SCOTUS Rules Justly in Packingham Case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that a North Carolina law which prohibits all registrants from accessing commercial social networking websites used by minor children violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“This is a tremendous victory for the registrants of North Carolina as well as registrants throughout the nation,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized for the first time that registrants have First Amendment rights including the use of social media websites including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.”

In its decision, the Court noted that the broad wording of the North Carolina law bars access “not only to commonplace social media websites but also to websites as varied as,, and” The Court also noted that “(e)ven convicted criminals – and in some instances especially convicted criminals – might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives.”

The Court stated clearly their belief that the sexual abuse of a child is “a most serious crime and an act repugnant to the moral instincts of a decent people.” The Court also stated clearly that states may pass valid laws in order to protect children and other victims of sexual assault from abuse. The court then ruled that the North Carolina law did not legitimately serve the purpose of protecting children and others from abuse.

Also in its decision, the Court noted the “troubling fact” that the North Carolina law imposed severe restrictions on persons “who have already served their sentence and are no longer subject to the supervision of the criminal justice system.” The Court also noted that “(i)t is unsettling to suggest that only a limited set of websites can be used by persons who have completed their sentences.”

“We are encouraged by today’s wise decision of the U.S. Supreme Court,” stated ACSOL President Chance Oberstein. “We are hopeful that this wisdom can be extended to other decisions in the near future.”

Although today’s decision was unanimous, three of the Court’s nine justices – Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas — entered a concurring decision which agreed that the North Carolina law violated the First Amendment, but focused upon the “grave risk” that repeat sex offenders pose to children. In their concurrence, the justices repeated the myth that registrants have a high risk of re-offense. Specifically, the justices stated that “(w)hen sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.”

“It is disappointing that three members of the U.S. Supreme Court continue to repeat a myth which has been disproved by decades of research,” stated Bellucci. “That research, including the findings of Dr. Karl Hanson, has overwhelmingly concluded that registrants have a very low rate of re-offense.”


Earlier version:

US Supreme Court strikes down NC sex offender social media ban

The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a North Carolina law prohibiting registered sex offenders from using Facebook or other social networking sites that minors can join. Full Article


Opinion analysis: Court invalidates ban on social media for sex offenders

Supreme Court says sex offenders can access social media

Supreme Court says even sex offenders get to use Facebook

Articles as of 6/19 (Google)


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That statement about the reoffense rate really pisses me off! And I hope it pisses the rest of you off too! I want to fire back so damn bad! Ignorance!

Another thing..I bet when the issue of the recidivism rate falsehoods are brought before the court and are extensively argued that the court might, just might, be a little ticked off that the solicitor general and other state attorneys have been duping the court and putting forth falsehood stats and purposely misrepresenting the facts to the court and making them look like fools. I will be sure to argue that the court should find this deception as a key factor when scrutinizing any future cases involving ex sex offenders…I did like how one of the justices I think is was Ginsberg who stated “these ex sex offenders” in one of her questions was great…I don’t think SCROTUS is going to be happy with the government when my case gets in front of them..I will pound home the false statistic claims and will relentlessly force them to justify any and all these laws….This is some great ammo coming out of this opinion….

this can be true, but so what: ““(w)hen sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.” The bigger issue looms and that is lower recidivism overall, regardless of what one does when they do reoffend!

I am very happy and feel blessed by this decision!!! Praise GOD!!!

In the meantime, I’d like to invite Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas to please go back to Neptune or wherever they’re from because apparently they haven’t a clue about reality!

“(w)hen sex offenders reenter society, they are much more likely than any other type of offender to be rearrested for a new rape or sexual assault.”

Really???? Get your heads out of your a**es!!!!!

Despite the ignorance of these 3 justices, I am grateful that they ruled properly!

I wonder what can be done about states thst require you to still give them your account name and email associated with it even if they don’t ban you. Then they turn it over the info to the social media site who has a policy banning sex offenders so they delete your account. In effect the state is taking an action they know will bar your free speech.

One could take it further and say with facial and name recognition software the online registry could be used by social media to filter out sex offenders and that they state run registry is a tool retarding free speech.

What about Facebook ? Practically every corner of the internet where you are able to blog and speak an opinion requires a Facebook account. They are “publicly” traded and hooked linked to almost every site (id say about 90%) where you are able to leave a comment, opinion and everything talking. Even more so, the news media sites. They hinder my first amendment right to leaving an opinion on an article that was published by the free press news sites. Anonymity is also protected by the U.S constitution and Bill of Rights to protect an unpopular individual from the lynch mob majority in our society.

