Scarlet Letters and Federal Mandates: Reconsidering Juvenile Sex Offender Registration and the Adam Walsh Act Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Teleforum Wednesday, May 11, 01:00 PMFederalist Society Teleforum Conference Call
Given the understandable public fear of sexual predators, policies concerning sex offenders have often become politicized. Many critics say these policies have too often swept up consensual conduct and conduct by those as young as 10 years old into the same regulatory framework as the most horrific sexual assaults committed by adults. A growing body of research indicates that placement of youths on public sex offender registries, sometimes for the rest of their lives, can have a serious impact on their ability to secure employment and housing, that of their current and future family members. In 2006, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Act, which threatens states with the withholding of tangentially related federal funds if they do not comply with the federal policy it set forth on public registration of not only adults, but also juveniles, including lifetime registration. Dozens of states have declined to comply with this federal mandate, citing both federalism and cost concerns. On this Teleforum, several experts in the field will discuss the impact of current juvenile sex offender registration policies at the federal and state levels as well as proposals for reforms.
SCOTUScast 5-6-16 featuring Erin Sheley
- Eli Lehrer, President. R Street Institute
- Nicole Pittman, Stoneleigh Fellow and Director, Center on Youth Registration Reform, Impact Justice
- Stacie D. Rumenap, President, Stop Child Predators
- Moderator: Marc A. Levin, Policy Director, Right on Crime
On March 1, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Lockhart v. United States. Petitioner Avondale Lockhart pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography. Because Lockhart had a prior state-court conviction for first-degree sexual abuse involving his adult girlfriend, his presentence report concluded that he was subject to a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence enhancement, which is triggered by prior state convictions for crimes “relating to aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor or ward.” Lockhart argued that the limiting phrase “involving a minor or ward” applied to all three state crimes, so his prior conviction did not trigger the enhancement. Disagreeing, the District Court applied the mandatory minimum. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed.
By a vote of 6-2, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Second Circuit. Justice Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the Court, holding that the phrase “involving a minor or ward” in §2252(b)(2) modifies only “abusive sexual conduct.” Thus, Lockhart’s prior conviction for sexual abuse of an adult was encompassed by §2252(b)(2) and the 10-year mandatory minimum applied.
Justice Sotomayor’s majority opinion was joined by the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Alito. Justice Kagan filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Breyer joined.
To discuss the case, we have Erin Sheley, who is Assistant Professor at University of Calgary Faculty of Law. Criminal Law & Procedure and Free Speech & Election Law Practice Groups Podcast
On Wednesday, April 27, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Robert F. McDonnell v. United States. The Court will review the public corruption convictions of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to determine whether the definition of “official action” as used in the federal bribery statute, Hobbs Act, and honest-services fraud statute is limited to exercising actual governmental power or the threat or pressure to do so. If the definition is not so limited, the Court will also consider whether the Hobbs Act and honest-services fraud statute are unconstitutional—given that such a broad definition could include political activity protected by the First Amendment. Our experts attended the oral arguments and offered a summary and analysis to Federalist Society members.
Short video featuring Rachel Paulose
- William J. Haun, Associate, Hunton & Williams LLP
- Stephen R. Klein, Attorney, Pillar of Law Institute
Partner at DLA Piper LLP and Former U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose discusses the appeal of Governor McDonnell’s criminal conviction for corruption because he accepted gifts and money from Williams in exchange for helping Williams develop his business in Virginia. Governor McDonnell denies violating the relevant federal laws. The Supreme Court hears the case on Wednesday, April 27.