Michigan judge declares part of state’s SORA to be unconstitutional

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From the ACLU of Michigan . . . The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) applauds today’s decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland to provide relief for registrants on the Michigan Sex Offenders Registration Act (SORA). In today’s ruling, Judge Cleland ordered that if the legislature does not bring the law into compliance with constitutional requirements, the state will no longer be able to enforce the law against pre-2011 registrants.

“Unless and until decisive action is taken by the Michigan legislature, no provisions of SORA may be enforced against [pre-2011 registrants] ex post facto subclasses,” Judge Cleland wrote.

Today’s decision follows several prior rulings: two 2015 rulings by Judge Cleland which found many parts of SORA unconstitutional and a 2016 ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that it is unconstitutional to impose new severe restrictions on people who have past convictions. When the state continued to enforce the law despite the court rulings, the ACLU, with the University of Michigan Clinical Law Program and the Oliver Law Group, brought a class action lawsuit on behalf of Michigan’s registrants arguing that the state had to follow the earlier rulings.

“Today’s decision is a win for the public safety of Michigan communities,” said Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. “The registry is an ineffective and bloated system that makes Michigan communities less safe by making it more difficult for survivors to report abuse, sabotaging people’s efforts to reenter society, and wasting scarce police resources on hyper-technicalities. Today’s decision means that lawmakers must finally do their jobs and pass evidence-based laws that better serve everyone. Michigan families deserve true reform that prioritizes public safety and prevention, not a failed registry.”

Read the full ACLU statement here as well as the history and background leading to this ruling and a copy of the ruling itself.

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