From William Dobbs:
News: Just before the deadline, as expected, Michigan filed a petition asking the US Supreme Court to review Doe v. Snyder. So far this effort to get help from the Supreme Court hasn’t made the news; the legal papers are not yet online.
Doe v. Snyder is an important decision concerning Michigan’s sex offense registry. Lots of cheering by registrants, lawyers and civil libertarians last summer when the ruling was handed down by a federal appeals court, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Michigan is unhappy and hoping to get some relief from the US Supreme Court. The chances? Many requests for review are made but few are granted…
The petition, recidivism fears: The public has much fear about sex offenses, and that those convicted of such crimes will do it again—recidivism. These widespread fears play a role in the creation of registries and other draconian laws. Michigan’s petition to the Supreme Court starts off with a bang, saying the recidivism rates related to sex offenses are “frightening and high,” quoting from a landmark 2003 Supreme Court case (Smith v. Doe). That’s a very interesting beginning because in 2015 a widely circulated essay by Ira and Tara Ellman debunked that claim—the statement was based on the bragging of a treatment provider, not on research. Recidivism rates are actually among the *lowest* for any category of offenses. With its fateful words in that 2003 decision the Supreme Court promoted a falsehood that went on to infect a whole area of law and policy. The Supreme Court’s own dubious reasoning has now come back to haunt – what will the court do? “Circuit splits” are another big issue in Michigan’s petition, there’s plenty about federal and state courts who see the registry as a mere administrative mechanism and refuse to reckon with its power to incapacitate, to cause what Michelle Alexander calls, “social death.”
Background: Michigan’s registry is one of the largest in the country with over 42,000 individuals required to sign it. Lawmakers didn’t just get the registry rolling and call it a day, over the years they’ve been enacting ever harsher measures designed to slam registrants harder and harder. A federal court lawsuit knocked some holes in the state’s registry law; Michigan, the losing party, took its plea to a federal appeals court. Late last summer a three judge panel of the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a remarkable ruling in Doe v. Snyder that did really serious damage to Michigan’s scarlet letter machinery. The appeals court blasted various registration requirements as “punitive,” the first federal appeals court to do so. And it put a stop to piling more penalties on those already sentenced, ruling the practice is ex post facto and unconstitutional.
What’s ahead: Next, the legal eagles fighting for justice for Michigan registrants will be answering this petition, led by Miriam Aukerman of the Michigan ACLU and Paul Reingold of the Michigan Clinical Law Program. –Bill Dobbs