Do you know what is funny about that? Guess who always starts the drama? Guess who never has? But once they start it, I am more than happy to oblige. I enjoy bothering them. For many of my neighbors, if their house was on fire, I would do nothing. As long as I am listed on their nanny government Registry, then I guarantee I am a problem.

Because the Registries exist, I will out among all the trick-or-treaters tonight. I'm not exactly sure what neighborhoods I am going to but it will be entertaining as usual. Perhaps law enforcement agents of the criminal governments will visit my home instead of actually protecting people.

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Oct 31, 2012 2:44:12 PM

My law and order bona fides are pretty unimpeachable, and I think this ordinance is nuts. Telling people that they cannot answer their own door smacks of a police state.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 31, 2012 9:09:15 PM


federalist (Oct 31, 2012 9:09:15 PM):

Yes, and telling people that they cannot answer their doors (or have their lights on) for such an idiotic reason completely destroys any credibility that the clueless criminal governments could have possibly had. It is offensive to anyone with a brain.

These criminal governments tell people that and then some also tell them that they may come by to check on them as well. Ridiculous. Every single person who is listed on the nanny big government Registries needs to have fencing or walls around their residences and never allow any agents of the criminal governments to enter. Let the geniuses figure out how to "verify" everything on their own. They are "keeping tabs on people", aren't they?

Where are the rest of the Registries?

Posted by: FRegistryTerrorists | Nov 1, 2012 9:24:04 AM

FTR, fedealist, et al:

Yes, these types of laws are criminal and definitely show the existence of a police state, Constitution be damned. I know that I'll be accused of using the F-word but this type of government license demonstrates Fascism to a group of people who have served their sentence. Everything about Recidivism of this Whole Group is a lie because government is too lazy to look at pertinent smaller subsets.

South Park had a recent episode where the idea was how low has the "social" bar been set. When flawed humans like Bill Clinton, Mark Foley and John Walsh are looked up to, the only way this can be done is by lowering the "social" bar or social expectations to unimaginably low levels. We truly need, as a society, a scapegoat or someone we can unthinkingly feel superior to. Our current government propaganda, er, uh, I mean education programs are the great enabler of this social phenomena.

Prove me wrong, first by telling me how these laws are constitutional! I find the juciciary, primarily the USSC to be big cowards and any judge who has previously been a prosecutor to be terribly near-sighted.

Posted by: albeed | Nov 1, 2012 11:03:33 AM

i did like this albeed

"Prove me wrong, first by telling me how these laws are constitutional! I find the juciciary, primarily the USSC to be big cowards and any judge who has previously been a prosecutor to be terribly near-sighted."

But i call them what they really are.

Treasonous Nazi Wannabee's who are in direct violation of their oath of office. Eligible for immediate execution by any rean american who wants to carry out the sentence.

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 1, 2012 2:40:32 PM

PLEASE tell me that the statement "Convicted child molesters have no constitutionally protected right to hand out candy at Halloween," is not REALLY part of the opinion. It reeks of the Court saying, in Bowers v Hardwick, that "The Constitution does not confer a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy." Sodomy was not what Bowers was about, and the Court overruled itself 17 years later in Lawrence v Texas. Let's hope that it does not take another 17 years for the courts to realize this case is not about "a right to hand out candy", but much more fundamental, basic and well grounded Constitutional protections.

Posted by: Virginia Hall | Nov 4, 2012 9:51:22 PM

Virginia:

You are obviously correct. Also, the term used by the city and its attorneys in court filings, "convicted child molester" does not equal "sex offender" as the law affects all sex offenders. What a piece of rubbish the city's attorneys and the judge allowed to be entered.

Posted by: albeed | Nov 4, 2012 10:22:16 PM

I have not seen anywhere in the discussion of this ruling what I have always heard of as a prohibition against compelling citizens to "carry the government's message," which is what posting signs seems to me to amount to. Is that prohibition a real one, does it derive from the Constitution, and is it applicable in this situation?

Posted by: Shelly Stow | Nov 5, 2012 7:08:16 AM

It's pretty obvious there are few real americans left. Of laws of this type requiring "signs" would die a quick death when the first peoson was told by some nazi wannabe goosestepper about the sign who then got said "sign" buried in thier emtpy head.

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 5, 2012 1:40:48 PM

happy hallowween god bless you [email protected]

Posted by: marilyn marin | Oct 14, 2013 2:13:06 PM

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