If you are looking for a lawyer with common sense in Nebraska, try knocking on Stu Dornan's door. He just scored a temporary victory in the on-going battle against sex-offender hysteria.
Nebraska lawmakers want each and every so-called sex offender in the state, regardless of the offense of conviction, to register in an on-line data base. Presumably, that is so the good folks in the Cornhusker state can determine whether they are living next door to a predator. The problem with the Nebraska law is that if fails to draw the elementary distinction between those folks who pose a risk and those who do not.
I am willing to bet there are thousands of people in Nebraska who would, if truth be know, be designated as sex offenders if the truth about their youth were known. That is because Nebraska law, like the law of, I suspect, every other state requires folks to register for statutory rape.
Let us begin with fundamentals: Most often statutory rape is not really rape at all. A minor below the age of consent typically consents to sexual contact with a person a few years old. That is statutory rape. It is not a violent assault of one stranger upon another. Calling this rape is calling Juliet a victim, and Romeo a felon. It's silly, destructive and wholly at variance with our history. It was not until the late nineteenth century that many states raised the age of consent from 10 or 11 years of age to 15 or 16. This was done in response to pressure from the Women's Temperance Union, a group of progressives who sought to protect young girls from victimization as they flocked from farm to city in search of work.
Such laws made sense at the time, and something like these laws make sense now. Young girls should not be victimized. But do we really mean to classify young lovers as sexual predators? Do they belong in the same category as violent rapists? Of course not. Many Americans are sexually active before the age of consent. That does not make them criminals. Even in Nebraska.
But the climate of hysteria prevalent across the nation when it comes to sex offenses has gripped Nebraska. No matter what the underlying facts, a sex offender is dangerous. Period. Require all of them to register, regardless of the consequences.
Attorney Stu Dornan had the sense to see through this charade. He filed papers in Sarpy County District Court challenging whether a law that fails to draw obvious distinctions between dangerous and benign acts makes sense. District Judge William Zastera issued a temporary order barring the state from enforcing it. The claims will be litigated this week.
“We’re very pleased with the judge’s order,’’ said Stu Dornan, an Omaha attorney who has been challenging the law. “We’ll be able to litigate this further.’’
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf had a chance last week to do some good as a jurist when the issue was brought to his court. But he tucked his tail beneath his robe and ran simpering to the back of the bandwagon supporting sex offense hysteria. He denied a request for similar relief, this one also filed by Attorney Dornan.
“You dilute the whole purpose of the registry by lumping everyone together,’’ Dornan said. He's right. Place a genuine threat in the same pool with one thousand other folks, and the threat is lost.
I like Dornan's pluck, and I wish him well this week. Hopefully Judge Zastera will show a little more sense that Judge Kopf.
Dornan is a former FBI special agent, and has been practicing law for 17 years. He is definitely one of the good guys. Folks in need of Omaha counsel should not hesitate in contacting him. Here is his telephone number: 402-884-7044