The ACLU-NJ continues to be involved in the ongoing legal challenges to Megan's Law, the New Jersey statute requiring local police to notify neighbors that they are living near certain sexual offenders deemed likely to reoffend. The New Jersey Supreme Court modified the law to allow offenders subject to notification to challenge the decision that they are particularly dangerous, and to challenge the scope of notification, but then upheld the constitutionality of the law as rewritten. In separate cases, however, a number of federal courts had ruled that the law fit the constitutional definition of punishment, and thus could not be applied to offenders who had committed their crimes before the law was past.
One of those cases reached the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which in April vacated the US District Judge Politan's decision on the ground that the plaintiff did not have standing to challenge the community notification portions of the law, because no decision had been made as to whether any notification would take place. In an extraordinarily long opinion, the court set out a comprehensive test for determining whether statutes like Megan's Law constitute punishment. That test will now be used in a federal class action challenging the constitutionality of applying Megan's Law to persons who committed their crimes before the statute was enacted. In the meantime, US District Judge Bissell has temporarily enjoined the state from proceeding with any community notification.
The ACLU-NJ, represented by Rutgers Law School Professor, and ACLU-NJ Board Member, Ronald Chen, will participate as amicus. Arguments will take place in late June or July.
—W.P. v. Poritz, United States District Court