Case challenges SORA provisions

In a case scheduled for argument this week before the Michigan Supreme Court, a sex offender contends he could not comply with the state’s Sex Offender Registry Act because he was homeless at the time.

Under SORA, a convicted sex offender must register his “new residence or domicile” with local law enforcement upon the offender’s release from prison and when “[he] changes or vacates his … residence, domicile, or place of work or education ….”

The defendant in People v Dowdy, who was convicted of five counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, registered an address with Lansing police in 2003. However, in 2006, police learned that he was not residing there.

As a third habitual offender, he was charged with five counts of failure to comply with SORA.
But the circuit court, affirmed by the Michigan Court of Appeals, dismissed those charges, finding that a homeless person could not comply with the statute.

The prosecutor appeals, arguing in part that a homeless person can still report an address or location where he or she typically sleeps and keeps possessions.

Moreover, the Court of Appeals’ ruling allows sex offenders to evade law enforcement monitoring by claiming homelessness, the prosecutor contends.

In arguments scheduled today and Friday, the court also will hear Michigan Education Association v Secretary of State, in which the MEA challenges the Secretary of State’s ruling that school districts were violating the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by administering a payroll deduction plan for contributions to MEA’s political action committee.

The Secretary of State concluded that the school districts’ administration of the payroll deduction plan amounted to a “contribution” or expenditure” of public funds.

A circuit court overruled that decision, noting that the MEA reimbursed the school districts in advance for the cost of administering the payroll deductions.

Accordingly, “no transfer of value to the union PAC occurs, and therefore, an ‘expenditure’ has not been made,” the judge  said.
But in a split published opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed, with the majority finding that an expenditure had taken place regardless of whether the MEA reimbursed the school district.

The remaining cases involve criminal, insurance, medical malpractice, property taxes, real property and utility law issues.


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