The case of U.S v. Comstock first appeared in the North Carolina Courts in 2007. The case regards the 2006 Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. This Act was established by Congress observed under 18 U.S.C §4248 to protect the general public from individuals deemed to be “sexually dangerous” (US v Comstock 2007). Once an individual has served his sentence for sexually violent or inappropriate behavior, he can remain detained until “the person’s condition is such that he is no longer sexually dangerous to others” (US v Comstock 2007). For an inmate to be deemed sexually dangerous, the prosecution must prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that the individual is a sexually deviant and a danger to the general public (U.S v Comstock, 2007). In this way, individuals remain in custody under the care of the Attorney General until he is no longer a threat. As a result, the Walsh Act works to “close the gap between federal and state efforts to identity, track, and confine sexual predators” (U.S v Comstock, 2007).
Grayson Comstock along with the other defendants, Thomas Motherly, Margin Virgil, and Markis Revland, filed a motion before the North Carolina courts, stating the Walsh Act violated their constitutional rights. The defendants stated that the Act “violates the double jeopardy clause, the ex post facto clause, and the 6th and 8th amendments”, (US v Comstock, 2010). Additionally, the defendants claim the Walsh Act violates their due process. This is because sexual misfits are deemed dangerous through clear and convincing evidence and not by the standards of reasonable doubt. Defendants also claim the Walsh Act stands as unconstitutional because Congress exceeded its enumerated powers recognized in the Necessary and Proper Clause.
“A North Carolina federal district court dismissed the petitions. On appeal, the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirmed”, (US v Comstock, 2013). The US District Court of North Carolina considered two provisions of the Walsh Act. They found the act unconstitutional based on the violation of due process as defendants are detained upon clear and convincing evidence. In addition the courts filed that Congress did not have the power to enact this policy based on the powers vested in the Necessary and Proper Clause. Although these two provisions of the act were ruled unconstitutional, the Court found that the ruling “does not affect or pertain to the remaining provisions of the Walsh Act” (US v Comstock, 2007). The government then appealed the case to the US Supreme Court.
The US Supreme Court voted “7 votes for United States, 2 votes against” on the case of US v Comstock” (US V Comstock, 2013). The vote determined that Congress maintains the right and authority to enact the Walsh Act and within the enumerated powers vested to Congress through the Necessary and Proper Clause. Although the Court maintained a majority rule, they also weighed the negative aspects of the Act. This includes the Acts narrow range and Congress attempt to act as a policing power that is granted to the power of the States. In addition, the Court stresses the nature of the case and the ruling is “not construed as ranging an unlimited ability by Congress to extend its power”, (US v Comstock, 2013). The court went on to find that the Act violates the defendants constitutional rights “by allowing a showing of sexually dangerousness to be made by clear and convincing evidence instead of by proof beyond a reasonable doubt”, (US v Comstock, 2010).
US v. Comstock. (2007). 507. F. Supp. 2d- 522 District Court North Carolina. United States District Court, E.D North Carolina. Western Division.
US v Comstock. (2010). 5660 US 126 Supreme Court. No. 08-1224. Supreme Court of United States.
US v Comstock. (2013). The Oyex Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Retrieved from: http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2009/2009_08_1224