Orange County prosecutors intend to ask the state Supreme Court to review appellate court rulings that struck down a ban on registered sex offenders from parks in the county and in more than a dozen cities, an official said this week.
"We're going to request that the Supreme Court review it," said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
Rackauckas does not need the Orange County Board of Supervisors permission, but a majority of the board members have said they would rather let the issue go.
Supervisor Patricia Bates is "supportive of the law and she knows Tony's going to be appealing. But she's sitting where (Board Chairman Shawn Nelson) is at," Bates' Chief of Staff Don Hughes said.
Nelson told City News Service on Jan. 10 that while he was "disappointed" in the rulings, he didn't "want to spend any more money on it."
Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach agreed.
"I'm not really interested in taking it to the state Supreme Court, but I'm certainly willing to listen to what our district attorney has to say," Moorlach said. "I'd have to listen to some strong arguments to move forward."
Moorlach said he was "uncomfortable" approving the ordinance initially because of the constitutional issues, but voted for it anyway.
Moorlach also raised the issue of blanket bans on sex offenders when some convicts were merely guilty of urinating in public.
Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he fully supports a high-court review.
"I think we have to fight this full force," Spitzer said. "We cannot give sex offenders any room to breathe in our community, period."
A panel of Fourth District Court of Appeal justices struck down the county's law and one in Irvine. Since the Irvine ruling was published, it acts as precedent and makes all of the bans unconstitutional.
In the Irvine case, JeanPierre Cuong Nguyen's success in getting his misdemeanor conviction dismissed in lower court was affirmed. Nguyen was charged with violating Irvine's ordinance because he went to one of the city's parks in September 2012 without the written permission of Irvine's police chief.
The county's ordinance also made it a misdemeanor for a registered sex offender to enter a county park without the county sheriff's written permission. The appellate justices ruling in that case stemmed from Hugo Godinez, a registered sex offender with Costa Mesa police, visiting Mile Square Regional Park in Fountain Valley on May 5, 2011, during a Cinco de Mayo celebration.
Godinez was found guilty, but a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges, who handle appeals in misdemeanor cases, overturned his conviction in April and sent the case to the Fourth District Court of Appeal for further review.
Ordinances banning registered sex offenders from parks are on the books in 15 Orange County cities. Most of them ban registered sex offenders, except in Irvine and Fountain Valley, which target those convicted of crimes against children.
The panel of justices ruled the local ordinances conflicted with state law, which takes precedence.
Spitzer said he doesn't trust state lawmakers to toughen restrictions for registered sex offenders in parks.
"Unfortunately, they tend to look the other way when it comes to very strict sex offender enforcement," Spitzer said.
"If we allow the court to say the legislature owns that area and the legislature is not proactive, and have not been historically when it comes to protecting victims, then we're really in trouble. We've got to absolutely convince the Supreme Court there needs to be local laws (against sex offenders)."
- City News Service