The United States 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down part of California’s Proposition 35, citing an infringement on free speech that is guaranteed by the First Amendment. Prop 35, a bill put on the ballot via initiated state statute, increased prison terms for human traffickers, required sex traffickers to register as sex offenders, and mandated that all registered sex offenders disclose their internet accounts, among other restrictions. Having been approved by 81% of the state’s electorate, the proposition passed with the highest success rate of any item on the California ballot since its inception in 1914.
While the rest of Prop 35 remained untouched, the 9th Circuit decided that California cannot require sex offenders to disclose their online information, data such as Internet names and other identifying information. Legal justification for the ruling came from Judge Jay S. Bybee, who wrote, “Just as the Act burdens sending child pornography and soliciting sex with minors, it also burdens blogging about political topics and posting comments to online news articles.”
Because only a three-judge panel presided over the appeal, State Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has the option of further appealing the case en banc, legalese for in front of the entire 9th Circuit. While it is unclear whether the public or the attorney general will come out to fight over the striking down of this provision, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who appealed the case is determined to defend what they see as the speech rights of an unpopular group and to protect anonymous speech overall.
Will the court’s decision lead to a battle over one of the most popular laws in the state’s history? Can court rulings be swayed by the public?
Janice Bellucci, President of California Reform Sex Offender Laws