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ACLU Comes To The Rescue Of The Florida DOC

      I’ve been wondering whether the Zandbergen-Hart housing study, introduced by the ACLU in its legal challenge against Miami-Dade County’s sex offender residency restrictions, might be more compelling if the lawsuit had been directed at the even more draconian city ordinances.  The county ordinance establishes a 2,500 buffer around schools but most of the 24 cities with residency restrictions encircle schools, kindergartens, day cares even school bus stops.

      The county ordinance greatly restricts the housing opportunities, the study shows, but cities like Miami and Miami Beach has virtually eliminated all affordable housing opportunities. The cities have essentially banished sex offenders – a constitutional no-no.

      The Zandbergen –Hart study would provide a stunning defense exhibit for the Florida Department of Corrections, which is being sued by the city of Miami for dumping sex offender probationers into the Julia Tuttle Causeway homeless camp. The study shows that the city, by eliminating all potential housing within its own limits, has made it own bed.

      But Valerie Jonas, on leave from her job as a  Miami-Dade public defender, thinks I missed something in my unlawyerly musings. She writes:

      “I do think you're missing something. You suggest that only those bans which eliminate all housing within the jurisdiction of the banning authority are clearly liable.

      “But here's the legal and factual scenarios combined:

      (1) Most (all but 4 I think) of the
municipalities passed their ordinances before the county passed its ordinance.

      (2) The county could have but did not preempt the municipal ordinances under the home rule charter.

      (3) When the county passed its
ordinance, it knew and intended that, combined with the municipal ordinances, there would remain no place in the county for sex offenders to reside
. [Jonas offers up some of the some of very telling county commissioner statements at the Nov. 15, 2005  meeting at which the ordinance was passed.]

      (4) Combining the data from
the Zandbergen report and the FDLE website, there are now many more homeless sex offenders in the county than there are affordable legal residences available for them to live in, which was precisely the effect the county intended.

      It would be incredibly burdensome and unjust to require sex offenders to bring lawsuits against all 24 individual municipalities, particularly where, as here, the county had the intent to and effectually
did create a county-wide ban.  Does a sex offender even have a right to affordable available housing in Pinecrest or Bal Harbor?  A single lawsuit against the county makes more sense, because the county effectually created the county-wide ban, and is best situated to eliminate it through the simple expedient of preemption.”
[The ACLU contends that the county unlawfully preempted the state’s less draconian 1,000-feet residency restrictions.] 


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