Since her 7-year-old daughter, Megan, was murdered by a neighbor in the summer of 1994, Maureen Kanka says she has traveled about 50,000 miles, pressing for passage of laws intended to protect children from sex offenders.
She has driven her family's old car to many meetings with lawmakers in the capitals of New York, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maryland. And she has also flown to North Carolina and California for meetings.In all her months of traveling and petitioning, she said Monday, she never doubted the righteousness of her crusade in her daughter's name.
"I would have died for my little girl," she said. "Where I couldn't help Megan, I don't want another family to go down that line."
Throughout her journeys, Kanka said she was convinced that judges, both state and federal, would ultimately agree with the intrinsic social values and the legal justifications of the community notification laws passed by nearly every state since New Jersey enacted "Megan's Law" in October 1994.
So, Monday's news from the U.S. Supreme Court produced more a sense of quiet satisfaction than any burst of jubilation for Kanka and her husband Richard, who repairs commercial air-conditioning and heating systems.
In a decision that finally ended a three-year legal cloud hanging over New Jersey's law, the court declined to accept an appeal by the New Jersey Public Defender's office challenging the constitutionality of the state's "Megan's Law" on behalf of paroled sex offenders. The appeal contended that the law's notification provisions exposed those offenders convicted and sentenced before passage of the law to community ostracism that amounted to illegal extra punishment.
"We're very pleased," Kanka said from her family's home in Hamilton Township. "But I've known from Day One that this law will be there. It wasn't a surprise to me. In whatever way, shape or form it becomes law around the country, it's a good law that's gone far and wide. It's for all of the kids, everywhere. I think our courts see the need for this."