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Four Orange County cities sued over sex offender laws

The suit contends that laws in Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Lake Forest banning sex offenders from county parks and other public facilities are unconstitutional.

October 06, 2012|By Mona Shadia, Los Angeles Times

A registered sex offender has filed suit against four Orange County cities, challenging the constitutionality of a law that bans sex offenders from using public parks, beaches and even some roadways.

The suit is aimed at Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Seal Beach and Lake Forest, which have all modeled local ordinances on the county's sex offender law, which bans offenders from entering county parks and other public facilities.

It is considered one of the most aggressive sex offender laws in California.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, claims the local laws that ban the plaintiff, a registered sex offender, from entering city parks or visiting beaches violate the Constitution and his protected rights under the law.

The San Francisco law firm representing the man, identified only as "John Doe" in the lawsuit, said the ban violates his 1st, 5th and 14th Amendment rights.

The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiff, by being banned from entering public property, is unable to peaceably assemble, speak freely, travel via some public roads, receive information and petition the government. The ban also deprives him of his liberties without a fair hearing and prevents him from judicial access, the lawsuit said.

Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff to the Orange County district attorney, defended the local laws as constitutional. Fourteen cities in Orange County have now adopted sex offender rules at the urging of the district attorney.

"Protecting children from sexual predators, I believe, is one of the most important duties of government," Schroeder said.

She said the district attorney's office will work with the cities to defend the sex offender laws.

"First of all, it doesn't surprise me that a San Francisco lawyer would be filing a suit on behalf of a sex offender," Schroeder said.

Dennis Riordan, the attorney who filed the suit, dismissed the remark.

"If that is the level of legal analysis on which these cities and county are going to be defended, they are going to be very poorly served in their representation," he said.

The lawsuit asks the courts to permanently stop the four cities from enforcing their bans and declare the laws unconstitutional.

The plaintiff was convicted more than 15 years ago, the suit said, and has long since served his sentence and been treated and is now employed and married with children.

mona.shadia@latimes.com

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