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May 7, 2009

Re:  NJ Supreme Court Affirms Invalidation of Sex Offender Residency Ordinances

Dear Mayor:

The New Jersey Supreme Court today handed down an opinion affirming an Appellate Division decision that invalidated municipal sex offender residency ordinances.  In the case of G.H. v. Galloway and Cherry Hill v. James Barclay and Jeffrey Finguerra (Docket No. A-64/65-08), the Court agreed with the lower courts that Megan’s Law preempts the field of sex offender regulation in New Jersey. The Supreme Court affirmed for substantially the reasons set forth in the Appellate Division case.

 The Appellate Division noted that Megan’s Law is much more than a public notification statute.  State regulations promulgated pursuant to the law require sex offenders to have their place of residence and employment, and any change concerning them, approved by their parole officer. If the sex offender’s victim was a minor, any contact or residence with a minor must also be approved by a parole officer. The Court also agreed that Megan’s Law specifically prohibits the use of any information disclosed under the Law from being used to deny a list of benefits, including “Housing or accommodations”, and that this requirement of the state law clashed with the residency ordinances.

The Court noted that Megan’s law and the regulations promulgated pursuant to it sought to protect the public and to foster rehabilitation, and that the statutory/regulatory scheme saw these purposes as intertwined.  Parole officers are required to seek appropriate housing for convicted sexual offenders, where the offenders will have support systems to prevent them from re-offending. Such stability for offenders, then, is intended to ultimately protect the public.  Local ordinances may interfere with this part of the statutory scheme, said the court, because “In many cases, the most appropriate housing would be in a location prohibited by the residency restriction ordinances”.  The court concluded its opinion by saying, “The ordinances interfere with and frustrate the purposes and operation of the statewide law”.

The Supreme Court case may be accessed at the judiciary website at: http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/index.htm

If you have any questions or concerns about this communication, please contact Deborah Kole, Staff Attorney, at the League, ex. 137, or at dkole@njslom.com

Very truly yours,

William G. Dressel, Jr.

Executive Director

 

 

 

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