Lawyer and her reform group were prompted by recent appellate court ruling
A civil rights lawyer aiming to reform sex offender laws has started suing municipalities across California to force the removal of ordinances that bar sex offenders from many public facilities, including parks, swimming pools and bus stops.
Janice Bellucci, who practices in Santa Maria and is president of the group California Reform Sex Offender Laws, said the ordinances violate the state and federal constitutions.
On Friday, Bellucci sued Pomona in the Central District federal court in Los Angeles, and on Monday she sued South Lake Tahoe in the Eastern District. Bellucci said she also expects to bring lawsuits in California’s Northern and Southern federal districts.
The city attorney in South Lake Tahoe did not return a call for comment. The city attorney for Pomona could not be reached.
Bellucci’s actions through California Reform Sex Offender Laws were prompted by recent 4th District Court of Appeal decisions that struck down ordinances in the city of Irvine and in Orange County.
Justices from Division 3 of the panel said state law preempted the separate ordinances. Irvine’s law banned registered sex offenders whose crime involved a minor from visiting any city park or recreational facility where children are present unless the police chief permitted it. State law, the panel said, already imposes restrictions on a sex offender’s daily life and “fully occupies the field.”
Under state law, a sex offender on parole for an offense against a child under the age of 14 cannot enter a park that children regularly attend without the permission of his or her parole agent. Sex offenders also cannot go to schools “without lawful business” and written permission from the school. Only the decision involving Irvine’s ordinance was published.
After the appellate court decisions, Bellucci’s group sent a letter to 71 cities with similar ordinances to notify them of the appellate court decisions. The group requested that the cities repeal the ordinances within 60 days or they would face a legal challenge.
Following the letter, Bellucci said, Costa Mesa and El Centro repealed their ordinances. Other cities, including Anaheim, agreed to halt enforcement pending a decision by the state Supreme Court on whether it will review the appellate court decisions.
Representatives for Costa Mesa and El Centro could not be reached. A representative for Anaheim confirmed the city has suspended enforcement of the oridinance pending the high court’s ruling.
“Future legal challenges by sex offenders can be expected of cities that have failed to either repeal their sex offender ordinances or agree in writing to stay enforcement of those ordinances,” Bellucci said in a statement.
By Hamed Aleaziz
Daily Journal Staff Writer