A federal court today issued a decision that denies a motion to dismiss two claims filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in the pending SORNA lawsuit. The focus of the decision is the application of the recently issued SORNA regulations.
The federal government has argued in the past that the SORNA regulations apply to every person convicted of a sex offense unless there has been a court finding of innocence. Plaintiffs have argued that the SORNA regulations apply only to those who are currently required to register.
In its decision, the court criticized the federal government stating that DOJ “has not provided any clarification or further explanation” regarding the applicability of the regulations. Instead, the court noted that the federal government has asserted that “it need not concern itself with the peculiarities of state law” even though most individuals are convicted in state court, not federal court, of a sex offense.
The court also noted that if the court were to accept the federal government’s assertion regarding applicability of the regulations, “many offenders across the country who cannot register with their states are apparently supposed to hope they are not prosecuted by the federal government, and if they are, they should try to prove ‘impossibility’ at trial.” The court further noted that the federal government’s assertion reflects “a maximalist interpretation of the federal scheme.”
“Today’s decision is a significant victory for registrants and their loved ones,” stated ACSOL Executive Director Janice Bellucci. “This challenge, filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation and led by attorney Caleb Kruckenberg, will now continue with all of its claims intact.”
An important part of today’s decision is the court’s invitation for both parties to file motions for summary judgment in the case. As noted by the court, filing such motions will create an administrative record that is missing at this time. The court opined that “(w)ithout assessing the administrative record, the Court can just as easily conclude that the DOJ simply created some reasonable-sounding principles out of thin air.”
Today’s decision does not change in any way the Preliminary Injunction granted by the court that protects all registrants in California from the SORNA regulations. The injunction, however, does not apply to registrants who reside outside of that state.
Download a PDF of the order: