WRAL, Capitol Broadcasting blast General Assembly’s unconstitutional habits
A CBC Editorial . . . It is becoming all too familiar. If it’s Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will declare another North Carolina law unconstitutional.
It’s no joke.
This most recent Monday a UNANIMOUS Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a 2008 law that banned convicted sex offenders visiting social-networking websites that allow minors to become members or to create personal pages – including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Capitol Broadcasting’s WRAL.com.
The unfortunate reality about the law the high court struck down is the laudable goal of protecting young children from sexual predators was overshadowed by enthusiasm for the upcoming general election and a desire to demonstrate candidates’ toughness and law-and-order bonafides. Little good comes from laws that have a genesis in election-year pandering. It is a truth that wears no partisan label.
The Senate bill was passed into law without a single dissenting vote in late summer 2008, amid campaigning for the general election. Sponsors included Walter Dalton, a Democrat running that year for lieutenant governor; Janet Cowell, a Democrat who was running for State Treasurer; Kay Hagan, a Democrat who later would successfully run for the U.S. Senate; as well as prominent Republicans like Tom Apodaca, who would become the powerful Senate Rules Committee chairman and Jerry Tillman who now chairs the Senate’s Finance Committee and the Joint State Lottery Oversight Committee.
The election-year posturing didn’t end with the elections of 2008. In November 2015, it was former State Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds, a Republican who was on the ballot for re-election, who wrote the wrong-headed state court opinion that upheld the law. He was proud enough to even brag about it: “You don’t have to guess what kind of justice I will be. My record is an open book,” Edmunds said in a campaign video citing the ruling he wrote. To their credit, two state justices — Cheri Beasley and Robin Hudson — dissented.
Democrat Roy Cooper, who was getting ready for his successful run for governor, hopped on the band wagon a year before the 2016 election: “I pushed for this law. … I am pleased that the (state Supreme) Court has agreed with our arguments to keep this law in place.” Cooper’s office didn’t issue any statement Monday, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous rejection of the law.
The ruling from the highest court of the land shouldn’t come as a surprise. To its credit, a three-judge panel (Rick Elmore, Chris Dillon and Martha Geer) of the State Court of Appeals in August 2013 ruled the law unconstitutional – and it was not a popular ruling.
In the more than eight years since the unconstitutional law went into effect the state has prosecuted more than 1,000 people for violating it, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion.
The plaintiff in this case, Lester Packingham, did nothing more than take to Facebook to post a thanks for getting a parking ticket dismissed.
It has taken nine years and four months for this bad law to have made its way through the legislative and legal process. The wasted time and money in the process, easily and sadly, amounts to millions – funds much better spent on enforcement and treatment of victims and perpetrators.
With the now clear guidance from the courts, state officials should take a more patient and thoughtful look at how to develop laws that provide access to appropriate online resources to those who are registered sex offenders. Just as important, these laws should include effective and legal ways to thwart sexual predators from inappropriate contact with youngsters via the internet and other cyber-avenues.
Since a new majority took control in 2011, more than a dozen laws passed by the General Assembly have been struck down by the federal courts. It is a sorry record that reflects a reckless disregard for our Constitution in favor of petty partisanship and the unbending desire to impose a rigid ideology on the state.
It is a wasteful pastime that gains nothing and leaves innocent victims in the wake.
If the politicians in office cannot restrain themselves from enacting unconstitutional laws, voters need to pick new ones who can.
6 thoughts on “WRAL, Capitol Broadcasting blast General Assembly’s unconstitutional habits”
the progression of the law is a slow process. the full unconstitutional law may take up to 20 more years
I am going to argue
violations of 8 and 5th amendment
along with the fact that the supreme court said the law is civil in nature but all states are hearing it in criminal court.
the law have so many restrictions it is now probation or parole just seeing the sheriff department instead of a parole officer.
I am wondering about the 1000 sex offenders who were convicted over the law prior to packingham decision. Will they be exonerated? Since the law is unconstitutional?
This is something that Atty Glenn Gerding is working on…and NCRSOL will be involved in helping to identify these individuals. They certainly have a reasonable argument to get their names cleared of the charge. We’ll keep you posted.
” Reckless disregard” is exactly what happened with Alaska v Doe. J. P. Stevens declared a clear violation, and he was right! Ms. P. Wetterling now recognizes that the Act named for her dead son is not appropriate. Recently she declared it wasteful,
Mr. Anthony Kennedy: who is often peer reviewed as part of the liberal wing of that court and thereby sometimes aligned with Stevens, opted to uphold the Act forming the original list. Scalia, Thomas, O’ Conner and Rehnquist also voted to uphold. That denial of punitive intent by the people is not erased by pretext of law. Deferment by that court to stated legislative intent was a glaring abdication of judicial onus.
We plainly see the vary man who argued for upholding the Act to SCOTUS in 2003 is now the top dog on that court. If I know anything about our form of gov’t it is that Agendas are set by the leader of the group. This does not bode well for Mr. Snyder in MI, nor our nation.
While I am sure Mr. J. Roberts has a lifetime position on that court he may wish to consider an early retirement given he has led the effort to uphold an act that indentured citizens – felons to a machine in the form of a computer database. If the Packingham case tell us anything it is that the list of sexual deviants obviously has the purpose of imposing “affirmative disability”. This indenture was done wholesale outside of public purview. It was done to many without fair trial nor opportunity of defense through judication.
Holding a citizen responsible for the wrong doing of others cannot be the path to a more perfect union. It is also incongruent with any form of lasting social contract. While sound governments have an obligation to protect its citizens it must be done with sound reasoning not panic!
The next stop should be “the registry”. Either every felon is posted to a registry or shut it down. There are five forms of abuse, not just one. They are: physical, emotional, sexual, intellectual and spiritual. If you don’t think someone can be abused (misdemenor) or raped (felony) spiritually, think Jim Jones. I think that once everyone finds themselves on a list, people might start to consider tearing them down.
An excellent piece. Thank you for speaking up against this irrational and reckless legislation. But to go further, lawmakers would not be following this trail if it were not so popular with voters. What is badly needed is education of the public, which has collectively swallowed an immense lie about the danger presented by those convicted of sex offenses. A mountain of research over the past 20 years has clearly demonstrated that registered citizens in fact pose very little risk to the public and the rate of recidivism is actually very low. But people’s minds are seared by a handful of horrific, high-profile cases in the media and they assign the behavior of a handful of criminals to all 800,000 people on US registries. The fact that people routinely stamp hateful labels like predator and pedophile on everybody on the registry, ignorant of the fact that only a small percentage of registrants fit either one of those labels, is reason enough for the registry to be abolished. Registries do nothing to protect the public, but simply rain down endless punishment on anyone we can drag into the hated class.