Los Angeles; May 24, 2022: Yesterday, a California man filed suit against the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland for the department’s unlawful rule requiring him to register as a sex offender, despite having had his decades-old conviction expunged.

“Congress cannot delegate to the Attorney General the authority to write the same criminal law he is charged with prosecuting. This is a textbook violation of non-delegation, the idea that Congress cannot delegate its lawmaking power to the executive branch,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Caleb Kruckenberg. “If Congress wants to make these laws, it should take responsibility and not pass the buck to the Department of Justice.”

When he was 23 years old, John Doe* had a sexual encounter with a 16-year-old girl that, while not sexual intercourse, broke California law. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three years’ probation and was required to register as a sex offender. In the years that followed, John reformed his life. He married, had children, became a successful businessman, and contributed to his community. In 2012, the State of California expunged his record and issued him a “Certificate of Rehabilitation.”

In the eyes of the State of California, John is not guilty of any crime and is not required—or even permitted—to register as a sex offender. But the Department of Justice has put John in a Catch-22: The DOJ insists that he register, even though his conviction has been expunged and California offers no mechanism for him to register. If he doesn’t register, however, the DOJ presumes he is a guilty of a federal crime and can prosecute him at any time.

The case is John Doe et al. v. U.S. Dept. Of Justice et al., filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. PLF represents John Doe and the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws (ACSOL) free of charge.

*Our client is using the pseudonym John Doe to protect the life and reputation he has built in the decade-plus since his record was fully expunged.


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Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit law firm that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 34 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 18 wins of 20 cases litigated at the U.S. Supreme Court.

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