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Lawsuit challenges Simi Valley’s Halloween sex offender ordinance

A federal lawsuit filed today seeks to block enforcement of Simi Valley’s new Halloween sex offender ordinance, contending it’s unconstitutional. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by 10 plaintiffs, including five registered sex offenders who live in Simi Valley.

The Simi Valley City Council on Sept. 10 adopted the ordinance that aims to prevent sex offenders from having contact with trick-or-treating children on Halloween. It applies to the several dozen convicted child sex offenders who live in Simi Valley and are listed on the Megan’s Law website.

Championed by Mayor Bob Huber, a lawyer who is seeking re-election in November, the ordinance requires child sex offenders to post signs on their front doors saying, “No candy or treats at this residence.” Full Article

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Admin Note: the text at this link appears to have changed during the evening 9/28. 

Lawsuit seeks to block Simi Valley’s Halloween sex offender ordinance

A federal lawsuit filed Friday seeks to block enforcement of Simi Valley’s new Halloween sex offender ordinance, contending it is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit alleges that the ordinance violates the First and 14th Amendments because it “suppresses and unduly chills protected speech and expression.”

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by five registered sex offenders, three of their spouses and two of their children, all Simi Valley residents. They are identified only as John and Jane Does.

It’s the first time one of the Halloween sex offender laws passed by a number of California cities, including Ontario and Orange, has been challenged in court, said Santa Maria attorney Janice Bellucci.

Bellucci, president of the board of a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws, filed the suit, which also seeks unspecified financial damages, on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Simi Valley City Attorney Marjorie Baxter said the lawsuit is groundless.

“We thoroughly researched the ordinance and I don’t feel the lawsuit has any merit, and we will defend it vigorously,” she said.

The Simi Valley City Council adopted the law — the only one of its kind in Ventura County — to prevent sex offenders from having contact with trick-or-treating children on Halloween. Championed by Mayor Bob Huber, a lawyer who is seeking re-election in November, the measure applies to the several dozen convicted child sex offenders who live in the city and are listed on the Megan’s Law website.

The ordinance requires the offenders to post signs on their front doors saying, “No candy or treats at this residence.” It also bars them from opening their doors to children on the holiday, displaying Halloween decorations or having exterior lighting on their property from 5 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 31.

When voting for the measure on Sept. 10, Councilman Steve Sojka expressed concerns that the city could be exposing itself to a lawsuit by passing the law.

The measure is scheduled to take effect in time for Halloween.

The lawsuit argues that the ordinance prohibits “a discrete and socially outcast minority from expressing any publicly viewable celebration of Halloween” and “forces this group to impose a burden on their own safety and that of any person who resides with them by requiring them to turn off all exterior lighting at their residences on Oct. 31 every year.”

The ordinance also publicly shames the sex offenders “by mandating that they place a large content-specific sign on their door every year,” the lawsuit contends.

But Councilman Mike Judge noted at the council’s Aug. 20 meeting that the ordinance was limited to registered sex offenders on the Megan’s Law website, which publicly lists their identities.

“We’re not branding them,” Judge, a Los Angeles police officer, said. “They’re already branded.”

Bellucci argues that there are no reported instances of a child being molested while trick-or-treating.

According to her group’s website, the organization is “dedicated to restoring civil rights for those accused and/or convicted of sex crimes.”

The City Council adopted the ordinance on a 4-1 vote with Councilwoman Barbra Williamson dissenting. She and Sojka are also running for re-election in November.

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  1. Kathy G.

    This is good news! I do note that Police Officer Mike Judge states that Registrants are “already branded.” Sort of like a Scarlet Letter. Does that indicate that the registry might be punitive?

  2. Janice Bellucci

    Thank you, Ventura County Star, for a balanced article. I hope all will note that we provided the city of Simi Valley with advanced notice, both through letters and through testimony at City Council meetings that the ordinance violated the constitution. It is unfortunate that 4 out of 5 members of the Council chose to ignore our warnings.

  3. JM

    City Attorney Marjorie Baxter said, “We will defend it vigorously”. I wonder how many Simi Valley citizens really want their tax money wasted on defending a ordinance that has no merit?
    The states, counties, and cities have never had ordinances such as this, and yet there has never been a crime reported from any child being harmed in any way on Halloween.
    So this ordinance is based on what? It is baseless, and a waste of taxpayers money.
    Thank you Janice, and all of those who bravely joined in this lawsuit.

  4. USA

    What a joke! I find it difficult for anyone to be banned from participating in Halloween? What’s next? Christmas!

