By ADAM ELMAHREK
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas is preparing to fight what could be the beginning of significant backlash against his signature issue over the past year — banning sex offenders from local parks.
After successfully pushing for a ban at county parks, Rackauckas spent many hours and nights this year attending city council meetings across the county lobbying for ordinances that would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to enter city parks.
The intensive lobbying effort paid off, with 15 cities voting to adopt such bans.
- And hopefully these cities will now repeal the laws, which do nothing to prevent crime or protect anybody?
But then a registered sex offender sued, and a panel of Orange County Superior Court judges ruled last month that the county’s ban was illegal because it preempted state law and created a confusing patchwork of local restrictions.
That decision could end up before the state's 4th District Court of Appeal, which will decide by Dec. 15 whether to take on the issue.
If the appellate court affirms the Superior Court’s decision, it could spell doom for Rackauckas’ high-profile campaign.
- Good, and hopefully they will find the laws unconstitutional?
It appears that reversals and criticism have already begun.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has decided to stop enforcing the ordinance in county territories and some cities because of advice from the county counsel’s office in the wake of the court ruling.
And following heated exchange between Lake Forest Mayor Kathryn McCullough (Video) and Rackauckas, Lake Forest City Council members last Tuesday night voted to repeal their ordinance.
Officials in other cities across the county are considering doing the same.
Despite those setbacks, Rackauckas remains undeterred.
At last week's annual Orange County Inns of Court annual holiday event, Rackaucakas said he sharply disagrees with the county counsel’s position and the ruling of the lower court.
Rackauckas said his office is confident in their legal position that the sex offender bans are constitutional and that county officials need not stop enforcing the ban unless the appellate court decides to take on the issue and offers an adverse ruling.
DA officials have taken the stance that regardless of how many sex crimes are actually prevented, defending children from sexual predators is worth fighting for and that the cities were warned of possible court battles if they adopted the ordinances.
“We have always said that this is a law that will never show up in the statistics. You will never know what child will not get raped or not get molested because this law existed,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, Rackauckas' chief of staff.
Yet to critics the sex offender park ban is an unnecessary law, seemingly intended to score easy political points and now placing taxpayers at risk for costly lawsuits.
Lake Forest officials sharply criticized the law as ineffective before City Council members voted to repeal it.
A staff report states that since such bans have taken effect, “only two have resulted in prosecution, and the court recently overturned the sole conviction on appeal.”