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California resident sues four Orange County cities over sex offender ordinances

A registered sex offender filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of California [official website] last week challenging ordinances in four Orange County cities that ban registered sex offenders from city-owned parks, campgrounds and other recreational areas where children may gather. The city ordinances were all modeled after a 2011 Orange County ordinance [press release] that prohibits registered sex offenders from entering any county-owned parks or recreational areas. The plaintiff is an Orange County resident who alleges that the laws violate his First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounders] rights by denying him freedom to assemble peacefully and by taking away his rights without due process of the law. He also alleges that the ban amounts to an unconstitutional additional punishment for his crime, as he has already served the full sentence under his conviction of fifteen years ago. The cities being sued are Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Lake Forest. The chief of staff of the Orange County District Attorney's office defended [LA Times report] the city ordinances, stating that the office will work with the cities' attorneys to fight the lawsuit and noting that fourteen Orange County cities have adopted sex offender rules on recommendation by the district attorney. The unnamed plaintiff reportedly is married and has children.

The rights of convicted sex offenders has been the subject of many constitutional-based lawsuits. In January the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled 7-2 [JURIST report] that people who were convicted of sex offenses before the enactment of the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act [final guidelines, PDF] did not have to register under the act until the attorney general validly specified that the provisions applied to them. A few days earlier, a federal appeals court struck down [JURIST report] a city ordinance that banned sex offenders from libraries in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Last year the American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] also challenged [JURIST report] a Louisiana law that limited Internet use for registered sex offenders. In 2010, a federal appeals court upheld [JURIST report] indefinite detention of mentally ill sex offenders as constitutional.

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