Son you like that approach the court a way out and a scapegoat to pin their mistake on..right? Chris the court did actually casually touched on that subject of “by your logic pretty soon you will have everyone who commits a crime on a list and barred from everywhere ” or something to that statement, it just appears to me that scrotus has actually been watching whats happening in the lower courts and they seem perplexed by what they are witnessing and are anticipating, and even encouraging with all their hints, for someone to get the real issues in front of them..They cant come right out and say anything else is unconstitutional unless it is properly in front of them but they have thrown several direct statements on what may work..

I’ve always said, the automobile license plate for all North Hanoi Carolina should read as their state motto:
North Carolina the Un-Constitutional state.
Of course, the ruling couldn’t be any other way in a free society when the foundation of law is the Constitution.

excellent comment Chris I think I will work your comment into our motion. keep tabs on general comments for updates and more collaboration…I don’t see how all these civil rights groups aren’t jumping on this because whomever topples the registry is going to be famous and will be cononized in the annals of history…great PR for any civil attorneys….

son of liberty…you made my point in your religious tirade that very few could probably follow. I think they will bite on that low hanging fruits and be able to regress to that old institution og blame shifting that you preached about. Keep it real Son and even though some of your religious references and oratories maybe difficult to follow or even understand…you give color to these comments sections and I am far from being a religious man but if it makes you feel better and its your way to speak your mind I say go for it…
As Yehovah Lives, so should we…lol…

“It is disappointing that three members of the U.S. Supreme Court continue to repeat a myth which has been disproved by decades of research,” stated Bellucci. “That research, including the findings of Dr. Karl Hanson, has overwhelmingly concluded that registrants have a very low rate of re-offense.”

Yes; it’s very disappointing. But can anyone expect anything less from dishonest people in high places?

They completely disregard the truth as if it doesn’t exist. If anyone thinks these corrupt people are unaware of the truth/facts then you are fooling yourself. $omeone has gotten to them, and there are plenty of industries related to the “sex offender” lie (I refuse to call it a myth because it is a lie; not a myth) making enough money to buy influence. Only a fool would listen to these people that have sold their soul. One must watch what they do, as this article has done to a certain extent.

WRAL, one of the main news outlets out of Raleigh, NC posted this article about the repeal and a decent 3 minute video. A lady from the nc coalition against sexual assault stated that this law and others like it do nothing and that time and effort should be on treatment not restrictions. At the end of the video the broadcasters said the govenor (roy cooper) was very disappointed and the AG (josh stein) vowed to go back to the drawing board and draft another law that would be consitutional….I cant wait to see it. Im hoping they are just blowing smoke, but who knows.

Worked your comments in there Chris and this is what I put in there around the false statistic subject…
1. I would think that the court would be seriously upset by the fact that the attorneys for the government not only misrepresented the facts about recidivism rates to the court in McKune using unconfirmed statistics, but they continue to feed the court the false assumptions and keep misrepresenting the actual facts in just about every case brought on sex offender laws, even though they (the attorneys and legislators) know that those assumptions have been thoroughly debunked. Thus, any assertion in this case or future cases by the government concerning facts about sex offender recidivism rates should be suspect and should be thoroughly fact checked by the courts.

This, from the ever-news-scouring Bill Dobbs on the North Carolina victory:

A U.S. Supreme Court win! In a unanimous ruling the court struck down North Carolina’s law banning registrants from social media as unconstitutional; individuals on the sex offense registry have First Amendment rights. The North Carolina law makes it a felony for registrants to simply “access” social media sites that allow under-18-year-olds to post such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—which means banishment from sites that are virtual town squares for many millions of people. No actual online wrongdoing is required for conviction; a reporter opined that reading Donald Trump’s tweets would be a crime. Reports say one thousand prosecutions have been brought using this statute. Lester Packingham fought back, challenging his conviction and the law and he won. He and thousands of North Carolina registrants will benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision. Similar laws in other states are now under legal scrutiny. Stay tuned – the politicians are already talking about tweaking the law. This court decision makes it harder for the government to interfere with social media access, now the fight turns to the corporations which control large online platforms.

Kudos and congratulations to Lester Packingham and his lawyers, David T. Goldberg of Stanford University Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic and North Carolina Public Defender Glenn Gerding. Appreciation also goes to Eugene Volokh and David Post, a long list of lawyers, individuals and organizations who brought attention to this matter and supported it before the Supreme Court; the amicus briefs are linked below.

