United States v. Richardson

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 06-19-2014
  • Case #: 11-10346
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Per Curiam; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Marguia and District Judge Ezra
  • Full Text Opinion

The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) does not violate the non-delegation doctrine because each state’s public office must respectively interpret policy in order to protect the public from sex offenders; similarly, SORNA does not violate the Tenth Amendment commandeering principle because Congress conditioned the receipt of federal funds on the implementation of SORNA requirements, whereby states are free to choose whether or not to enact SORNA.

On July 21, 2010, Justin Allen Richardson was indicted by a grand jury for failing to register under California’s Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”) after a 1994 conviction for “lewd and lascivious acts with a child.” Richardson moved to dismiss the indictment, alleging that SORNA violated his constitutional rights, specifically the non-delegation clause, the Tenth Amendment commandeering clause, the Commerce Clause, and the Ex Post Facto Clause. Richardson plead guilty without a plea agreement following the district court’s dismissal of his motion, objecting only to a misdemeanor that resulted in a conviction and time served because counsel did not represent him in that trial. In overruling Richardson’s objection, the district court ordered twenty-seven months of imprisonment. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court held that, firstly, although Congress delegated the Attorney General to apply registration requirements on pre-SORNA sex offense charges, the non-delegation clause only requires Congress to lay out policy and boundaries that must subsequently be interpreted by the state’s public agency in order to protect the public from sex offenders. Secondly, the panel held that the commandeering principle under the Tenth Amendment was not violated because the Congress did not mandate the implementation of SORNA on states; rather, it conditioned the grant of federal funds on the enactment of SORNA, whereby a state officials decide whether or not to implement SORNA requirements. Thirdly, the panel rejected the Commerce Clause and the Ex Post Facto Clause arguments because they are barred in the Ninth Circuit. AFFIRMED.

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