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PAUL P. v. FARMER

April 11, 2000

PAUL P., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
JOHN Z. FARMER, JR., ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, District Judge.

OPINION

Presently before the Court is plaintiffs' motion to enforce this Court's injunction of January 24, 2000. For the reasons set forth below, this motion is denied and the injunction is vacated.

I.

On March 16, 1999, the Third Circuit held that New Jersey's Registration and Community Notification Act, N.J.S.A. 2C:7-1 et seq. ("Megan's Law") was constitutional on its face. Paul P. v. Verniero, 170 F.3d 396 (3d Cir. 1999). However, while the case was pending before the Third Circuit, the parties filed several motions to supplement the record. The Circuit Court declined to consider these motions and instead remanded the case back to this Court so that it could consider the material contained in the motions to "determine whether any action is appropriate" in light of Third Circuit precedent. Id. at 406. Specifically, the Third Circuit directed this Court to consider its previous holding in Fraternal Order of Police v. Philadelphia, 812 F.2d 105 (3d Cir. 1987). In that case, the Third Circuit held that "the fact that protected information must be disclosed to a party who has a particular need for it . . . does not strip the information of its protection against disclosure to those who have no similar need." Id. at 118.

On January 24, 2000, this Court held that the Megan's Law notification procedures were unconstitutional because they did not adequately safeguard against the unauthorized disclosure of protected information. The Court noted that, as it was then administered, the law contained no uniform method of disclosure which ensured that Megan's Law information was disseminated to those "with a particular need for it" while avoiding disclosure to those who had no similar need. Paul P. v. Farmer, 80 F. Supp.2d 320, 325 (D.N.J. 2000). The Court directed defendants to redraft the Attorney General Guidelines to "reasonably limit disclosure to those entitled to receive it." Id. Also, the Court issued an Order enjoining defendants from commencing any further notifications until the Attorney General promulgated Guidelines which complied with the Opinion of the Court. The Court stayed this injunction pending appeal to and decision by the Third Circuit. However, by Consent Order dated March 23, 2000, the stay was modified "to provide the Attorney General with 45 days to promulgate revised Guidelines."

On March 22, 2000, this Court received a copy of the Attorney General's revised Guidelines captioned "Attorney General Guidelines for Law Enforcement for the Implementation of Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Laws." The revised Guidelines, effective March 23, 2000, depart from the original Guidelines in several respects. Most significantly, the revised Guidelines now provide two versions of notice forms: an "unredacted" form and a "redacted" form. The unredacted notice form contains the exact home address of the Megan's Law registrant ("registrant") along with the registrant's name, photograph, description, license plate number, vehicle description, and sex offender status. (Rev.Guid., 24). The redacted version contains all of the latter information, but replaces the exact street address of the registrant with more general information such as the block number or intersection nearest the offender's residence. (Id.)

Under the revised procedures, only those individuals who sign a receipt form may receive the unredacted notice. (Id. at 43). Members of the community who are within the scope of notification, but who decline to sign the receipt form, receive the redacted notice. (Id.). The receipt form states, in pertinent part:

I will comply with the Order of the Court which allows me to receive the sex offender information provided to me;
I will comply with the Megan's Law Rules of Conduct which have been provided to me;

I will submit to the jurisdiction of the Court.

(Defs.' Ex. Q).

The Guidelines state that persons who do not sign the receipt form and therefore receive the redacted rather than the unredacted form are told that they are, nonetheless, bound by the applicable "Rules of Conduct." (Rev.Guid., 43). The Attorney General has created four types of "Rules of Conduct" forms. One form is tailored for school personnel, one for community organization officials, one for community members and one for businesses. (See Defs.' Ex. H, I, J, K). The "Rules of Conduct" for community members states that "[d]oing the following is inappropriate and may result in court action or prosecution being taken against you" and lists the following prohibitions:

1. Do not share the information in this notification flier, or the flier itself, with anyone outside of your household or anyone not in your care. Do not share the information in this ...

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