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Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

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The California Supreme Court issued an order to show cause in the case challenging the residency restrictions of Proposition 83, approved by the voters last November. Bob Egelko reports here for the SF Chron. The case is In re E.J., S156933. The docket is here.

Procedurally, the case is an "original habeas petition," meaning it was filed directly in the California Supreme Court rather than as an appeal from the decision of a lower court. Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court -- which can only take original habeas petitions when they are, in practice, reviews of other court decisions -- Cal. Supreme has jurisdiction to hear these cases without a lower court decision. The usual practice in noncapital cases is to say "go away and file in another court," but this case was evidently considered important enough to take the fast track. The order to show cause effectively accepts the case for full consideration.

We at CJLF have been unenthused about the residency restriction from the beginning. The requirement that sex offenders live no closer than 2000 feet from any school or park was ill-considered, effectively banning them from densely populated areas. An exodus of sex offenders from San Francisco to Merced is not a good thing. We supported Prop. 83 anyway because of other worthwhile provisions but warned that the constitutionality of this one was borderline.

Winston Churchill once said something to the effect that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. In California, we take that a step further. Direct democracy is the worst form of democracy except for the other. If our Legislature were not so dysfunctional, we wouldn't have to make nearly all important criminal law by initiative. But it is, and we do.

1 Comment

How could you have supported Prop. 83 knowing it had so many Constitutional challenges as well knowing that it painted sex offenders with a very broad brush and would lead to many unintended consequences. Your comment about direct democracy couldn't be more true. You cannot put these types of issues to a vote of the people as the politicians will take advantage of their lack of knowledge and believe whatever they are told. We are spending millions soon to be billions to enforce a law that does not work. What kind of stupidity do we, the taxpayers, have to live with?

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