• Harvard Law Review questioning the legality of sex offender registries

    Judge Jackson Brown

    Critics of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson have portrayed her as too lenient on sex offenders, drawing in part of a law review article she wrote decades ago as a student.

    “All 50 states have sex offender registries but Judge Jackson doesn’t think perverts should have to register. She says it ‘stigmatizes’ THEM,” Lars Larson, a conservative radio host, said in a Facebook post on March 21.

    President Joe Biden nominated Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court, to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

    The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed.


    The claim stems from an 18-page article Jackson wrote for the Harvard Law review in 1996. Though the article is unsigned, Jackson listed the work as being among her published writings in response to a previous questionnaire for judicial nominees.


    During her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, referenced the article and said Jackson argued that “civil commitment for sexual predators is unconstitutional.” Civil commitment laws enable states to retain custody of individuals convicted of a sex crime and who are deemed likely to re-offend.

    Jackson pushed back against that characterization.

    “Senator, my note wasn’t advocating for the striking down of those laws,” Jackson said during the March 22 hearing. “My note was trying to identify criteria that I thought could be applied consistently to determine whether the laws were punitive or preventative.”

    When Jackson’s article published, sex offender registration and notification systems were still a relatively new construct. The practice was largely adopted throughout the U.S. between 1984 and 1996, with each system varying by state.


    Jackson’s Harvard Law article examined whether directing released sex offenders to register with local law enforcement (and other measures, like DNA testing and community notifications) would serve as punishment or as a measure to prevent more crimes.

    Her primary argument rested on the intent of the registry. If the sole objective of such requirements were to “make an example” out of the offender, Jackson argued that it would be punitive and therefore in violation of the Constitution.

    “In 1996, while most challenges to the registries had been rejected, it was still not settled whether registries were legal in the first place,” Melissa Hamilton, professor of law and criminal justice at the University of Surrey in England, told PolitiFact.

    To Follow or read the redacted parts please view original article: https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2022/mar/25/lars-larson/lars-larson-leaves-out-context-judge-ketanji-brown/

    To follow the source for Hon. Jackson’s article Harvard Law Review, “Prevention Versus Punishment: Toward a Principled Distinction in the Restraint of Release Sex Offenders,” May 1996

    Other sources Michigan lawmakers 90 days to change the state’s sex offender registry law

    Categories: Litigation and Challenges, Media, News, Supervision and Restraints


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