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Supreme Court may take up sex registry case
Supreme Court deciding whether to hear challenge to Virginia sex offender registry
By SAM HANANEL
Associated Press
2014-03-21 03:22 AM

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

The woman was convicted in the state of 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 did not.

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 Friday 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 has not 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.

"In her case, she never admitted to a violent crime, nobody told her she was accused of a violent crime, and 15 years later they say, 'We decided you're violent and no one can prove that we're wrong,' " her lawyer, Marvin Miller, said in an interview.

Although her name is publicly available in Virginia's sex offender registry, the district court allowed the woman to file her case under a pseudonym to protect her privacy and that of her children. Lawyers for the state consented to the arrangement, which is rare and usually reserved to protect the victims of sexual abuse cases.

Like dozens of states, Virginia has moved to bolster its sex offender registration and notification laws since Congress approved the Adam Walsh Act in 2006. The federal law, named for a Florida boy abducted and murdered in 1981, sought to get states to better coordinate and expand their sex-offender registries.

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Follow Sam Hananel on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SamHananelAP

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