Court blocks temporarily California's disclosure rules for sex offenders

Civil rights groups filed a lawsuit challenging parts of the California ballot measure

A federal court in the U.S. on Wednesday temporarily restrained law officials in California from enforcing new provisions that allegedly violate the free speech rights of sexual offenders.

American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California (ACLU-NC) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a federal class-action lawsuit on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to block implementation of the provisions.

The plaintiffs had moved to enjoin the implementation of several sections of the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE Act), which was enacted Tuesday by Proposition 35 and was to take effect the next day.

The plaintiffs in particular challenged the constitutionality of the newly enacted California Penal Code sections which require registered sex offenders to "immediately" provide the police with lists of "any and all Internet service providers" and "any and all Internet identifiers established or used" by the registrant.

The law would require more than 73,000 Californians to turn over the information to police, and report any new account or screen name within 24 hours of setting it up, even if they are using their real name, EFF and ACLU said in a statement on Wednesday.

While the law is written "very unclearly," the information to be provided likely includes email addresses, user names and other identifiers used for online political discussion groups and other forums such as newspaper or blog comments, the civil rights groups added.

While issuing the temporary restraining order, District Judge Thelton E. Henderson also ordered that California state attorney general, Kamala D. Harris should show cause as to why a preliminary injunction should not issue enjoining her and her officers from implementing and enforcing the sections of the California Penal Code. The court will construe plaintiffs' moving papers for a TRO as a motion for preliminary injunction, the Judge wrote in the order.

The hearing is scheduled for Nov. 20.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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