By Lee Ross, ,
Published May 16, 2015
The Supreme Court announced Monday it will review a lower court's order that struck down part of a federal law designed to keep sexual deviants locked up beyond their criminal sentences.
The Court's decision will be welcome news to victim's rights advocates and others who supported the 2006 law known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. A provision of that law allowed federal prosecutors to seek court-ordered "civil commitment" of sex offenders whose criminal sentences were about to end.
Earlier this year, a three judge appeals court panel in Richmond, Va. unanimously ruled that part of the law unconstitutional. They concluded the Constitution doesn't allow the government to confine someone simply because it believes the person is sexually dangerous.
They said the government "has no unexhausted power to prosecute a former federal prisoner simply because he could violate [a law]; any person could violate federal law."
In asking the Supreme Court to take the case, Solicitor General Elena Kagan defended the "important act of Congress" designed to protect Americans from people who are "sexually dangerous to others." She argues the law is necessary and appropriate.
The primary purpose of the legislation was to create a national database of sex offenders.
"The goal of the act was to track these guys going across state lines," says Ernie Allen President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
That part of the law is not under scrutiny nor are the civil commitment laws of at least 20 states.
The lawyers for five men each convicted of sexually-based crimes who remain imprisoned after their sentences expired asked the Court to deny further review. They argued there are other cases that would have provided the Court a better vehicle for examining the issue.
They also contend Congress does not have the authority to "institute new proceedings that extend federal power over an individual beyond that authorized by" the original conviction.
The Court will not hear the case until after its next term starts in October. However in April, Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order that keeps the men behind bars until the case is finally resolved.