ROE v. FARWELLNo. Civ.A. 97-10715-WGY.
999 F.Supp. 174 (1998)
John ROE, Plaintiff,
Winthrop FARWELL, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety; Craig Burlingame, Executive Director, Criminal History Systems Board; Kathleen O'Toole, Secretary, Executive Office of Public Safety and Chairwoman, Sex Offender Registry Board; John F. Hollow, Chief of Police, Lynn, Defendants.
Winthrop FARWELL, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety; Craig Burlingame, Executive Director, Criminal History Systems Board; Kathleen O'Toole, Secretary, Executive Office of Public Safety and Chairwoman, Sex Offender Registry Board; John F. Hollow, Chief of Police, Lynn, Defendants.
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.
March 31, 1998.
William B. VanLonkhuyzen, Zalkind, Sheketoff, Wilson, Homan, Rodriguez & Lunt, Boston, MA, for John Roe, plaintiff.
Loretta M. Smith, Attorney General's Office, Boston, MA, George S. Markopoulos, Lynn, MA, for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
YOUNG, District Judge.
This case presents to this Court questions faced in many jurisdictions across this country regarding the constitutionality of sex offender registration and notification statutes commonly referred to as "Megan's Laws" after seven year old Megan Kanka of New Jersey who was abducted, raped, and murdered
The case presently before this Court seeks a declaratory judgment that the Massachusetts Megan's Law, Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6 §§ 178C-178P, is unconstitutional on its face and as applied to the plaintiff John Roe
II. STATUTORY SCHEME
The Massachusetts legislature enacted the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act ("the Act") on July 31, 1996. It became effective on October 1, 1996. The Act amended Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6 by adding sections 178C to 1780.
The Act requires that all sex offenders residing in Massachusetts register in person with their local police department. Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 6, § 178E(h). The police department submits the registration data to the Criminal History Systems Board who sends such data to the police departments where the sex offender intends to live and work, to the police department where the offense was committed, and to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178(K)(2). A sex offender must notify the police department where he or she is registered of any change in his or her residential or work address five days prior to establishing a new residence. Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178E(e) & (f). Failure to register is a misdemeanor punishable by two and one-half years in a house of correction or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars or both. Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178H.
The Act establishes an annual procedure for the verification of the registration data that includes an in-person appearance by the
Under the Act, the Criminal History Systems Board is responsible for establishing and maintaining a computerized sex offender registry. This registry is expected to contain a file on each sex offender including specified registration data.
The Act establishes a Sex Offender Registry Board, a subdivision of the Criminal History Systems Board, responsible for 1) establishing guidelines for assessing the recidivism risk of sex offenders; 2) applying the guidelines to determining the risk level of a particular sex offender; 3) creating guidelines for police departments in distributing sex offender registry information; and 4) making recommendations to the Superior Court on a sex offender's recidivism level and community notification plan when an offender, who has a right to judicial review, has requested a hearing. Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178K.
The Act establishes a three-tiered notification system based on a sex-offender's risk of recidivism. The greater the risk of recidivism, the greater the level of notification. Broader community notification is required where the risk of recidivism is moderate (level two) or high (level three). Where the risk is moderate, community notification of organizations "likely to encounter" the sex offender (e.g., schools, day care centers, religious and youth organizations, and sports leagues) is required. Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178K(2)(b); 803 C.M.R. § 1.03(5). Where the risk is high, community notification of organizations "likely to encounter" the sex offender and individuals "likely to encounter" the sex offender is required. Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178K(2)(c); 803 C.M.R. § 1.03(6).
Under the level-two community notification requirement, the local police department, where the sex offender resides or works, is required to provide the relevant community organizations with the sex offender's 1) name; 2) home and work address; 3) information about the sexual offense or offenses committed and the date of the conviction or convictions; 4) his or her age, sex, race, height, weight, eye and hair color; and 5) a photograph (hereinafter "sex offender registry information"). Under the level-three community notification requirement, extensive community notification is required. In addition to notifying organizations in the community which are "likely to encounter" the sex offender, the local police department is required to notify individual members of
Another element of the public disclosure system established under the Act is public initiated access to sex offender registry information. Two provisions of the Act permit a person to request and obtain sex offender information. See Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, §§ 1781 & 178J. Under Section 1781, any person who is eighteen years of age or older may request verification of whether a person is a sex offender, his or her sex offenses, and the date of his or her convictions from the Criminal History Systems Board.
Under section 178J, any person may inquire at a local police department about whether a sex offender resides or works in a particular geographic area or whether a specific person is a sex offender. Such inquiry must be for the purposes of protecting the inquirer or a minor child or other person in the inquirer's care, custody, or control. If a sex offender is identified, the police department will provide the inquirer with the sex offender registry information for the sex offender, including the sex offender's home address or work address, if such address is within a one mile radius of a specified geographic area or on a specified street. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178J(c)(ii) and (iii). Like the community notification notices, any report issued contains a criminal penalties warning for the illegal use of sex offender registry information. Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178I.
