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State appeals sex offender law ruling

10-31-2008 Nevada:

The Nevada attorney general's office will appeal a federal judge's decision that bars the state from applying a new sex offender law retroactively.

The attorney general's office filed a notice of appeal this week with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging Judge James Mahan's September decision.

Mahan ruled that a new sex offender law, Assembly Bill 579, was unconstitutional because it would punish convicted sex offenders who had paid their debt to society.

The law changes the way Nevada classifies sex offenders. Instead of categorizing them by risk to re-offend, the law categorizes sex offenders by the crime they were convicted of.

"Our mandate is to defend the laws of the state of Nevada. We will pursue that mandate," said Binu Palal, deputy attorney general.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and attorney Robert Langford challenged the law on behalf of about a dozen sex offenders.

Maggie McLetchie, staff attorney with the ACLU of Nevada, said she was disappointed with the attorney general's decision to appeal Mahan's decision. She said an appeal will be costly for the state, which is already facing budget woes. She said the ACLU has already billed the state about $140,000 in legal fees for the sex offender case.

"Our hope was to sit down and work collaboratively with the attorney general's office and legislators on this issue," she said. "There are ways to work this out and further public safety goals."

ACLU Executive Director Gary Peck said the law the attorney general's office is supporting isn't enhancing public safety. He called the appeal "a colossal waste of time, energy and money." ..Source.. by DAVID KIHARA, REVIEW-JOURNAL

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