By Robin Vander Wall . . . On April 16, 2018, NARSOL’s attorney, Paul Dubbeling, represented NARSOL, NCRSOL, and two Doe plaintiffs before federal District Court Judge Loretta Biggs at a hearing to defend NARSOL v. Stein against the state of North Carolina’s Motion to Dismiss.

Then on May 30, Judge Biggs entered an order seeking “a more definite statement” of the original complaint which was understood as a request for clarification of the lawsuit. The suit being already more than 18-months-old, and frustrated by the Court’s apparent apprehension regarding the complexities of the case, discussions about the appropriate remedy ensued.

After careful consideration, the decision was made to narrow the lawsuit by filing an amended complaint limited to claims seeking relief under an ex post facto theory of constitutional law (similar to the Does v. Snyder case out of the Sixth Circuit).

NARSOL, et alia’s amended complaint was filed on June 20. The state of North Carolina now has a new opportunity to move for the dismissal of the revised lawsuit (which means that the plaintiffs will also have an opportunity to defend against its dismissal at a hearing that is not yet scheduled).

On July 5, NCRSOL and the two Does from the original lawsuit filed a separate complaint against NCGS § 14-208.18 (NC’s revised premises statute) advancing First Amendment claims of vagueness and overbreadth and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. The new lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

Judge Biggs appears to have been persuaded by the state’s arguments against the complexity of the original complaint. However, I don’t believe that’s the real issue here. In my opinion (and I need to emphasize that this is strictly my own opinion), Judge Biggs simply doesn’t want to be the judge who puts the dagger into the heart of North Carolina’s most deliberate attempt since the Civil Rights era at resurrecting Jim Crow styled laws.

Restricting where American citizens can be and where they can go is not a new practice for Southern legislatures. But it IS a practice that one may believe was well settled as bad public policy a long time ago. However, it’s possible Judge Biggs doesn’t share the same sentiment. She may think that it’s perfectly reasonable (and rational) for the state to discriminate against its citizens on the basis of conditions that are unrelated to race. Who can know?

NCRSOL also plans to file an additional lawsuit in the coming weeks challenging NCGS § 14-208.18 on grounds that it violates religious freedom by restricting registered citizens’ access to and participation in worship services.

The North Carolina Constitution very clearly states that [a]ll persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience (NC Const., Art. I, Sec. 13).

So, what was once a solitary case has now become two separate federal actions and will likely be supplemented with a third state-level action very soon. The NC Attorney General’s Office (already under tremendous stress from budget cuts) might want to rethink its strategy for opposing future cases related to the sex offender registry. While it once had only one case to defend against, now it’s facing the possibility of three.

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