III. FACTS 6
Roe is a resident of Lynn, Massachusetts. He owns a company which manufactures porcelain dental fittings. Plt.'s Aff. ¶ 2. One of his employees was a thirty-three year old female. From the beginning of her employment with Roe, she was subjected to Roe's inappropriate touching, hugging, and attempts to kiss her. Mercurio Aff., Initial Police Report Narrative. When she informed Roe that she intended to leave her position because of his conduct, he threatened to kill her. Id. On February 11, 1990, when this employee was working late, Roe approached her and stated, "I feel whorish, and I'm going to make love to you." Id. When the employee rejected this unwanted advance, Roe grabbed her around the shoulders, tried to kiss her, and then forced her to a stairwell where he forcibly removed her pants, underpants, and shoes. Id. When the employee struggled in her attempts to protect herself, Roe put both hands around her neck and attempted to choke her, saying, "If you don't open your legs I'll kill you!" Id. He subjected her to vaginal penetration with his fingers and penis and performed cunnilingus on her. Id. Roe forced her to masturbate his penis. Id. Then, he led her to a room with a cot and continued to rape her and to sodomize her. Id. This brutalization continued for one-and-a half to two hours. Id. At the end of this brutal attack, Roe threatened to kill her if she did not return to work the next day. Id.
A criminal complaint charging Roe with one count of assault and battery, three counts of rape, two counts of indecent assault, and one count of threats was filed against Roe. Mercurio Aff., Application for Complaint. Roe was tried and convicted on both the rape and indecent assault and battery charges. Plt.'s Aff. ¶ 2; Mercurio Aff. ¶ 3. He was sentenced to eight to fifteen years at MCI Cedar Junction. Following his conviction, the victim filed a civil suit against him.
In December 1991, after serving nine months of his sentence, Roe won a motion for a new trial. Prior to this trial, he entered
Roe is a sex offender, as he was convicted of crimes constituting sex offenses under the Act. Therefore, he is subject to its registration and public disclosure requirements. To date, Roe has registered with his local police department, but he has not been given a risk-designation under the Act.
IV. THE DECISIONAL FRAMEWORK
Since its enactment, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has issued two opinions addressing constitutional challenges to the Act. In Doe v. Attorney General,
Prior to the enactment of this measure, the Massachusetts Senate had requested an advisory opinion from the Supreme Judicial Court as to the constitutionality of the community notification provisions of Senate Bill No. 2276. In Opinion of the Justices to the Senate, 423 Mass. 1201, 668 N.E.2d 738 (1996), the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the proposed community notification provisions did not constitute constitutionally impermissible punishment under either the United States Constitution or the Massachusetts Constitution and, therefore, did not violate their Ex Post Facto, Cruel and Unusual Punishment, or Double Jeopardy Clauses, nor did the provisions violate a sex offender's right to due process and equal protection under the law. But, as has been noted by Justice Fried, the community notification provisions of Senate Bill No. 2276 are different from the Act as subsequently enacted. Senate Bill No. 2276 was "a more carefully calibrated statute." Doe v. Attorney General, 426 Mass. at 146, 686 N.E.2d 1007 (Fried, J., concurring).
There have been a number of Superior Court decisions on the constitutionality of the Act, but they have reached substantively different legal conclusions. See Doe v. Attorney General, No. 96-1450, (Hampden Super.Ct. Nov. 19, 1996) (Sweeney, J.) (issuing a preliminary injunction against the general request provisions of section 178I as applied to a level-one, adult sex-offender on the grounds that the provision was punitive), aff'd,
One federal court has addressed the constitutionality of the Act. Doe v. Weld,
The interpretation given the Act by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is, of course, binding on this Court, as is that court's interpretation of the Massachusetts Constitution. Moreover, while this Court normally would follow the carefully reasoned approach of a colleague in this District, the facts and circumstances raised by Roe in this case are substantively different from those raised by the plaintiff in Doe v. Weld. Furthermore, the Supreme Judicial Court's opinion in Doe v. Attorney General appears to reject the statutory construction given to section 178I by Weld. "If the Legislature intended that the requirements of § 178J are to apply to an inquiry under § 178I, it is unclear why some but not all the requirements of § 178J are included in § 178I in substantially identical language." Doe v. Attorney General, 425 Mass. at 221 n. 6, 680 N.E.2d 97.
