Allegheny County in Pennsylvania passed an ordinance entitled “Residence Requirements; Registered Sex Offenders” that limited the places where sex offenders could reside within the county. Fross v. County of Allegheny, No. 09-2036 (3d Cir. July 19, 2011). The ordinance banned sex offenders from residing within 2,500 feet of schools, child care facilities, community centers, recreation facilities, and public parks. Six individuals who had been convicted of a sex offense and had to register as a sex offender under Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law challenged the county ordinance on various federal grounds, and they also asserted that Pennsylvania law preempted the ordinance. The District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment to the sex offenders. The District Court held that Allegheny’s ordinance conflicted with Pennsylvania law that established a statewide system for monitoring sex offenders and was therefore preempted. Fross v. County of Allegheny, 612 F. Supp. 2d 651 (W.D. Pa. 2009).
After reviewing the briefs of the parties and conducting oral argument, the Third Circuit determined that the issues presented should be resolved by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Accordingly, it certified the following question to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court: “Is Allegheny County Ordinance No. 39-07-01 entitled ‘Residence Requirements; Registered Sex Offenders’ preempted by Pennsylvania statutory law and the procedures of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole?” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that state law preempted Allegheny’s ordinance, as it stated: “The County’s legislative efforts in this instance undermines the General Assembly’s policies of rehabilitation, reintegration, and diversion from prison of appropriate offenders, and significantly interferes with the operation of the Sentencing and Parole Codes. For these reasons, we agree with the federal district court that the County’s Ordinance stands as an obstacle to accomplishing the full purposes [and] objectives of the General Assembly and is, therefore, preempted.” Fross v. County of Allegheny, 20 A.3d 1193, ___ (Pa. 2011).
Once the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its opinion, the Third Circuit directed the parties to submit their positions on the impact of that ruling. Both parties agreed that the Third Circuit should affirm the District Court’s ruling based on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision. The Third Circuit agreed with the parties and, therefore, affirmed the District Court’s ruling that Pennsylvania state law preempted Allegheny’s ordinance.