  5. http404

    Perusing the news today, it looks like in just 24 hours this has become the shot heard around the world. Associated Press has carried it over the news wires. I hope and pray this can become a wake-up call:

    * To communities as a realization that these draconian measures are victimizing and stigmatizing entire families and while they make the community feel good, they do nothing to make the community safer;

    * To community lawmakers as a notice that their attempts to stack up these unconstitutional laws are no longer going to go unchallenged;

    * To registrants and especially their affected families that they do have rights protected by the constitution and the only way things are going to change is to take action to stand up for your rights before these laws pass, or in the courts if they do.

    • http404

      So let me get this straight, “S.” If you were arrested and convicted for say, drunk driving, you think it’s perfectly justified that there be a law that revokes your daughter’s driver’s license as a result?

      Further, as to “facing the consequences” for one’s actions, please explain to me how – without the aid of a machine capable of time travel – one may be afforded a preponderance of consequences that do not yet exist?

      Also, I will be happy to explain to you how there is a very relevant comparison to the Hitler Regime’s early treatment of Jews, that required them to don insignia identifying them as Jews. Jews committed no crimes. Neither did the wives and children who live in the households where the sign is required under the ordinance. The very last sentence in your comment applies here… “innocent victims have also the right to be protected.” How then are you able to rationalize such an ordinance is the “right” thing?

      If someone breaks the law in a manner that causes unimaginable trauma upon a victim, then they must stand accountable under the law to face the full consequence of their actions as prescribed by the court via a court sentence, that is to the satisfaction of the victim and the “people.” If rights are to be revoked, THAT is the correct time and the place. To do anything else and apply it retroactively is to bend the constitution to your own liking.

      Since you are apparently very well enlightened about the issue at hand in Simi Valley and are so confident of the safety benefit this ordinance offers the community, I look forward to your reply on my questions above.

  6. USA

    I truly think this is wonderful news. Furthermore, I have no doubt that this unfortunate lawsuit which will prevail! I was honestly disturbed by Mike Judge’s comments regarding Sex Offenders and this was truly a very unprofessional comment coming from a person of authority who has both an ethical and moral responsibility to conduct himself as a professional. Its truly disappointing. As such, this is really a disturbing law? Who on earth commits a crime and now must not participate in Halloween and post signs on their yards? If people from other countries read this, they would just shake their heads! I can only imagine the other problems Simi Valley must face with the economy the way it is and the Council Members take the time to pass this law? Im truly speechless. Its a sad day

  7. steve

    Wow reading some of the comments from all the stories that are circulating is truly terrifying although not unexpected. Whatever happened to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”? I guess only for those deemed worthy…

    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/national-international/Calif-Sex-Offenders-Sue-to-Overturn-Halloween-Restrictions-172467011.html

  8. Fred Davis

    The media female in the video needs a muzzle on her mouth because of the way she starts the subject about the article. She equates pedophilia with all sex offenders on the registry. Lenin called these socialists “useful idiots.” She obviously knows not that there are different offenders at different levels and with different crimes. The media should know that it does not take a rocket scientist to distinguish between pedophiles (one that is attracted to prepubescent children) and other offenders. The media always uses bastardized, colloquial, arbitrary language to project fear-based concepts rooted in feelings, rather than common sense. It appeals to the emotions, the same way Hitler used the German children as a driving political force to get his agenda implemented. Property rights come above the collective, and it should be the right of the property owner to do what he wants on his own land. The law of the progressive movement and the feminist agenda pushes for “social justice” over property rights and we now see the economic destruction of this country and its laws that were based on property rights. This country is trillions of dollars in debt because of those that embrace the evolution of Marxism and socialistic principles based in the collective. This is why property rights should never be infringed upon. The property owners should put large dogs on their property to ward off predators. This would help. Of course vigilantes would be enlightened of how property rights work also if this was done. It is not all about the children as the Leninists promote, but it is about property rights. The Supreme Court through Kagin, the socialist, has invented retroactive laws that violate property rights and now the trial lawyers have some more useful idiots in Rio Linda to enrich themselves even more. Common law equates with common sense, but the socialists of California are broke and it is their own fault for violating and raping the Constitutional rights that come from the Creator.

  9. steve

    Janice I am glad that you let everyone state their opinion whether for or against. What all you people against seem to forget is that all these”molesters” paid their debt to society. Most did time, lost their homes, their families, their economic status..everything. The law says once you pay your debt your done. As much as you don’t like that for “molesters” that’s the law for EVERYONE else. Everyone deserves a chance to move on with their lives. The true predators like the Dugard and Gardner perps need to be monitored closely. They need to vastly reduce the number of people on the registry so they can monitor those who truly need it.

