Justices weigh whether sex offenders should be tracked worldwide, March 1, 2016
Members of the Supreme Court on Tuesday appeared skeptical of the federal government’s argument that a registered sex offender should be required to notify authorities when moving to another country.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was known as the court’s swing vote before the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last month, noted that the defendant in the case moved to a country not covered under the Sex Offender Registration and Notifications Act (SORNA). The law requires sex offenders to inform “at least one jurisdiction involved” of any change of address.
not a jurisdiction under SORNA," Kennedy said. Philippines
The case, Nichols v.
focuses on Lester Nichols, a convicted sex offender who moved from Kansas to the in November 2012, eight
months after he was released from prison. A month later, he was arrested and
deported back to the Philippines
for failing to update his sex offender registry. U.S.
Curtis Gannon, assistant to the solicitor general at the Department of Justice, argued on behalf of the government that Nichols was required to notify Kansas of his change of address within three business days of his move because Kansas was “an involved jurisdiction.”
Several of the justices, including Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Chief Justice John Roberts, grappled Tuesday with the language in the statute that defines an involved jurisdiction.
Roberts said the statute is an “awful lot to ask a layperson to parse” in order to avoid the maximum 10-year sentence for violating SORNA.
In trying to understand the statute, Breyer questioned whether Nichols would have had to notify
Kansas if he had been living in the Philippines for 15 years and then moved to . Thailand
?” he asked. “That
was a jurisdiction that was involved.” Kansas
Kansas would only remain involved if the
national registry said Nichols still lived in . Kansas
Kagan wondered why the
even bothering to extradite sex offenders back to the from other
countries if they are only required to say they are leaving the state, not
where they are going in the world. U.S.
She said it seems like the attitude would be “good luck, good riddance.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, who asked questions for the first time in 10 years during a gun rights case on Monday, remained silent for Tuesday’s arguments.
Argument Analysis: Justices skeptical about government’s interpretation of sex-offender-registration law, March 2, 2016
Argument Preview: When a sex offender moves out of the country, does he have to tell anyone?
February 23, 2016