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Janice's Journal

Janice’s Journal: Mourning the Loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

After a long battle with cancer, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died yesterday. She and her wisdom will be missed profoundly.

As a civil rights attorney, an appellate court judge and a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Ginsburg could be counted on to understand the plight of the underdog. She also understood that being an underdog does not mean you have no rights.

Ginsburg is best known for fighting for, and then protecting, the rights of women. She is less known for her position on registrants.

Yet buried in the infamous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, Smith v. Doe, Ginsburg spoke clearly about her understanding of registrants and the challenges they face in her dissent to that decision.

Although a majority of her colleagues determined that the sex offender laws in the state of Alaska were not punitive and could therefore be applied retroactively, Ginsburg strongly disagreed and determined that those laws were excessive in relation to their alleged nonpunitive purpose.

Ginsburg accurately saw and reported that Alaska’s sex offender laws imposed “onerous and intrusive obligations on convicted sex offenders.” She went on to report that those laws expose “registrants, through aggressive public notification of their crimes, to profound humiliation and community-wide ostracism.” Ginsburg added that the laws “resemble historically common forms of punishment” and called to mind “shaming punishments once used to mark an offender as someone to be shunned.”

Also, in her dissent, Ginsburg noted that the Alaska laws applied to registrants, without regard to their current or future risk to public safety. She further noted that the duration of the state’s reporting requirements was not keyed to “any determination of a particular offender’s risk of reoffending, but to whether the offense of conviction was aggravated.”

And according to Ginsburg, the reporting requirements in the Alaska laws did not reflect the possibility that registrants are capable of rehabilitation. Specifically, she stated that “(h)owever plain it may be that a former sex offender currently poses no threat of recidivism, he will remain subject to long-term monitoring and inescapable humiliation.”

Your wisdom and your voice will be missed, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We thank you for your understanding of, and compassion for, the underdog including those required to register as a sex offender. We thank you for inspiring us to continue to fight incrementally until society recognizes that all citizens, including registrants, have rights and are protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Join the discussion

  1. Mp

    Thank you for that bit of history. She was an incredible woman. May she be resting in peace.

  2. New Person

    She was a fighter till the end. Her stance on equality expanded beyond women’s rights, to which all on here are grateful. Prayers to her and her family as well as friends. May she rest in peace.

  3. Resident

    Rest in power Justice Ginsburg.

    We’re going to use your dissent to get past this!

  4. Brandon

    I didn’t always agree with RBG yet she was a woman to be remembered. May her legacy live on as our country mourns her loss and comfort those who feel hopeless that her fighting spirit will help causes to prevail. RIP Justice Ginsberg

  5. Mark Judkins

    Thank you Janice for reminding us all how she fought for those who’s rights were taken. She will stand, I hope, as a reminder to all Judges that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are for everyone. We should all strive to uphold the rights of all as she did. She will be missed.

  6. Detroit

    One more nail in the coffin for civil liberties.

    • Timmmy

      Actually, he decisions were against liberty. Decisions against second amendment for example. The replacement Trump has nominated at least goes by what the law says, and not making stuff up like many of the justices do now.

      As an example, the Affordable Care Act. They decided it was a tax. That is not even what the law stated. The law stated if you did not have health insurance, you would get a fine added to your taxes. A fine is not a tax, it’s a punishment.

  7. Underdog

    Janice, thank you for sharing your personal reflection and providing us with insight regarding RBG’s Dissents. I’m certainly a fan of anyone who battles in favor of the underdogs; and Justice Ginsburg spent a lifetime doing just that. May she rest in peace.

  8. Saddles

    Janice you summed that up nicely from the red book. Thats what some call the big thick book of laws when entering or persuring a degree. Yes I had a big thick book of laws and cases when I was taking my criminal Justice course. Didn’t know to much about Ginsburg but she was an understandable lady of government equality and justice. Sure dad had to understand much even about utility laws and many other things of that nature.

    Yes Ms. Ginsburg went thru cancer and my mom went thru that battle also. This registry has a lot of unconstutional pit holes in it or are governments today abusing many today in many ways or has the resourse of government gotten worse since The riots of the 60’s the liberty of true justice or do men and women still reason today. She was a remarkable lady. God rest her soul.

    So maybe we all can see its not all about Sex or this ordeal we all face in many ways. Look at the meat packaging industry, forms of quality control. See those are topics that all lawyers face at times. Sure safety issues are good but actually getting down to the truth of the matter is a bit wooblie with much of this offender issue/ordeal going on.

    Sure my dad hated to go to court to represent the gas company as governments can be very confusing. I don’t even know what the legal age si to drive in some states anymore. Even this passport thing is way out of line, or it says on your drivers license your a sex offener. Yes this ordeal we are all in is a Constitutional issue.

    I can understand a bit more in many issues why that preacher I met on this computer said to me just let it go and forget about it. See we all can learn a lot of wisdom by Solomon even about life understanding , after all Solomon was a judge in those days.

    Most of this registry is a pseduo form of justice or synthetic form of deterrent and from hearing some story’s, comments, and viewpoints it has gotten got of line which should make one understand more about this registry that effects all areas in many ways.

  9. David

    A truly remarkable scholar-jurist who tirelessly fought for – and sought fair treatment for – the disadvantaged. Her passing will be mourned for a long time.

  10. Tim in WO

    Janice,
    You’d make a time nominee to fill her seat. You each got it right on the registration punitivity issue. The Don says he’s nominating a female, I hope she has your guts.

  11. LPH

    Think about this:
    A US supreme court justice is nominated by the President of the US and confirmed by the Senate… 100 people out of 330 million. Wow. This needs to change.

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