  10. steve

    Diane, every case is different…every victim is different. The only thing that is the same is that every offender is lumped in to one category. Predator for life. Get over it, it’s 2% of the cases.

  11. steve

    Because laws like these are passed it opens the door for politicians to create more stupid laws for their own GAIN.
    Coming to a town soon:
    Anyone with a dui is no longer allowed to drive by schools, parks or libraries.
    Anyone who has been caught stealing is no longer allowed to shop without a wearing a red badge with thief on it.
    Anyone caught selling or doing drugs is not allowed at a park, beach or library.

    Just watch a nut bag politician with a nut bag following will do this.

  12. steve

    And..how long has been since we’ve heard of a case like Dugard or Gardner 3, 4 years? Does it happen every day like Nancy Grace and politicicans make it seem? I don’t think so. Even a STATE psychiatrist said Gardner was a danger. Why did he fall thru the cracks? Too many on the list. Isn’t this obviously a problem????

  13. Dave R.

    Based upon your comment and your employment with the CDC, you must believe every ROS is guilty, if this were the case, we have a perfect legal/judicial system.

    Google: MSNBC Witch Hunt

    This may make you feel differently.

  14. Kathy G.

    I should like to know why the dissenting commenters immediately labeled the registrants as “molesters” and “sexual predators.” If you were as informed as you try to pretend you are, you would read enough, or listen enough to know that many people on the Registry never touched a child. And you might also know that over 90% of child abuse is perpetrated by a family member or a close acquaintance,not a stranger on Halloween. There IS rehabilitation for sex offenders (the recidivism rate is the lowest of any crime except murder). And you might look up the stats on how many children have been harmed by a sex offender on Halloween. Come on people, quit spewing hysteria and hate and learn the truth.

  15. Fred Davis

    Hitler turned on his own people after demonizing the Jew first. The connection of Hitler and the evolution that leads to overt revolution as Hitler did is totally accurate and appropriate in a metaphorical sense. Collectivism in priority of position over property rights is the political soft porn that eventually leads to Overt tyranny and dictatorship and confiscation of property.

  16. JM

    I have read the ordinance, and it doesn’t state that the registered person has to be in the home. So, what would prevent them from handing out candy at another residence?

    The children: If families are required to post signs, what effect does this have on the children in these families? Are we only creating laws to protect their children and these children in these families are kicked to the curb? What happens to them at school the next day after all their classmates snear and bully them?

    Where are their rights? Where is their protection? Can we sue if one of our children are emotionally wrecked by this ineffective law? This is such an outrage on so many levels.

  17. Jeff

    Great Post JM

    I just spent a half hour writing an in depth response to the points you hit on. I elaborated to the affects it has had on my family. I made many key points about why politicians create these laws. Then I read it all and I think everything I had to say boils down to this sentence. How many votes does my family have? Because that is all these laws are “VOTE GETTERS” They consider my children and any other persons children who are adversely affected by these laws as acceptable collateral damage in their quest for votes.

  18. http404

    Public pensions and union negotiated salaries for prison guards are a major contributor to California’s economic woes. Why should we let the state go broke because the union rank and file feel it is unfair?

    By collective bargaining agreement we know this oversteps boundaries upon what is agreed upon by all parties to the agreement. Similarly, by social contract we (America) as a society know that commission of a crime comes with legal consequences clearly defined within the statutes. In certain instances some constitutional rights are revoked as a part of the punishment. After the punishment has been doled out, these rights, barring ownership of a firearm, are then restored. Subsequent revocation of these rights without due process of law is a violation of this social contract. If you are willing to accept this, then you must also be willing to accept that the parking ticket you received last year can mean you will no longer be able to park on the city’s streets next year because of a new ordinance against parking violators because double parking is a safety issue on our roadways.

    This may sound apples to oranges comparison to you, but only because your perspective is clouded by your hatred and abhorrence of the segment of our population it is applicable to.

  19. itstrue

    Unfortunately this law does not protect children. That is the whole point. Many children are hurt on Halloween from being hit by automobiles but we do nothing to add additional traffic police to ensure safety. The law in Simi is pandering to a stereo type believed by people who don’t have a clue.

  20. mr b

    To paraphrase poorly:

    First they came for the sex offenders, but I was not one, so I did nothing.
    Then they came for the gangsters, but I was not one, so I did nothing.
    Then they came for the drug dealers, but I was not one, so I did nothing.
    Then they came for the traffic violators, but there was noone left to do something for me.

    I think you get the point. In case you don’t, where does it stop?

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