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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg echoed those sentiments, telling the North Carolina official defending the law that barring sex offenders from social networking sites would cut them off from “a very large part of the marketplace in ideas.” Kagan was perhaps the most vocal opponent of the law, but by the end of an hour of oral argument it seemed very possible that Ginsburg and at least three of Kagan’s other colleagues would join her in striking down the North Carolina law.
The first half of the oral argument was not entirely smooth sailing for attorney David Goldberg, who argued on behalf of Lester Packingham.
The law doesn’t apply only to people who used the Internet to commit a sexual offense, she stressed, but instead applies to everyone.
Where is the basis, she queried, for the inference that a sex offender like Packingham would use the Internet to commit another crime?
Prosecutors say an inmate at Washington State's Purdy Correctional Facility said she was forced to perform oral sex on a corrections deputy at the Pierce County Jail and identified Pardes as the jail guard involved.
People do not merely rely those sites to obtain virtually all of their information, she emphasized, but even “structure their civil community life” around them.
Justice Stephen Breyer also seemed open to this possibility, telling Goldberg that perhaps the law could be interpreted as barring sex offenders from visiting a site that allows people to meet or exchange information.
Even Ginsburg and Kagan did not seem at first to regard the law as completely flawed.
But the tide seemed to turn when Robert Montgomery, the senior deputy attorney general representing North Carolina, took the lectern.
Montgomery pushed back against the depiction of social media sites by Kagan and Ginsburg (among others) as a “crucial channel” of communication.