The Dobbs Wire: Colorado Registry Declared Unconstitutional Cruel & Unusual Punishment

Win in Colorado:  A federal judge declared Colorado’s sex offense registry law unconstitutional! The court ruled the law is *punishment* and went even farther, finding the law is such severe punishment (“cruel and unusual”) that it violates the 8th Amendment. In addition the court found the law fails to deliver constitutionally mandated basic fairness (“due process”) and violates the 14th Amendment. For multiple reasons, as applied, the law is unconstitutional.  Three individuals are immediately impacted (this was not a class action); the judge has stopped Colorado from enforcing the law against the trio and now they can move on with their lives. There’s much more at stake and work to do – over 18,000 are on the Colorado registry – and this ruling provides a roadmap for further legal action. Meanwhile, Colorado officials who operate the state’s scarlet letter machinery are not happy. Will they appeal this decision?  Stay tuned!  Congratulations to all those who stood and fought for their rights, kudos to Denver legal eagle Alison Ruttenberg for a long, successful fight, this challenge began over four years ago.         

Worth a read:  There’s much in the opinion about the daily lives of people on the registry and even those who associate with them such as a woman who let a registrant live in her house and, even after he moved out, suffered so much scorn she had to sell the house. Another registrant was not home when police came by for a routine check, he returned home to find a highly visible fluorescent tag put on the front door by police. Jobs lost, apartments refused, lives shattered.  At one point the opinion describes such treatment as Kafka-esque. Judge Richard Matsch was appointed to the federal bench in 1974 by Richard Nixon; he has a “law and order” reputation. Below are links to the court’s decision, reports from the Denver Post and Westword, and local TV coverage.  –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire

Denver Post | Sept. 1, 2017

By Kirk Mitchell

Excerpts:  A federal judge has ruled that Colorado’s sex offender registration act violates the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. His Thursdayruling says the act was punitive to three sex offenders who sued the state.  Matsch found that Colorado’s registration act causes sex offenders and their family members to face a “serious threat of retaliation, violence, ostracism, shaming, and other unfair and irrational treatment from the public, directly resulting from their status as registered sex offenders…”

The judge’s ruling criticized Colorado legislators who claimed that the sex offender act is not punitive. “The register is telling the public — DANGER – STAY AWAY. How is the public to react to this warning? What is expected to be the means by which people are to protect themselves and their children?” Matsch wrote in his ruling.

Technically the judge’s ruling only applies to the three plaintiffs in the case, but it could lead to more universal impact, particularly if the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the decision on appeal, said Boulder attorney Alison Ruttenberg, the attorney for the three plaintiffs.  MORE:

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/09/01/colorado-sex-offender-registration-act-unconstitutional/

Westword | Sept. 1, 2017

By Alan Prendergast

Excerpts:  A veteran federal judge has ruled that Colorado's sex offender registry violates rights of due process and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.  Dated August 31, U.S. District Senior Judge Richard Matsch's scathing opinion applies only to three plaintiffs, all convicted sex offenders, who complained that the registry's requirements had made it difficult for them to find employment and housing and set them up for harassment long after they'd served their prison time. But to the extent that the plaintiffs' experiences mirror those of other felons on the list, the ruling could have far-reaching implications

Matsch found the "public shaming" and harassment that results from a person's name appearing on the registry to be a form of punitive action beyond the actual sentence for the offense, particularly given the ease with which information now moves from government sites to social media and beyond: "A convicted offender is knowingly placed in peril of additional punishment, beyond that to which he has been sentenced pursuant to legal proceedings and due process, at the random whim and caprice of unknowable and unpredictable members of the public. This risk continues for the entire time a sex offender is on the registry, and perhaps even beyond that if he is fortunate enough to eventually deregister."  MORE:

http://www.westword.com/news/judge-rules-colorados-sex-offender-registry-cruel-and-unusual-9437985

CBS4 Denver/KCNC via YouTube | Aug. 31, 2017

Judge: Colorado's Sex Offender Registry Violates Rights (VIDEO)

5:00 PM Newscast

10:00 PM Newscast

Millard v. Rankin

U.S. District Court for Colorado, No. 13-02406

Ruling filed Aug. 31, 2017:

http://sentencing.typepad.com/files/20170831-millard-ruling-re-sex-offender-registry-.pdf