While only the Supreme Judicial Court's interpretations of the Act are binding on this Court, the provisions of New York and New Jersey's Megan's Laws are similar to the those of the Massachusetts Act and have been the subject of careful and rigorous constitutional analysis by the respective federal and state courts in those jurisdictions. The decisions of those courts are referred to herein where useful in this analysis. See Doe v. Pataki,
V. PLAN OF ANALYSIS
The foregoing review of the statutory scheme, the background facts, and the decisional framework is necessary because Roe here mounts a broadside attack against the statute on its face and as applied to him
In the these circumstances, the Court declines to draw inferences concerning the course of administrative proceedings that have not yet—and may never—be held. Federal constitutional curbs upon a state's power to legislate to protect the safety and security of its people ought be imposed only upon a definitive record setting forth the precise conduct challenged, and then only after the protections of the state constitution have been exhausted. Bellotti v. Baird,
VI. VIOLATION OF PLEA AGREEMENT
Roe argues that the registration requirement and the public disclosure provisions violate the terms of his plea agreement with the Commonwealth by imposing additional punishment beyond the plea agreement's terms. Under the terms of the plea agreement, in exchange for pleading guilty to all five counts of the criminal complaint, no term of probation was to be imposed and Roe was not to be subject to the sanctions provided in Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 123A, § 1 et seq. for sexually dangerous persons. Plt.'s Aff. ¶ 14 Roe's plea was conditional on the Superior Court's acceptance of its terms. Id. The Superior Court accepted the plea agreement, no term of probation was imposed, and no finding was made that Roe was a sexually dangerous person. Verified Complaint ¶ 11. Roe contends that this judgment was "tantamount to a finding of no danger of recidivism." Verified Complaint ¶ 30. This Court disagrees.
The due process protections of the United States Constitution require that a plea agreement be made voluntarily and intelligently. Boykin v. Alabama,
Here, the Superior Court's acceptance of the plea agreement merely suggests a conclusion by that Court that Roe's conduct was not "repetitive or compulsive sexual misconduct." See In Re Redgate,
VII. EX POST FACTO AND DOUBLE JEOPARDY ISSUES
A. LEGAL STANDARD
The Ex Post Facto Clause of the United States Constitution prohibits the legislative enactment of a law which: "1) makes a prior action, which legal when done, criminal, and punishes such action; 2) aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed; 3) changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed; 4) alters the legal rules of evidence, and requires less, or different testimony than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense in order to convict the offender." Calder v. Bull,
The Supreme Court doctrine on whether a civil sanction constitutes punishment has developed most substantively in the area of double jeopardy. See, e.g., Hendricks, 117 S.Ct. at 2085-86 (holding that a Kansas statute establishing a civil commitment procedure for sexually violent predator did not constitute a criminal proceeding and, therefore, involuntary commitment under the Act was not punitive); Ursery, 116 S.Ct. at 2142-43, 2147; United States v. Ward,
Ursery delineates a two-part test for assessing whether a civil sanction constitutes "punishment" under the Double Jeopardy Clause. The first part of this inquiry is a determination of legislative intent. Indication of express remedial or nonpunitive intent will result in a conclusion that such a statute does not constitute punishment, unless the party challenging the statute can demonstrate by "the clearest of proof" that the purpose or effect of the statute is so great as to negate the remedial intent. See Ursery, 116 S.Ct. at 2148; Hendricks, 117 S.Ct. at 2082; Ward, 448 U.S. at 248-49.
In Hendricks, the Supreme Court held that a Kansas statute authorizing the civil commitment of violent sexual predators was constitutional as such commitment did not constitute punishment and, therefore, did not violate either the Ex Post Facto or the Double Jeopardy Clauses though enacted after the plaintiff committed his crimes and applied to plaintiff upon his release from prison. On its face, the statute indicated a legislative intent to protect the public from the potential harm presented by sexually violent predators. The Court held that the effect of the civil commitment scheme was not sufficiently punitive as to negate its remedial purpose.
Hendricks, 117 S.Ct. at 2085.
Roe argues that this Court should apply the Supreme Court's analysis in United States v. Halper,
The sanction at issue in Hendricks —civil commitment of a sexually dangerous person following release from prison—is closely analogous to the Massachusetts requirement that a sex offender register with law enforcement and conform to community notification requirements.
B. REGISTRATION PROVISIONS
1. Legislative Intent
The determination of "whether a particular statutorily defined penalty is civil or criminal is a matter of statutory construction." Ward, 448 U.S. at 248. On its face, the intent of the Massachusetts legislature in requiring sex offenders to register is to provide the appropriate officials with the necessary information to aide law enforcement in the prevention of sexual offenses and in the investigation of particular sexual offenses when they occur. The legislative history confirms this construction. In the initial bills proposed by both the State Senate and House of Representatives, which are the basis for the Act, the legislature stated that:
House Bill No. 5949 (Legislative Findings and Purpose) (Apr. 22, 1996); see also Senate Bill No. 2276 (Legislative Findings and Purpose) (Apr. 22, 1996). This intent is clearly remedial. Roe identifies no contrary legislative history.
