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Sex Offenders Keep Heat on Calif. Disclosure Law

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Opponents of a California human trafficking law that also penalizes convicted sex offenders have renewed their demands for a federal injunction.

With the help of Internet privacy and civil rights groups, two sex offenders brought a class action against the state, demanding an injunction against part of the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation, or CASE, Act.

They have taken issue with a provision of the voter-passed law that requires sex offenders to give police a complete list of their user names, screen names, email addresses and Internet service providers.

Opposing their motion for an injunction last week, Attorney General Kamala Harris insisted that the law is not unconstitutional toward sex offenders.

In reply Monday, the plaintiffs said this argument "is plainly wrong."

"Nearly everything that occurs on the Internet, from emailing to participating in newsgroups to blogging, is speech," their brief states. "The reporting requirements apply only when a registrant wants to speak on the Internet; if he then fails to provide the government with his Internet identifier he is subject to criminal penalties, no matter how innocuous (or important) his speech."

California also went over the line in requiring sex offenders to file their information within 24 hours of creating or changing their username or Internet Service Provider, the opponents say.

"California's 24-hour rule means that registrants will often have to identify themselves to the police before they are done speaking: if they want to use the same 'Internet identifier' two days in a row they will have to report it before the second day (and adopting a new 'Internet identifier' every day would mean daily reporting, as well as an infringement on the right to use an expressive identifier of one's choice)," according to the brief. "Any registrant who adopts a new screen name would be reckless not to immediately report it to the government, lest he forget or be unable to do it later that day, and violate the law."

The opponents say California has been "stockpiling" information on sex offenders that it admittedly cannot use until March 2012.

"There is absolutely no basis to require registrants to shoulder the burden of reporting information about protected speech that the government acknowledges it cannot use," the brief states.

In a separate filing, the plaintiffs asked that the court overrule Harris' objection to its expert witness David Post, an intellectual property professor from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

In a similar case, Doe v. Nebraska, Post testified to the ambiguity of the statutory definitions of "chat room," "instant messaging" and "social networking website."

The plaintiffs also took aim at attorney Sharmin Bock, who helped write the proposition behind the CASE Act.

Bock filed declaration with the court, but the plaintiffs say it cannot stand if it entertains objections to Post.

"Given her personal bias in seeing a law she herself wrote being upheld, as well as her declaration's complete lack of specificity, data, or reasoning, and the exaggerations in much of her declaration, the legal conclusions in Ms. Bock's declaration should be struck in their entirety, and the remainder given little to no weight," the brief states.

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