MI: SCOTUS denies review in Snyder v. Doe

UPDATE: Statement from the Michigan ACLU

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it will not hear the State of Michigan’s appeal in a challenge to the state¹ sex offender registration law, which was dealt a major blow by a federal appeals court in a unanimous decision last year.

Today’s announcement effectively requires the Michigan legislature to replace the existing law, thus creating an opportunity to reform Michigan’s registry, which has been widely criticized as bloated and ineffective. The lawsuit was originally brought by the ACLU of Michigan and the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program in 2012.¹

“Courts have repeatedly recognized that Michigan’s sex offender registry is not just unconstitutional, but it’s an abject failure,” said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney. “Our communities deserve effective public-safety measures that are based in facts and research, not wasteful and counterproductive policies based in fear. We look forward to working with the legislature on a common-sense approach that serves our communities.”

In 2006 and 2011, the state legislature expanded the Sex Offender Registration Act (SORA), originally passed in 1994, creating harsher measures for registrants. The amendments retroactively made most registrants register for life and imposed geographic exclusion zones barring them from living, working, or spending time with their children in large areas of every city and town. Additionally, the legislature added extensive and onerous new in-person reporting requirements that make it a crime for registrants to borrow a car, travel for a week, or get a new email account without immediately notifying the police. The changes were imposed without due process or a mechanism for review or appeal for the vast majority of registrants.

The plaintiffs in the case must all register for life despite decades old offenses and the fact that they do not pose a risk to their communities. Some plaintiffs were convicted as teens of consensual sex with younger teens, one person never committed a sex offense, and another was never convicted of a crime. All of the plaintiffs are parents or grandparents and as a result of SORA they cannot attend their children or grandchildren’s graduations, sports events or school performances. Because the state posts pictures and extensive personal information about the plaintiffs online – including maps of where they live and work – they have repeatedly lost housing and jobs, and one plaintiff even faced death threats.

By denying the review, the Supreme Court leaves in place a decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which declared that portions of the law are unconstitutional. Noting the lack of evidence that registries actually protect the public, the appeals court held that restrictions added to the law after its original passage cannot be applied retroactively and that the state cannot cast people out as “moral lepers” solely on the basis of a past offense without a determination that they currently present a risk.¹ The state appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Research proves that registries do nothing to keep us safe – in fact, they makes us less safe, as people with past offenses are stigmatized and pushed to the margins of society, making it harder for them to get jobs or an education, find homes, or take care of their families,” said Paul Reingold of the University of Michigan Law School. “Smart public policy and current research show that this law should be reconsidered from the ground up.”

Michigan has nearly 44,000 registrants, making it the fourth largest sex offender registry in the country, with the third highest registration rate per capita of any state. Michigan adds about 2,000 people to the registry each year, or about 5 a day.

To learn more about this case, go to: www.aclumich.org/SORAinfo


Breaking news: The Supreme Court also denied review in Snyder v. Doe, a challenge to Michigan’s sex-offender registry (Whether retroactively applying a sex-offender-registry law that classifies offenders into tiers based on crime of conviction, requires certain offenders to register for life, requires offenders to report in person periodically and within days of certain changes to registry information, and restricts offenders’ activities within school zones imposes “punishment” in violation of the ex post facto clause.)

