Dear Members and Advocates,

This past week, I had to do a double take when reading court filings… Twice! On the 9th, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed an amicus brief arguing that Michigan’s sex offender registration and notification requirements are punishment and just yesterday, U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins wrote an order saying that “sex offenders are not second-class citizens” as he struck provisions of Alabama’s registration statute!

If you had to read the preceding paragraph twice to make sure you got it right, you can imagine what I was thinking without the one-sentence interpretation. But it was true! Michigan’s Attorney General wrote in her argument to the court that “the state Sex Offender Registration Act has gone far beyond its purpose and now imposes burdens that are so punitive in their effect that they negate the State’s public safety justification.” And a Federal Judge, quoting Thomas Paine, warned the state that if they are not careful to safeguard the constitutional rights of sex offenders, their rights may be in jeopardy next.

After reading (and re-reading and re-reading), my prior sense that the “kool aid” that people have been drinking for so long is getting a little sour was reinforced.

AG Nessel, who was sworn into office this past January, has nothing political to lose. But it’s not only that which gives her the courage to state something so politically “controversial”. Her bio and track record demonstrate that she simply has the integrity to do the right thing! Her civil rights initiatives have earned her the “Champion of Justice” award from the Michigan State Bar Association. Most importantly, the fact that the people of Michigan voted her into office over four other candidates is a positive indication of the public sentiment in that state. You can read her Brief here.

US District Judge W. Keith Watkins, in the introductory paragraphs of his decision, wrote “The State of Alabama says that these restrictions protect the public, especially children, from recidivist sex offenders. That is a compelling state interest. But sex offenders are not second-class citizens. The Constitution protects their liberty and dignity just as it protects everyone else’s.” Cool! I had to see if Judge Watkins was liberal like AG Nessel or what else was driving his courage. Turns out he was a George W. Bush appointee and what’s driving his courage is his willingness to uphold the law – despite how unpopular his decisions might be. In 2017 he issued an order enabling a white supremacist to speak at Auburn University despite the administrators cancelling the event.

Whether democrat or republican, popular or unpopular, two individuals showed the courage to speak the truth and hopefully put their states on the path to ending an injustice that has been permitted to drag on for far too long. But I don’t think it starts with them. Somewhere, at some point, someone must have educated these people on the facts and research concerning sex offender issues. A.G. Nessel’s brief cited more than four dozen authorities, many of which we’ve shared with our members over the years. But it doesn’t even start there. Someone had to participate in the studies and help draw attention to the research. That’s where our jobs as advocates play a role in the process. And from the looks of things, it’s a process that’s working.

In other news; FAC sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the US Embassy in Philippines, to find out just what was meant when the Philippine Immigration Commissioner said their bureau was awarded a certificate of commendation by the US Embassy in Manila after “registering the second highest number of excluded American RSOs throughout the world last year”. The US Government claims that the Green Notices it sends as part of International Megan’s Law are not intended to induce other countries to prevent persons required to register from travelling there, but the facts seem to certainly say otherwise. If it turns out that our government is rewarding or encouraging other countries to exclude us, it’s fair to say a lawsuit will be coming.


The Florida Action Committee




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