Sexual Predator Laws

Supreme Court Preview: Packingham v. North Carolina - Podcast

Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
Jonathan Sherman, Melissa Arbus Sherry February 23, 2017

On February 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Packingham v. North Carolina. This First Amendment case deals with whether a state may bar citizens from accessing social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A North Carolina state law makes it a felony for any person on the state's registry of former sex offenders to "access" a wide array of popular websites that enable communications among users if the site is known to allow minors to have accounts. The statute does not require the state to prove the defendant has actually had contact with a minor, intended to do so, or accessed a website for any illicit or improper purpose. In the trial court, the Defendant was convicted of violating the law for a Facebook post in which he celebrated the dismissal of a traffic ticket, declaring "God is Good!" Some contend that the law amounts to a sweeping, overbroad, and vague ban on protected speech untailored to any legitimate interest and is unjustified by any compelling need.

Jonathan Sherman, Partner at Boies Schiller Flexner and Melissa Arbus Sherry, Partner at Latham & Watkins will provide a preview of this interesting case.


  • Jonathan Sherman, Partner at Boies Schiller Flexner
  • Melissa Arbus Sherry, Latham & Watkins

Scarlet Letters and Federal Mandates: Reconsidering Juvenile Sex Offender Registration and the Adam Walsh Act - Podcast

Criminal Law & Procedure Practice Group Podcast
Eli Lehrer, Nicole Pittman, Stacie D. Rumenap, Marc A. Levin May 12, 2016

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 discussed the impact of current juvenile sex offender registration policies at the federal and state levels as well as proposals for reforms.


  • 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

Lockhart v. United States - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 5-6-16 featuring Erin Sheley
Erin Sheley May 06, 2016

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.

Nichols v. United States - Post-Decision SCOTUScast

SCOTUScast 4-7-16 featuring James Barta
James Barta April 07, 2016

On April 4, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Nichols v. United States. Petitioner Nichols, a registered sex offender who moved from Kansas to the Philippines without updating his registration, was arrested, escorted to the United States, and charged with violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). SORNA makes it a federal crime for certain sex offenders to “knowingly fai[l] to register or update a registration,” and requires that offenders who move to a different State “shall, not later than 3 business days after each change of name, residence, employment, or student status,” inform in person “at least 1 jurisdiction involved . . . of all changes” to required information. After conditionally pleading guilty, Nichols argued on appeal that SORNA did not require him to update his registration in Kansas. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed his conviction.

By a vote of 8-0 the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Tenth Circuit, holding that SORNA did not require Nichols to update his registration in Kansas once he departed the State. Justice Alito delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

To discuss the case, we have James Barta, who is an Associate at MoloLamken LLP.

Sexual Assault on Campus - Event Video

2014 National Lawyers Convention
Heather Mac Donald, Seth Galanter, Lara S. Kaufmann, Greg Lukianoff, Diane S. Sykes, Gail Heriot November 17, 2014

Sexual assault on campus is a serious issue—so serious that it is difficult for some to speak plainly about it.  As a result, disagreements abound—even about issues as fundamental as the definition of sexual assault.  This panel will discuss the nature and extent of sexual assault on campus.  It will examine the Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” letter of April 4, 2011 on sexual violence, the numerous investigations that it has opened in colleges and universities around the country, and the effect they are having on campus.  It will also discuss the new  "Only Yes Means Yes," laws recently adopted in California and being considered around the country.  Among the questions that will be addressed are: How dangerous are our college campuses?  From where does the U.S. Department of Education derive the authority to address this issue?  Is due process being accorded to those who are accused of sexual assault?

The Federalist Society's Civil Rights Practice Group presented this panel on "Sexual Assult on Campus" on Friday, November 14, during the 2014 National Lawyers Convention.


  • Ms. Heather Mac Donald, Thomas W. Smith Fellow, Manhattan Institute
  • Mr. Seth Galanter, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education
  • Ms. Lara S. Kaufmann, Senior Counsel & Director of Education Policy for At-Risk Students, National Women's Law Center
  • Mr. Greg Lukianoff, President, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
  • Moderator: Hon. Diane S. Sykes, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • Introduction: Hon. Gail Heriot, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Professor, University of San Diego School of Law; and Chairman, Civil Rights Practice Group

Mayflower Hotel
Washington, DC