With the 4th Circuit's opinion in Comstock striking down part of the AWA on Commerce Clause grounds, a logical question is whether the decision has any relevance as to other parts of the AWA, mainly SORNA. In a recent 4th Circuit argument, that seems to have been the focus:
At arguments before the 4th Circuit today in Richmond, Va., appellant Brian L. Gould’s lawyer also is expected to raise a Commerce Clause argument against the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act, which Congress passed as part of the Walsh Act in 2006.
“If this interpretation of [the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act] is accepted, the Act lies beyond Congress’s authority under the Commerce Clause,” the attorney, assistant federal public defender Paresh S. Patel, wrote in a letter to the 4th Circuit earlier this month. “Comstock leaves no room for this Court to find that SORNA’s registration requirement is authorized under the Commerce Clause....”
U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said Tuesday that he expects the 4th Circuit to side with the government.
“It’s an important case because the defendant is challenging the constitutionality of the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act,” said Rosenstein, who will argue the case personally. “Challenges to SORNA have been filed all over the country and so far, most courts and, in fact, all of the appellate courts that have ruled on it have upheld the statute.”
Rosenstein, like Patel, addressed Comstock in a letter to the court. Registration laws, unlike civil commitment laws, do affect interstate commerce, he wrote.
The registration provision is “distinguishable from civil commitment because it is part of a comprehensive national program to track the interstate movement of sex offenders and maintain an accurate nationwide database accessible over the internet,” Rosenstein wrote.