2. Effects Do Not Negate the Remedial Intent
Despite the clear indication of remedial intent on the part of the legislature in its enactment of this Act, "where a party challenging the statute provides `the clearest proof' that the statutory scheme is so punitive either in purpose or effect as to negate the State's intention to deem it `civil,'" Hendricks, 117 S.Ct. at 2082 (quoting Ward, 448 U.S. at 248-49), the statutory scheme will be deemed to constitute punishment. In assessing whether the statutory scheme is sufficiently punitive in its purpose or effect, the Supreme Court has continued to acknowledge the utility of the seven factors delineated in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez,
3. Application of the Mendoza-Martinez Factors
In an attempt to meet his heavy burden under the effects test, Roe evaluates the registration provisions using the Mendoza-Martinez factors. Although this Court disagrees with Roe's implied argument that these factors are dispositive or that all factors are relevant, it considers some of these arguments to show that Roe has failed to demonstrate by the "clearest proof" that the purpose or effect of the statute is so great as to negate the remedial intent.
a. Affirmative Disability or Restraint
Roe avers that the registration requirements of the Act are an affirmative disability or restraint because they impose an annual verification procedure and potentially subject sex offenders to police interrogations or lineups. This Court disagrees. The physical act of registering is not an affirmative disability or restraint. The registration requirements do not affirmatively disable or restrain a sex offender's choice of residence, movement within the state or out of the state, or activities. See, e.g., State v. Ward, 869 P.2d at 1069 (upholding registration provisions similar to this Act); Pataki, 120 F.3d at 1286 (duty of a sexually violent predator to register every ninety-days for at least ten years was not a significant enough burden to make the registration requirements of the New York's Megan's Law punitive). The registration requirements do not prevent a sex offender from holding or pursuing a particular profession. See Cummings v. Missouri, 4 Wall. 277,
b. Historically Regarded as a Punishment
Despite Roe's arguments to the contrary, "registration is typically and historically a regulatory measure." Russell, 124 F.3d at 1089. See generally, Lambert v. California,
c. Promotes Retribution and Deterrence
Registration is not retributive but it does have a deterrent purpose. By requiring a sex offender to register, the legislature attempts to discourage recidivism by alerting the sex offender to the fact that he can easily be apprehended by law enforcement officials and is under the watchful eye of law enforcement. The fact that the Act serves a deterrent purpose does not affirmatively establish that it is punitive. As the Supreme Court has recognized, deterrence "may serve civil as well as criminal goals." Ursery, 116 S.Ct. at 2149.
d. Legitimate Purpose
Registration ensures that law enforcement has sufficient information on sex offenders to assist them in criminal investigations, apprehensions, and prosecutions. Presently, most of the information is available in the criminal history records maintained by the Criminal History Systems Board. See Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 167 to 178B (establishing a criminal record information system and process for information dissemination). The registration requirements make such information more readily available to law enforcement not for the purposes of harassment, as Roe contends, but to promote public safety and efficacious law enforcement. There is no evidence that the registration provisions will result in any other outcome.
e. Excessiveness Beyond Legitimate Purpose
Although a sex offender is unable to terminate his or her duty to register until at least fifteen years after his or her conviction or release from prison, this effect alone does not amount to the "clearest proof" required to cause a statute with a clear remedial purpose to be deemed punitive. Cf. Hendricks, 117 S.Ct. at 2083 (holding that confinement of a sexually violent predator for a potentially indefinite duration was not punitive where there was a reasonable nexus between the detention and the remedial objective). By compelling the registration of sex offenders, the legislature is reasonably advancing its law enforcement and public safety objectives.
In support of his position that the registration provisions of the Act are punitive, Roe relies on the California Supreme Court's decision In re Reed,
This case is readily distinguishable from In re Reed. First, the specific crimes listed as sex offenses under Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178C are felonies. See Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 274, § 1. More importantly, the crimes for which Roe was convicted are felonies. Secondly, the constitutional issue in In re Reed was whether the sex offender registry provision violated the cruel or unusual punishment provisions of the California constitution. The Reed court focused not on the punishment aspect of the provision but on the proportionality inquiry in determining that the statute constituted cruel or unusual punishment as applied to the plaintiff, a misdemeanor sex-offender. See In re Reed,
Finally, in applying this Act's registration provisions to a juvenile offender, one of my colleagues concluded that "collection and use of juvenile offenders' registration data by law enforcement officials is not so `punitive' in form and effect as to render it unconstitutional punishment." Doe v. Weld, 954 F.Supp. at 434. "[R]egistration provisions have overwhelmingly been sustained as constitutional by other courts." Russell, 124 F.3d at 1089 (listing cases).
