Hudson disputes attack ad

Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson says she's being unfairly tarred as sympathetic to child molesters in a new attack ad funded by business groups.

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Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — Robin Hudson, a state Supreme Court justice up for re-election this year, finds herself battling an attack at accusing her of being unduly sympathetic to child molesters.
The ad is aired by a political action committee known as Justice for All NC but is bankrolled by business interests, ranging form Koch industries to Reynolds American and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

"We want judges to protect us," begins the ad. "When child molesters sued to stop electronic monitoring of their locations, a law that let us track child molesters near schools, playgrounds and day care centers, Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson sided with the predators. Hudson cited a child molester's right to privacy and took the side of the convicted molesters. Justice Robin Hudson: not tough on child molesters, not fair to victims. 

The ad is based on North Carolina v. Bowditch et al, a case the Supreme Court decided in 2010. It involved a 2006 law that required electronic monitoring of those convicted of certain sexual offenses. 

The court upheld the law in a 4-3 decision. Hudson was one of the dissenting justices.

"Of course I didn't side with child molesters. I would never do that," Hudson said this week. "The program in question didn't go far enough to protect children or the constitution."

In her dissent, Hudson cited other court cases that said any additional condition put on a convict after their release has to have "a rational connection to a nonpunitive purpose" and cannot be "excessive with respect to this purpose."

Hudson argued that the monitoring scheme was an extra punishment being levied on the prisoners after they committed their crime. 

"When weighed against its almost complete lack of efficacy in furthering the purpose of protecting our children,the intrusions of the SBM program become punitive in effect," Hudson wrote at the time. "The physical and practical realities of the SBM program – the size and weight of the ankle bracelet and MTD, the requirement to remain in one place for six hours for daily recharging, the degree to which SBM interferes with everyday work and recreation activities, the degree to which the program impedes enrollees’ freedom of travel, and its invasive requirement for consent to enter an enrollee’s home – transform the effect of the scheme from regulatory to punitive."

Had her view carried the day, the state would have been able to apply monitoring to new offenders but could not have placed the requirement on those already in prison. 

"The evidence in the case was that the program in question did nothing to protect children," she said this week.

But Jay Connaughton, the owner of the firm that produced the ad and who is serving as a spokesman for Justice for All NC, said that Hudson's explanation doesn't wash. 

"Justice Hudson is desperately trying now trying to recreate history by saying she didn’t think the law was tough enough. Really? That’s not what I read in her dissent," Connaughton said, calling the assertion "laughable." 

However, The Winston-Salem Journal explored the monitoring program in a 2012 article. The paper found that the monitoring program does little to keep prisoners from committing new crimes and that "those wearing ankle bracelets aren’t being watched that closely by the state."

Also, Hudson's comments this week are consistent with what she wrote in 2010.

"I conclude only that the retroactive application of these statutes violates the ex post facto clauses of our state and federal constitutions and would therefore prohibit their application solely to those sex offenders who committed their offenses before the effective date of the statute," she wrote in her dissent.

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