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Reynolds v. United States

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: October 3, 2011
Case #: 10-6549
Court Below: 380 Fed. App. 125 (3d Cir. 2009)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca3.uscourt.gov/opinarch/084747np.pdf

Standing: Whether standing may be established under plain reading of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) to challenge an interim rule applying the statute retroactively to parties who committed the offense prior to the statute’s enactment.

In 2006, Congress enacted SORNA, an Act, which requires convicted sex offenders to register where they live, work, or attend school. SORNA further allows the Attorney General to apply the Act to sex offenders convicted prior to the implementation of the Act. The Attorney General enacted this provision in 2007 without going through a notice an comment period required under the APA, stating that good cause existed due to the immediate need to institute the interim rule. Petitioner was convicted in 2001, which predated SORNA by five years and therefore fell under the ambit of the interim rule.

Petitioner brought this action, arguing that individuals with convictions arising before SORNA’s enactment should have standing to challenge the Attorney General’s rule-making process in applying the Act. Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the Attorney General violated the APA for failing to hold a notice and comment period. The court denied Petitioner’s motion. On appeal, the Third Circuit found that Petitioner did not have standing to challenge his conviction under the Tenth Amendment or to assert a claim against the validity of the Attorney General’s interim rule.

Petitioner argues that because the conviction occurred prior to the enactment of SORNA, the plain language of the statute says that SORNA would not apply until the Attorney General utilized the delegated authority vested in him and issued a valid rule. Petitioner argues that for a rule to be valid it must be enacted utilizing the requirements of the APA under subsection d of SORNA. Respondent argues that the registration requirements contained in SORNA are unqualified and apply to every sex offender, regardless of when the conviction occurred. The United States further argues that the allowance in SORNA to delegate application of SORNA’s requirements to the Attorney General does not exempt any sex offender from the registration requirements.