This Court concurs. The registration provisions of the Act do not constitute punishment in violation of either the Ex Post Facto or Double Jeopardy Clauses. This conclusion is tempered by the recognition that, unlike some Megan's Laws, this Act does not permit a sex offender to challenge his duty to register. See N.Y. Correct. Law § 168-o; Wash.Rev.Code 9A.44.140(3). Indeed, at least three justices of the Supreme Judicial Court view registration as "a continuing, instrusive, humiliating regulation of the person himself." Doe v. Attorney General, 426 Mass. at 149, 686 N.E.2d 1007 (Fried, J., concurring, with whom Abrams and Marshall, JJ., join). Even so, this is not enough to render the registration provisions punishment under the Constitution of the United States.
C. PUBLIC DISCLOSURE PROVISIONS
Roe avers that the community notification and public access provisions of the Act, i.e. §§ 178I, 178J and 178K, are punitive because such public disclosure 1) is historically punishment; 2) serves the traditional goals of punishment; 3) is an affirmative disability and restraint due to the effect of public stigma towards him as a sex offender on his personal life and professional life; 4) is an affirmative disability and restraint due to the greater disclosure of information on Roe than is available through judicial proceedings or criminal records; 5) is conducted under a punitive scheme; 6) results in excessively harsh effects on sex offender, i.e., threats and harassment; and 7) is too broad permitting disclosure to persons who are not vulnerable to or threatened by Roe's presence in their community.
1. Legislative Intent
In reviewing the legislative history of the Act, it is apparent that the legislature believed that public disclosure or notification was a central element in advancing the public safety objectives of the Act. In the initial bills, the legislature stated that:
Senate Bill No. 2276 and House Bill No. 5949.
In Opinion of the Justices, the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the community notification provisions of Senate Bill No. 2276 had a remedial purpose. The court characterized this purpose as:
Opinion of the Justices, 423 Mass. at 1226-27, 668 N.E.2d 738. This conclusion has led some Justices of the Massachusetts Superior Court to conclude that the public disclosure provisions of the Act do not constitute punishment, claiming that the changes in the community notification provisions from Senate Bill No. 2276 to the Act are immaterial. See Doe v. Attorney General, No. 96-1450 at 6 (community notification provisions are identical to Senate Bill No. 2276 and, therefore, not punitive); Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board, No. 97-198 at 15 n. 7 (finding community notification provisions "not materially different from those ultimately enacted.").
This conclusion is open to question. First, Senate Bill No. 2276 did not contain the public access provisions of sections 178I and 178J, which greatly expand the scope of public disclosure including public access to sex offender registry information concerning level-one sex offenders, nor did the Supreme Judicial Court consider the sex-offender telephone information line under which information similar to the information disclosed under these public access provisions would be released.
Lastly, the Supreme Judicial Court did not conduct an effects inquiry, because in responding to the Massachusetts Legislature on the single occasion when it spoke directly to the community notification provisions, it was not considering the application of the community notification provisions to a particular offender. As to the community notification provisions it considered, the Supreme Judicial Court opined that such provisions were "not overwhelmingly disproportionate to their remedial purpose of giving society the information necessary to protect itself from the harm caused by recidivistic offenders." Opinion of the Justices, 423 Mass. at 1241, 668 N.E.2d 738. The question here presented is whether a similar ruling ought be made as to the community notification and public access provisions of the Act as passed.
a. Historically Punishment
Roe argues that public disclosure of his sex offenses is punitive, as such disclosure is analogous to the wearing of a "Scarlet Letter." Contrary to Roe's contention, the Third Circuit, as well as other federal courts addressing this issue, have rejected the historical
Pataki, 120 F.3d at 1283-84.
c. Traditional Goals of Punishment: Deterrence and Retribution
Roe avers that the dissemination of his address and identity will result in public ostracism. He asserts that such a consequence is an objective of the Act in order to deter future criminal conduct. As the deterrence of future criminal conduct is an objective of the Act, he argues that the Act is punitive. The Supreme Court has explicitly stated that deterrence "may serve civil as well as criminal goals." Ursery, 116 S.Ct. at 2149. The legislative history here demonstrates that the objective behind public disclosure of sex offender registry information was to "further the primary governmental interest of protecting children and other vulnerable populations from potential harm." House Bill No. 5949 and Senate Bill No. 2276. The goal of public notification is to reduce the likelihood of re-offense by a sexual offender by giving law enforcement necessary information to be aware of potential dangers, the public necessary information in order to take appropriate steps to minimize a harmful encounter with a sex offender, and to deter the sex offender from reoffending because of the increased likelihood of apprehension. This deterrence objective is insufficient to render the notification provisions punitive, as there are underlying legitimate governmental public security purposes.