Have a look at USA Today’s report and a news story out of North Carolina. Wayne Logan, a law professor and pioneering legal scholar on registry issues, has a terrific analysis for Collateral Consequences Resource Center of the decision including insight about how the court handled the pernicious issue of recidivism statistics. The Supreme Court’s decision is linked at the end of this post. -Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire

USA Today | June 19, 2017
Supreme Court says sex offenders can access social media

By Richard Wolf

Excerpts: Social networking websites have become such an important source of information that even sex offenders should not be barred from social media, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday. The justices said a North Carolina law that made it a felony for sex offenders to access sites such as Facebook, Snapchat and LinkedIn violated the First Amendment.

Although North Carolina’s law goes further than most states, Packingham’s victory represents a ringing defense of free speech rights for some of the nation’s most reviled citizens — the estimated 850,000 registered sex offenders. Kennedy called the case “one of the first this court has taken to address the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern Internet.”

“To foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. “Even convicted criminals — and in some instances, especially convicted criminals — might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, in particular if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives.”

It didn’t help state officials that their case focused on Lester Packingham, whose sex crime in 2002 resulted only in two years of supervised probation, but who was arrested eight years later for celebrating the dismissal of a parking ticket with a Facebook post that began “Man God is Good!” MORE:

News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) | June 19, 2017
US Supreme Court strikes down NC sex offender social media ban

By Anne Blythe

Excerpts: The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a North Carolina law prohibiting registered sex offenders from using Facebook or other social networking sites that minors can join. In North Carolina, where 14,268 people are entered in the N.C. Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry database, civil liberty organizations have paid close attention to Packingham’s case. Glenn Gerding, the Chapel Hill attorney who represented Packingham, argued several years ago that the law as written could make it difficult for a registered offender to engage in routine Internet activity, such as a Google search.

The 2008 restriction was part of a legislative package that Roy Cooper, the state Attorney General at the time, advocated for many years. Cooper was elected governor last fall. The 2008 legislative package came about at a time that state attorneys general across the nation were raising concerns about social media sites such as Facebook and Myspace, hoping to protect users from sexual predators using the networks.

Many states have laws that require sex offenders to provide information about their internet use to authorities. States also limit internet use as a condition of parole or probation. Louisiana has a law similar to North Carolina’s, but unlike the N.C. law just struck down, Louisiana’s applies only to people convicted of sex crimes with children, according to a document filed in Supreme Court. MORE:

Collateral Consequences Resource Center | June 20, 2017
SCOTUS invalidates law criminalizing sex offender access to social media

By Wayne Logan

Excerpts: Whereas in multiple prior decisions the Court characterized the governmental interest in combatting sexual offending against children as very significant, and invoked dramatic rhetoric of recidivism risk of sex offenders as a whole as “frightening and high” and the like, Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the Court refrained from such language; it simply emphasized the seriousness of preventing sexual offenses directed at children.

The absence of such inflammatory rhetoric about recidivism risk perhaps reflects awareness of recent scholarship making clear that inflated empirical assessments of risk, repeatedly invoked as justification by courts and legislatures to justify expansive and often draconian sex offender-related policies, are well off the mark. (Indeed, it is worth noting that Justice Kennedy himself has used such language in the past.)

Second, and no less important, is language in Packingham suggesting a possible softening of the Court’s customary unequivocal backing of laws imposing harsh sanctions on convicted sex offenders, which the Court acknowledged as numbering among the array of collateral consequences experienced by individuals.

Also, it must be acknowledged that while Justice Kennedy’s opinion was joined by four colleagues (Justice Gorsuch did not take part), the three-member concurrence authored by Justice Alito (joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Thomas) contains some of the hyperbolic recidivism-related rhetoric found in prior opinions. MORE:

Packingham v. North Carolina
U.S. Supreme Court, No. 15-1194
Decision issued June 19, 2017:

Oral argument – Feb. 27, 2017 – archived audio and transcript:

Legal briefs:

I wonder how many NC cops are now free of desk duty scouring FB (I’m sure they never did any personal FB activities while “fighting crime” in this manner) and can go out and actually do law enforcement activities that help society. Unfortunately, they will probably just buttress the compliance-check jackboots.


Here is one last article from wral (out of Raleigh, NC) For those who aren’t familiar with them, they tend to be a very conservative group. This is an excellent opinion from their parent company, capitol broadcasting company (cbc). They really take it to the NC legislature about how they play politics in NC.

***please do not copy and paste full articles. Moderator***