June 8, 2009
Re: Sex Offender Residency Restriction Bill Advanced
Today, in Trenton, the Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced a Committee Substitute for three bills taking differing approaches to the matter. The new ACS (Assembly Committee Substitute) for A-641, A-624 and A-285 now moves to the Assembly Floor for consideration.
In response to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s May 7 decision, which affirmed the Appellate Court’s invalidation of the Cherry Hill and Galloway Township residency restriction ordinances, we wrote to the sponsors of these, and other, bills on May 12. In that letter, we asked to meet, in order to present our concerns and advance legislation that would, most likely, withstand a legal challenge.
The Supreme Court based its decision solely on the issue of preemption. It did not consider other Constitutional questions. Those questions would be subject matter for future litigation that could delay and invalidate future local residency restriction ordinances, enacted under the provisions of this Committee Substitute.
Unfortunately, the ACS does not set a State-wide standard. Instead, it allows a municipality to enact a carefully crafted ordinance that would restrict certain sex offenders from residing within 500 feet of a school, playground or child care center.
Local ordinances passed pursuant to this bill would, inevitably, be challenged in State Courts. This will delay enforcement of the restrictions, possibly for years, and impose significant litigation costs on local property taxpayers.
We regret that we cannot support the ACS for A-641, A-624 and A-285, as currently drafted. But we stand ready to meet with the sponsors and to help them craft a bill that would establish enforceable, sustainable limits on sex offender residency.
For more information, contact Jon Moran at 609-695-3481, ext. 121.
Very truly yours,
William G. Dressel, Jr.