Nothing in the legislative history of this Act indicates a retributive intent on the part of the legislature. The fact that as a result of the public disclosure provisions, Roe may be subject to physical threats, harassment, and may find his employment situation impaired does not constitute retribution on the part of the government. The Act specifically warns of criminal penalties for the misuse of sex offender registry information. See Mass.
d. Affirmative Disability or Restraint
1) Effects on Personal and Professional Lives
Roe asserts that the compelled disclosure of private information, its compilation, and its subsequent disclosure to law enforcement and the public is punitive. First, he argues that this public disclosure "has a potentially devastating effect on Roe's personal and professional lives." Plt's. Mem. Decl. J. at 7. The Commonwealth counters that such claims are speculative, as there have been no reported incidents of harassment, violence, or discrimination related to the release of sex offender registry information in Massachusetts or in Roe's hometown of Lynn. See State Defs.' Mem. at 17-19; State Defs.' Supp.Mem., Exs. A thru C. But see Doe v. Criminal History Systems Board, No. 96-6046, 1997 WL 100878, *5 (Middlesex Super.Ct. Feb. 25, 1997) ("Merely because one cannot claim with certainty that negative acts against an offender will occur does not mean that risk to the offender is entirely speculative."). Circuit courts that have addressed this issue have not been persuaded by arguments concerning the risk of physical violence, stigma, or impairment of employment opportunities such as Roe advances here. See Pataki, 120 F.3d at 1279 ("Although we do not doubt that the Act has had unfortunate consequences for many subject to its operation, we do not agree that these detrimental consequences suffice to transform the regulatory measure of community notification into punishment."); Verniero, 119 F.3d at 1101-05 (holding that only "extremely onerous" direct effects are sufficient to make a remedial statute punitive; harm to reputational interests and the risk of private violence not condoned by government are indirect effects of community notification); Russell, 124 F.3d at 1092-93 (concluding that the effects inquiry does not include consideration of illegal reactions by the public). These cases make clear several important principles of the effects inquiry. First, punishment is assessed from an objective perspective not a subjective perspective, "as even remedial sanctions carry the `sting of punishment'" in the eyes of the person upon whom they are applied. Department of Revenue v. Kurth Ranch,
2) Greater Disclosure of Information
For the public disclosure provisions to pass constitutional muster, they must be "reasonably related" to the legislative purpose: a perfect fit is not required. See Verniero, 119 F.3d at 1097-98; Pataki, 120 F.3d at 1281-83. The central inquiry is whether the public disclosure provisions of this Act are carefully tailored to meet the objectives of the legislature, i.e., providing law enforcement and, under certain circumstances, the public with information about potential recidivists in order to prevent reoffense and to assist in the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of a re-offense. See House Bill No. 5949.
a) Community Notification Provisions
Since the breadth of the community notification provisions varies with an offender's classification, and since Roe has not yet been classified, this Court declines to press this aspect of the analysis further at this time and expresses no opinion thereon.
b) Public Access Provisions
The public access provisions, of course, do not depend on Roe's classification
Pursuant to the Guidelines for Dissemination of Sex Offender Information, under
The Supreme Judicial Court appears to have rejected precisely this interpretation. Doe v. Attorney General, 425 Mass. at 221 n. 6, 680 N.E.2d 97 ("If the Legislature intended that requirements of § 178J are to apply to an inquiry under § 178I, it is unclear why some but not all the requirements of § 178J are included in § 178I in substantially identical language."). Instead that court treats the sections as separate and discrete provisions for the purpose of assessing their remedial or punitive character. See Id. at 220-21, 680 N.E.2d 97 (concluding that section 178I lacks an explicit remedial or regulatory purpose). The Commonwealth, nonetheless, asks this Court to reject the Supreme Judicial Court's construction of section 178I as lacking a remedial purpose. State Defs.' Supp.Mem. at 6-13. See also Doe v. Weld, 954 F.Supp. at 435 n. 6 (reading the provisions in tandem and applying the prudential requirements of section 178J to inquiries under section 178I). What the Commonwealth asks is beyond the power of this Court to grant. The interpretation of state law by the highest court of the state is conclusive on this Court. Hamm v. Latessa,
VIII. CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT
The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. The central thrust of the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause is to regulate the type or manner of punishment for criminal violations. It limits the types of punishment imposed, prohibits punishment that is "grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime," and imposes some substantive limits on the conduct that can be classified as criminal. Ingraham v. Wright,
As registration alone does not constitute punishment, it cannot violate the Eighth Amendment. Moreover, while this Court holds that the section 178I constitutes punishment, that provision is proscribed by the Eighth Amendment only if "grossly disproportionate to the severity of the crime." In Weems v. United States,
IX. BILL OF ATTAINDER
The prohibition against the passage of bills of attainder extends to Congress and the States. U.S. Const. art. 1, § 9, cl. 3; § 10, cl. 1. It forbids "legislative acts, no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial." United States v. Lovett,
The fact that the registration and public disclosure provisions impose burdens on convicted sex offenders, however, does not violate the Bill of Attainder Clause. The Supreme Court has delineated three inquiries for determining whether such burdens constitute impermissible punishment: "(1) whether the challenged statute falls within the historical meaning of legislative punishment; (2) whether the statute, `viewed in terms of the type and severity of burdens imposed, reasonably can be said to further nonpunitive legislative purposes'; and (3) whether the legislative record `evinces a congressional intent to punish.'" Selective Serv. Sys., 468 U.S. at 852 (quoting Nixon, 433 U.S. at 473, 475-476, 478).
