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Court nixes South Carolina’s lifelong sex offender registry
Court Issues | 2021/06/09 17:21
South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a state law requiring sex offenders to register for life, without prior judicial review, is unconstitutional.

In a unanimous ruling, justices wrote that “requirement that sex offenders must register for life without any opportunity for judicial review violates due process because it is arbitrary and cannot be deemed rationally related to the General Assembly’s stated purpose of protecting the public from those with a high risk of re-offending.”

Justices set a 12-month timeline to implement the ruling, to give state lawmakers time to “correct the deficiency in the statute regarding judicial review.”

The case stems from a lawsuit originally brought by Dennis Powell, who was arrested in 2008 for criminal solicitation of a minor after authorities said he had graphic online conversations with someone he thought was a 12-year-old girl, but who was actually an undercover officer.

After pleading guilty, Powell was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to register as a sex offender, which South Carolina’s statute mandates as a lifelong situation.

South Carolina’s sex offender statute requires biannual registration, in-person at a sheriff’s office, but provides for no periodic review by a judge, a situation the Supreme Court called “the most stringent in the country.”

“The lifetime inclusion of individuals who have a low risk of re-offending renders the registry over-inclusive and dilutes its utility by creating an ever-growing list of registrants that is less effective at protecting the public and meeting the needs of law enforcement,” justices wrote. “There is no evidence in the record that current statistics indicate all sex offenders generally pose a high risk of re-offending.”

The court ruled that Powell should be immediately removed from the state’s sex offender registry. Powell had also challenged a portion of the statute that permits the registry to be published online, which the court upheld.

Attorneys for both Powell and the State Law Enforcement Division did not immediately return text messages seeking comment on the ruling.


New Hampshire high court lifting mask requirement; theater reopening
Court Issues | 2021/06/06 22:37
The New Hampshire Supreme Court is allowing people to go without a mask in courts throughout the state as of Monday, with some exceptions.

The change revokes an order that was in place since July 2020.

People who are currently in a courtroom or jury room for trials or grand jury proceedings will still be required to wear masks through the month of June.

The court said the order doesn’t apply to common areas of a building used as a courthouse or a judicial branch workplace, if, and to the extent that, the building is owned by an independent organization that requires face coverings in common areas.

The court also revoked part of an order that had required people returning from international or cruise-ship travel to self-isolate for 14 days before entering state courthouses.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire House has rejected an attempt to make infectious diseases like COVID-19 a qualifying condition for absentee voting.

Lawmakers made temporary changes last year to allow voters to cite the coronavirus as a reason for casting absentee ballots only for the September 2020 primary and November general election.

This year, the Senate passed a bill that would have allowed someone to vote absentee due to “medical conditions that pose a risk of infection to others or where infection from others carries significant health risk.” But the House removed that language Thursday in passing the bill, which also makes other changes to absentee ballot envelopes.



Appeals court upholds guilty verdicts in NCAA bribes case
Court Issues | 2021/06/04 17:50
The convictions of a sports business manager and an amateur basketball coach in a conspiracy to bribe top college coaches to get them to steer NBA-bound athletes to favored handlers were upheld Friday by an appeals court.

The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan affirmed the 2019 convictions of Christian Dawkins and youth basketball coach Merl Code on a single conspiracy count. Dawkins was also convicted of bribery. They were acquitted of some other charges.

The prosecution resulted from a criminal probe that exposed how financial advisers and business managers paid tens of thousands of dollars to college coaches and athletes’ families to steer highly regarded high school players to big-program colleges, sometimes with the help of apparel makers who signed sponsorship deals with schools.

During the trial, universities were portrayed by prosecutors as victims of greedy financial advisers and coaches while defense lawyers asserted that schools were complicit in any corruption that occurred in 2016 and 2017.

Circuit Judge William J. Nardini, writing for a three-judge panel, said the judges rejected arguments that the law used to convict the men was unconstitutionally applied and that various rulings about evidence and other matters by the trial judge were erroneous.

“We are unpersuaded by these arguments,” Nardini wrote, saying the judges did not agree with arguments that the federal law used to convict the men should be limited as it pertains to the universe of “agents” to be influenced or the business of the federally funded organizations involved.


Justices signal they could limit Indian Country ruling
Court Issues | 2021/05/26 18:18
The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted Oklahoma’s request to retain custody of a man who has been on death row for killing three Native Americans, a sign the court may be willing to limit the fallout from last year’s ruling that much of eastern Oklahoma remains a tribal reservation.

The action came in the case of Shaun Bosse, whose conviction and death sentence for the murders of Katrina Griffin and her two young children were overturned by a state appeals court.

The order makes it likely that the high court will weigh in soon on the extent of its 5-4 ruling last year in McGirt v. Oklahoma.

The state court had held that state prosecutors had no authority to try Bosse for the killings, which took place on the Chicksaw Nation’s reservation, based on the McGirt decision.

Hundreds of criminal convictions, including several death sentences for first-degree murder, have been set aside, and tribal and federal officials have been scrambling to refile those cases in tribal or U.S. district court.

Oklahoma argued to the Supreme Court that it can prosecute crimes committed by non-Native Americans like Bosse, even if the scene of the crime is on tribal land. The state also said there might be technical legal reasons for rejecting Bosse’s claims.

The three liberal justices dissented from the order but did not explain their disagreement. They were in last year’s majority, along with Justice Neil Gorsuch, the author of the opinion. Gorsuch did not publicly dissent from Wednesday’s order.

The fifth member of the McGirt majority was Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. She has been replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Bosse already has been charged with the killings in federal court, and he had been scheduled to be transferred to federal custody. But he could not be sentenced to death under the federal charges.


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