Saturday, January 21, 2012
10th Circuit Upholds ACLU Challenge to Albuquerque Sex Offender Ban
Court says 2008 law banning registered sex offenders from all public libraries violates First Amendment.
Friday, in a First Amendment lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Albuquerque’s ban on sex offenders from accessing the city’s public libraries is unconstitutional. This decision affirmed the U.S. District Court of New Mexico’s ruling that the ban infringed too broadly upon the fundamental First Amendment right to receive information.
“The Tenth Circuit is right in affirming that the City of Albuquerque cannot categorically exclude an entire group of people from a constitutionally protected space,” said ACLU-NM Executive Director Peter Simonson. “People have a First Amendment right to receive information in public libraries and the government needs to explicitly justify its actions if it’s going to infringe on such a fundamental right.”
The 10th Circuit found that, “The First Amendment includes a fundamental right to receive information. By prohibiting registered sex offenders for accessing the City’s public libraries, the City’s ban precludes these individuals from exercising this right in a particular government forum.” The Court further concluded that the City of Albuquerque did not show proper justification for the overly broad and overly restrictive policy.
“When the government wants to restrict rights as fundamental as those protected under the First Amendment, the bar for justification is set very high,” said ACLU-NM Cooperating Attorney Brendan Egan. “We do not believe the City of Albuquerque met that obligation, and we are encouraged that one of the highest courts in the nation agrees.”
Read the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals decision here.