Neither the registration nor the public disclosure provisions fit into one of the historical categories of legislative punishment under bills of attainder. The type of sanctions historically deemed as punishment under bill of attainder clauses were death, imprisonment, banishment, punitive forfeiture, and the restriction of a particular persons or groups from certain professions. Nixon, 433 U.S. at 473-75. As the Act does not impose these historical forms of punishment, this Court must resort to the remaining two inquiries. Both inquiries are similar to the intent-effects analysis that the Court has already discussed under the Double Jeopardy and Ex Post Facto Clauses. Thus, that analysis disposes of this issue as well. The Court concludes that the registration and public disclosure provisions, save for section 178I, do not constitute punishment, inasmuch as the legislative purpose and intent was nonpunitive and the effects are not sufficiently severe to negate the nonpunitive purpose. For that reason, Roe's Bill of Attainder challenge must fail.
X. EQUAL PROTECTION
Roe asserts that the registration and public disclosure provisions of the Act violate his right to equal protection under the United States Constitution. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states that "[n]o state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. The standard of assessment concerning alleged violations of the equal protection clause depends on the class of persons or the interest affected by the law at issue. Laws dealing with suspect classifications or fundamental rights are subject to strict scrutiny and quasi-suspect classifications, like
Persons who commit certain sex offenses and are classified as sex offenders are neither part of a suspect nor a quasi-suspect classification. Roe does not argue otherwise. Therefore, the rational-relationship test applies to the alleged equal protection violation. Since courts owe a great deal of deference to the legislative factfinding undergirding classifications subject to the rational-relationship test, see Terry v. Electronic Data Sys. Corp.,
Roe avers that he "is entitled to be treated as an individual and not classified with other sex offenders whom, unlike Roe, the Commonwealth has not agreed are not `sexually dangerous persons.'" Plt.'s Supp.Mem. at 14. In short, Roe argues that the registration and public disclosure provisions are overinclusive. A similar argument was addressed by the New Jersey Supreme Court in Poritz and rejected. Poritz, 662 A.2d at 413-14. In that case, the plaintiff averred that the application of the registration and community notification provisions were overinclusive because unlike other sex offenders he had successfully completed a treatment program for repetitive compulsive offenders and was determined to be no longer dangerous. The New Jersey Supreme Court rejected this overinclusivity argument reasoning that the rationality of legislation is assessed by examining the relationship between the means and the ends of the legislation. "Equal protection does not preclude the use of classifications, but requires only that those classifications not be arbitrary." Poritz, 662 A.2d at 413 (citing State v. Mortimer,
Roe's classification as a sex offender subject to the registration and public disclosure requirements of the Act is due to his commission of one of the delineated sex offenses. His risk of recidivism is determined by an individual assessment using the Guidelines for Classification promulgated by the Sex Offender Registry Board. See 803 C.M.R. § 1.02. Classification as a sexually dangerous person is not related to classification as a sex offender. The fact that the sex offender classification includes persons who are not sexually dangerous persons or who do not appear to pose a threat to children does not invalidate a legislative classification that is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. Some sex offenders may not be sexually dangerous and the risk posed by such sex offenders to the community may be minimal, but that does not mean that the application of the registration and public disclosure provisions violates the Equal Protection Clause. The Massachusetts legislature
XI. PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS
Roe avers that the public disclosure of his sex offender registry information without sufficient due process violates his protectible liberty interest in privacy and reputation. The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides that "No State shall ... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. To assess the merits of this claim, this Court must conduct a two-step inquiry: "the first asks whether there exists a liberty or property interest which has been interfered with by the State; the second examines whether the procedures attendant upon that deprivation were constitutionally sufficient." Kentucky Dept. of Corrections v. Thompson,
A. DEPRIVATION OF A LIBERTY OR PROPERTY INTEREST
A protected liberty or property interest devolves from either the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution or the laws of the state. Sandin v. Conner,
The Supreme Court has recognized that there is a right of personal privacy under the Constitution. See Roe v. Wade,
Whether Roe has a protectible privacy interest depends on whether he has a constitutional right to privacy in any of the information made public under the community notification provisions of the Act.
