The New Jersey Supreme Court invalidated 120 municipal ordinances that restricted where convicted sex offenders could live, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The unanimous decision was seen as the last word in a four-year battle over whether towns have the right to ban sex offenders from living in certain areas.
State politicians on both sides of the aisle quickly responded, noting that four bills with bipartisan support are pending in the legislature to give towns the ability to create “pedophile-free zones.” Courts have consistently held that the local ordinances do more harm than good because they interfere with the statewide Megan’s Law, a complex scheme established to handle paroled sex offenders. Under that law – named for Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old girl raped and murdered in 1994 by a neighbor who was a convicted sex offender – those with sex-crime records must register with local authorities. The information in the registry cannot be used to deny housing to offenders, but the courts found that is what the local ordinances did.