Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sunbury's cowards

Refreshing honesty im this article: City may pass law that bans sex offenders:

"That ordinance that we're creating right now ... virtually it prevents them from living in the city of Sunbury because of the broadness of the ordinance," Sunbury Police Department Sgt. Joseph Jones, acting police chief, said at a May 19 press conference.

In fact, the city happens to cover little more than 2 square miles, so it would seem that the ordinance would make it all but impossible for the targeted offenders to live within the city's boundaries.

"It's one of those things that it's hard not to vote for," Williamsport attorney Cliff Rieders said. "It's difficult to be courageous when you're dealing with sex offenders, as it should be."

But Mr. Rieders, an experienced constitutional attorney and past president of the Federal Bar Association's Middle District of Pennsylvania Chapter, said an ordinance such as Sunbury's has clear constitutional implications.

"... The requirement to register as a sex offender is (according to) state law and therefore has been accepted as a part of the post-punishment phase of dealing with a sex offender," Mr. Rieders said. "But a (local) ordinance which goes beyond state law is going to be considered very questionable for somebody who has already served their time."

An ordinance such as Sunbury's is a violation of the Constitution's delegation clause, Mr. Rieders said, because the authority to regulate such activity is not delegated to a municipality. "If you permit local ordinances to effectively say who can or cannot do business or who can or cannot live somewhere then you disrupt the state scheme for regulating those same activities," he said.

In addition, the ordinance also is a violation of due process, Mr. Rieders said, because it allows a municipality to create an additional punishment for someone who already has served time as required by state law.

City solicitor Michael Apfelbaum, when asked if he had considered that such an ordinance could be an infringement on the rights of such citizens, said: "I did not see sexual predators as a protected class of citizens. We're not taking any rights away from them. ... That category of individual is not a protected class, like race, sex, religion or handicapped. Sexual predator is not on that list."

And there we have it. Passing such laws is an act of cowardice, according to attorney Cliff Rieders, and according to Michael Apfelbaum if one is not more equal than the others, one may be readily rendered less equal. Calling George Orwell...

Legislative cowardice. We've seen that happen before on a number of occasions, not so many years ago and well within living memory. Nice to see the historical company with which Sunbury has allied itself.


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