The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

National News

March 21, 2014

Supreme Court may take up Virginia case

WASHINGTON — She was a 24-year-old swimming instructor who had a sexual affair with a male student under 16.

The woman was convicted in Virginia in 1993 of unlawful sex with a teenager and served 30 days in jail. She was listed on the state’s sex offender registry, and could have tried to get her name removed at some point, but didn’t.

Fifteen years later, the state passed a new law that reclassified her and thousands of others as violent sex offenders. The woman — identified in court papers only as Jane Doe — has unsuccessfully challenged the law, and now her lawsuit is on the agenda today when the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court meet in private to consider taking up new cases.

Her appeal comes as states around the country face growing public pressure to protect people from repeat sexual predators. Those labeled sex offenders are being subjected to a host of new limitations, including where they can live, work or travel. But the new restraints have not come without complaints, and courts in Georgia and Ohio have ruled that sex offender laws in those states went too far.

Under Virginia’s 2008 law the woman, who is now married with three young children, cannot enter public or private school property or attend church services without seeking permission from the state court or the local school board. But she hasn’t done that because she said it risks revealing her children’s identity and could take years to resolve.

She wants the Virginia law thrown out, claiming the new restrictions interfere with her constitutional rights to raise and educate her children and violate her right to procedural due process.

A federal district court rejected her claims, and the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed last year in a 2-1 ruling that she had to first exhaust state remedies before challenging the law. The dissenting judge argued that she had already suffered an injury and should be able to challenge the law immediately.

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