B. DETERMINING THE PROCESS DUE
An interest created and protected by state law constitutes a liberty or property interest which government cannot withdraw without procedural due process. See Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. at 711-12. Cf. Doe v. Sex Offender Registry Board, 1997 WL 819765, *3. Due process is a flexible concept whose parameters are determined by the particular situation. In determining the level of process due a court must balance three factors:
Mathews v. Eldridge,
Pursuant to the Guidelines for Classification of Sex Offenders, the Sex Offender Registry Board considers nineteen factors as well as any victim impact statement(s) and any material submitted by the sex offender in assessing a sex offender's risk of reoffense. A score is given to each of the nineteen factors (i.e., low, moderate, high). The risk level is determined based on the category of risk with the highest number. This rating is adjusted upward or downward based on other factors and additional information. The Guidelines require that a sex offender be rated a high-risk offender if one of five override provisions apply to the sex offender. 803 C.M.R. § 1.02(4). A contrary rating is permitted only where the board finds a compelling justification.
The government's interest is apparent: the protection of children and other vulnerable persons from known recidivistic sex offenders through prompt community notification. As noted by other courts, the government also has an interest in ensuring that its registration and notification system is fair and accurate in order to prevent the injury to a sex offender's privacy interests caused by an erroneous classification. See, e.g., Verniero, 119 F.3d at 1107-08.
Under the Act, a person who is classified as a level-two or level-three sex offender may seek judicial review of this risk designation and the attendant community notification plan. Mass.Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 178M. This risk designation may be modified, however, "only if such designation is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." Id. This process is entirely different from the procedure for determining a sex offender's risk of recidivism and his or her community notification plan proposed in Senate Bill No. 2276 and held constitutional in the Opinion of the Justices.
In the Opinion of the Justices, the Supreme Judicial Court Justices opined that Senate Bill No. 2276's procedures for determining a sex offender's risk of recidivism were constitutionally adequate. 423 Mass. at 1230-31, 668 N.E.2d 738. These provisions required that a Superior Court "make a final determination regarding the risk of re-offense and the community notification plan." Senate Bill No. 2276. The Superior Court was to consider the recommendation of the Sex Offender Registry Board and was to provide the sex offender, if requested, with
Roe avers that "[he] is entitled to an opportunity to appear and be heard before any public disclosure of registry data occurs pursuant to the Act." Plt.'s Supp.Mem. at 20 (emphasis in original). Roe relies on the reasoning of the New Jersey Supreme Court in Doe v. Poritz holding that an review of a sex offender's classification by "an independent decision-maker" is required prior to level-two and level-three notification. 662 A.2d at 417-21.
The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded that:
Poritz, 662 A.2d at 421; see also Verniero, 119 F.3d at 1106-11.
As noted above, Justice Botsford, relying on the Supreme Judicial Court's decision in Doe v. Attorney General,
In Massachusetts the law is clear that public officials and agencies need not be subjected to court order to carry out the law as the courts interpret it. Rather, there is a strong presumption that the Commonwealth officials and agencies will follow the law as the courts declare it. Benefit v. City of Cambridge,
This is a rapidly evolving area of the law in Massachusetts. As yet, the Supreme Judicial Court has not had occasion to comment on the role of the Guidelines in interpreting the Act. Moreover, the preliminary injunctions issued in the Superior Court have caused the introduction of bills now pending in the Massachusetts Legislature which seek to remedy perceived flaws in the Act. See House Bill No. 5352 (Mar. 5, 1998) (proposing to amend the entire Act). In these circumstances, if either party proposes that this Court certify a question or questions of unsettled Massachusetts law to the Supreme Judicial Court, and wishes to submit, within thirty days of the date of this decision, a precisely framed and explained proposal for certification, the Court will consider it. See RLI Ins. Co. v. General Star Indem. Co.,
XIII. CONCLUSION AND ORDER
A. Since the Supreme Judicial Court has declared that section 1781 has no remedial purpose, this Court declares that its provisions cannot be enforced in any respect against John Roe.
B. Save as to paragraph A above, and those aspects of this opinion where this Court presently declines to express an opinion for prudential reasons concerning the interplay of the state and federal constitutions, this Court declares the Act, in all other respects, constitutional when tested against the provisions of the Constitution of the United States.
C. Since the case is not finally resolved by this memorandum and order, the Court must resolve the question of interim relief, if any. While the Court finds that Roe has established a reasonable likelihood of irreparable injury should the community notification and public access provisions of the Act be applied to him, the Court also finds no reasonable likelihood that these provisions will be so applied without a constitutionally appropriate pre-classification hearing. In these circumstances, the public interest would not be served by a preliminary injunction that would trump the working-out of the Commonwealth's administrative and judicial processes.
D. In order to allow for consideration of possible certification, not less than thirty days from the date of this order this case will be administratively closed. Either party may restore the case to the trial list once Roe's pre-classification hearing has been held and Roe has been classified, or earlier for good cause shown.
- No Cases Found