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TO ALL: This is not a bad decision from SCOTUS in the sense of recognition that these issues are coming to a head. Yes, in time, SCOTUS will have to rule, eventually. However, it is bad for those that the current laws apply to that were in effect when the person was sentenced. But, this refusal by SCOTUS to deny review of the Federal 6th Circuit’s ruling can still be used as a battering ram to chip pieces away at the SORNA laws in each state. This fight to move to our side had to start somewhere. Attorneys Miriam Auckerman from ACLU of Eastern Michigan and our Janice Berlucci, bravely started this fight when all odds were against them. So, this SCOTUS refusal really is a good decision this from a legal standpoint. I feel that if the Muniz decision is refused to be reviewed by SCOTUS, for now, it would be a good thing. Though, some of these State decisions are based on State Law and the State’s Constitution, and other state’s do not have the protections on the State level Constitution as does PA (which actually is the oldest State Constitution in America). None-the-less, after a while there will be someone challenging their State Constitution is lacking adequate protections, and SCOTUS will have no choice but hear the case and decide. But, no matter how you look at the SCOTUS refusal to review, it is good, all-in-all. Now, with that said… There are new lawsuits developing, but not filed yet, that will challenge the enactment of these laws as unconstitutional enactment of law. Several attorneys in Florida feel that either the Legislature was lied to by their Bill’s sponsors to enact these laws, or the Legislature lied to the public, since the “Preambles” used in all SORNA laws (the published reason to enact the law), now can be shown that the Preambles were based on lies, fabricated and embellished information, and there is no evidentiary support or legal reason now to have enacted these laws, so, in essence, they were enacted illegally when all the data available now shows just opposite of why the SORNA laws should be enacted. Before this time, there was not enough legal history and empirical data, government statistics, and testimony from Therapy Professionals to use in support of challenging the constitutional legality of SORNA laws. Over the years, data was collected, professional testimony was taken, empirical data was complied, and legal decisions were made, giving the body of SORNA laws history. All of this evidence shows that these laws were enacted for the opposite reasons that all of this evidence now shows. It is a far reach in this type of constitutional challenge (to declare a law illegally enacted) because the Legislature Courts have decided that if the Legislature enacted a law, it is presumed to be correct when enacting the law. The light at the end of the tunnel… SCOTUS just helped us out greatly in this type of new legal challenge!

AJ, here’s an interesting article from an insider source regarding justices Gorsuch relationship with the rest of the conservative allies. If this is true and continue…it may affect us in a good way in the near future near u. http://www.kctv5.com/story/36548844/gorsuch-v-roberts-the-rookie-takes-on-the-chief

@AJ…here’s an interesting article ( Gorsuch v. Roberts: The rookie takes on the chief) from an insider source regarding justices Gorsuch relationship with the rest of the conservative allies. If this is true and continue…it may affect us in a good way in the near future near u. http://www.kctv5.com/story/36548844/gorsuch-v-roberts-the-rookie-takes-on-the-chief

I’m here!


Thanks! I did see your answer just now. I have been really busy with kids and school stuff and have only been on here quickly to check headlines. I did have to step back a little when I saw SCOTUS didn’t take either case. I just can’t believe how this has given the green light for civil commitment to ignore the constitution and do as it pleases with no repercussions pretty much in every state.

If anything, I am glad that by posing the question you got the lawyer thinking about it. Lawyers usually look at things in little compartments, and it isn’t until you look at all the problems with the registry and how it de-rails the existing justice system that you truly understand how and why this is a bad thing for everyone, and not just registrants.

Good to hear from you Chris, I was wondering what happened to you. As far as that civil commitment case, they made a huge, and fatal, error by including so many people as plantiffs. The judge had to find ways to decide against these guys, politically and professionally, to save his own a….And with that many people as plantiffs it was very easy. You cannot challenge such a program with such a broad range of offenders, that provides all the court precendented protections required for civil commitment. I know its a faux due process, but nonetheless it is sufficient to satisfy the courts standards. I don’t agree with it, but that is the real world. I am no lawyer or law professor, but it seems common sense that you cannot challenge such a program on a as applied challenge with so many different individuals who have such a diverse sort of circumstances. This needs to be challenged on an individual as applied basis, they need to lay out what exactly is the fundamental liberties that are being violated,ie right to family, right to travel, not things like association or speach where they can say is adequate in their current system for there broad array of detainees, cruel and unusual punishment and excessiveness, just to name a few, and has to be carefully crafted by each individual to spotlight the deficiency in that program, as applied to that individual’s circumstances. they will have to have all the empirical evidence, all the expert testimony or evaluation reports and conclusions, along with things lime any types of post relief plans, that would include some type of reporting requirements and active therapy participation, as well as where and with whom they will live with. You have to remember at some point these individuals have been deemed an SVP, although it isn’t just or fair, the burden of proof of anything, pretty much lies in these individuals hands. They need to all file as applied challenges and lay out their specific circumstances and what fundamental liberties are being violated.that’s just where it needs to begin then you have to research prove to the court you are not dangerous. They all have a right to judicial redress at any time, as I have been telling everyone who is going to wait to petition when “they” say you can and under what circumstances, as allready proven by their overbroad as applied and facial challenge. I believe it can still be won on individual basis not with a broad range of different types of offenders.