The National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) convened its 2017 conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on Friday, June 2 with Building a Foundation for Effective Advocacy as its theme.
The three-day conference was well attended with more than 140 advocates, presenters, and feature speakers present.
Conference guests enthusiastically received information and current legal perspectives from four leading attorneys who are currently engaged in litigations at the federal level that pose immediate or pending outcomes which will directly impact the status of registration requirements in all or many states in the nation.
Attorneys Phil Telfeyan and Miriam Aukerman teamed together on Friday morning to present Protecting Constitutional Rights in the Federal Courts. Drawing from their recent experiences with important Circuit-level cases (Telfeyan in McGuire v. Strange, Alabama; Aukerman in Does v. Snyder, Michigan), attendees were provided specific insight into the way these cases were developed from the start and how the current approach to sex offender registry challenges are evolving as a consequence.
On Friday afternoon the main speaker was Dr. Melissa Hamilton, an attorney and criminologist who shared how to handle the junk science that drives the concern about sex offender risk.
NARSOL’s annual awards banquet was held a day earlier for this conference where guests were entertained by special musical guest Lyric Lee while dining from their choice of Southern styled fish or chicken with more vegetables, bread, and sweet potato pie than it was possible for a crowd to consume.
NARSOL proudly presented its coveted Advocate of the Year award to Ken Roberts of Mississippi who has served as one of the organization’s primary gatekeepers and re-distributors for incoming emails and voice mails for several years. In addition, the annual Braveheart award was presented in absentia to attorney Mitch McGuire of Alabama. Several individuals were presented with the distinguished Pearl award, and founder and chair Paul Shannon was presented with NARSOL’s most rare, and least awarded, Lifetime Achievement award.
The conference felt as though it had moved to North Carolina on Saturday as guests were thrilled by two separate feature presentations from attorneys who have met with remarkable success representing clients in the Tarheel state challenging conditions of its sex offender registry.
Attorney and current Chief Appellate Defender for the state of North Carolina Glenn Gerding’s presentation entitled Beating Back Banishment and Big Brother was surprising in that it focused less on Packingham v. North Carolina (pending final resolution from the Supreme Court in the coming weeks) and more on his extensive involvement in registration issues going back to his days as a court-appointed attorney handling indigent cases in Superior courts. Gerding encouraged NARSOL’s members and supporters to continue organizing and expanding the growing network of associated attorneys and legal resources to press the fight against unconstitutional civil rights violations imposed by sex offender laws.
On Saturday afternoon, Attorney Paul Dubbeling captured his audience with a passionate, articulate plea for attacking the presumption of false facts that district attorneys and state attorneys general have relied upon for more than a decade by focusing on the more than twenty years of data already available in every state providing positive proof of low recidivist rates among their registered populations. Dubbeling presented A Matter of Fact: Recidivism Rates, Current Jurisprudence, and the Need for Fact-based Litigation which envisions a legal strategy of forcing states to rethink their reliance on dubious facts and pressing judges at the state and federal level to stop relying on studies from one party or another but to focus, instead, on the relevant data already available through a statistical assessment of a state’s very own sex offender registry–data that overwhelmingly represents rates of recidivism that are low and unremarkable. “These ARE the facts. Now let’s discuss what they mean,” repeated Dubbeling several times throughout.
Closing out the conference on Sunday morning was Mary Sue Molnar, president of NARSOL’s affiliate Texas Voices. Molnar’s presentation entitled Where I Began My Journey was a frank and candid assessment of her migration from erstwhile organizer to accomplished advocate with a rehearsal of the peaks and valleys that punctuated her journey. Sharing her experiences from the courthouse to the statehouse, Molnar encouraged guests not to be discouraged by what they may not know about the intricate processes of legislation, litigation and public policy, but to ask and learn as they gradually make their progression from novice to natural. And apparently it cannot hurt very much to use some Texas charm in just the right measure along the way.
Interspersed and inserted throughout the five feature presentations were 31 hours worth of nuts and bolts workshops on topics ranging from how to start an affiliate organization to how to keep from going completely insane while doing it. By Sunday evening the conference was over and attendees from states throughout the nation had embarked on their journeys back home.