Constitutional Law Professor Jeffrey G. Purvis, San Joaquin College of Law


There are write-in advice and answer columns in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and blogs, addressing every conceivable topic. But how many of these openly address fabricated e-mails from "audience" members who are admittedly imaginary? Only one! "Valley Views on the Law," San Joaquin College of Law's monthly legal information radio show on FM 88.1. KFCF, in Fresno, does just that. In the "Dear Professors" segment, I answer the pressing and topical legal questions generated by my own perfervid imagination (along with one actual e-mail from an actual listener) every month, for the edification of the audience. You can also send me an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Here is a recent one preceding a discussion of sexual predators and social media. 


DEAR PROFESSORS:


I consider myself a moderate conservative, which means that I don't always agree with what politicians like Trump, McConnell and Ryan are doing. But I agree much less with what liberal politicians and liberals like you do, Professor Purvis. When I saw on my Twitter feed that this month’s Valley Views on the Law show was about the constitutional rights of sexual predators, it reminded me of why I could never support left-wing causes. How could anyone say it is wrong to keep registered sex offenders from using social media like Facebook? These animals will simply use it as a way to identify and attack new victims. You can't say that you are defending the innocent, because the criminals affected by laws that ban them from social media have already been convicted after a fair trial. What possible justification can you offer for holding that such laws are unconstitutional? Part of the reason why Trump is President and the Republican Party controls all three branches of the federal government is because liberal take positions like supporting the rights of sexual predators.
--Dutch Reagan, Tampico, Ill.

I disagree with you about why Trump is President, Mr. Reagan--that happened because the Republican Party successfully engaged in voter suppression and because people who could have voted for Democratic candidates didn't bother to actually vote. Also, three million more people voted for Hillary Clinton for President than voted for Trump. What's new about American politics and culture now is that confirmation bias is so entrenched that people like Trump can lie outrageously and constantly without suffering any negative consequences.


But you ask for a justification for protecting the constitutional rights of sex offenders, and I want to offer one. Many, if not most, Americans, are only concerned when their own rights are in danger. Liberals value rights that enhance personal freedom; conservatives support rights that empower profit-seeking. But one thing that everyone can agree upon is that criminals don't deserve any rights. That usually includes persons accused of criminal activity, but is applied very strongly to those convicted of a crime. (Of course, celebrities and those convicted of stealing immense amounts of money are generally excepted from this treatment.) I am no fonder of criminal behavior than anyone else, but I believe it is critical to protect the constitutional rights of everyone, in all circumstances, in order to insure that my own constitutional rights will be protected. Once constitutional rights are diminished for an identified group, it becomes easier for government to gradually increase the number of groups who are subject to diminished rights. So we must all assiduously and vigilantly oppose any violation of the constitution, and promote a coherent and just set of rules, applied logically and neutrally, to determine when such a violation occurs.


Sexual violence is a terrible wrong, and sexual assaults that target children are beyond despicable. Our society is not very successful at dealing with any crime, and bounces between ineffective rehabilitation and draconian punishment for convicted criminals. (See previous exception.) I don't know what to do about sexual offenders, but I do not think that a registered sex offender forfeits his constitutional right to freedom of speech. This doesn't require that he be given total access to social media, it requires that government restrictions on his access to social media be subject to meaningful constitutional scrutiny. Supporting and defending the Constitution shouldn't be a liberal political position or a conservative political position, or any political position at all. If, after appropriate constitutional analysis, a court decides that convicted sex offenders can constitutionally be barred from social media, so be it. If America can elect a President who proudly proclaimed that he grabbed women's genitals, an act of sexual violence, then we can certainly deliberate about whether certain criminals should be permitted to utilize social media, even in a restricted fashion, without being accused of facilitating or condoning sexual violence against children.