Saying the measure does not meet requirements for “truth in packaging,” a Leon County circuit judge Monday rejected a proposed constitutional amendment designed to expand the rights of crime victims.
The decision by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers on a ballot proposal known as “Marsy’s Law” is the latest setback for proposed constitutional amendments approved this spring by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Judges have also struck down proposals dealing with a ban on greyhound racing and changes in the education system, though appeals are pending in those cases at the Florida Supreme Court.
Gievers’ 11-page ruling Monday dealt with a measure that has been slated to appear on the November ballot as Amendment 6. The proposal would expand rights for crime victims, raise the retirement age for judges and change the way laws and rules are interpreted in judicial proceedings.
But Gievers focused on issues involving victims’ rights and said the ballot title and summary — the wording that voters see when they go to the polls — would not meet legal requirements to “fully, fairly and accurately” inform voters about the purpose of the proposed amendment.
“Florida’s existing criminal justice and juvenile justice systems are based on state constitutional provisions, statutes and rules,” Gievers wrote. “Revision 6 does not tell voters that years of settled laws and provisions that comprise the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system will be significantly changed.”
The proposed ballot summary, in part, says the measure creates “constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; (and) authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes.”
Detailed text of the proposal then spells out a series of rights for crime victims, such as the right to receive notice to be present at court proceedings; the right to be heard in a variety of type of proceedings; the right to confer with prosecutors about issues such as plea bargains; the right to full restitution; and the right to proceedings free from “unreasonable” delay.
But Gievers found fault with what she said was left out of the ballot title and summary. In part, she said the proposal would not explain to voters how it would affect the rights of people accused of crimes.
Gievers said a 1988 constitutional amendment provided rights to crime victims “to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.” She said the new proposal did not adequately inform voters that it would repeal the “qualified” victims’ rights included in the 1988 measure.
“Neither the title nor summary mentions that the victims rights provided in 1988 were qualified and subject to the constitutional rights of the accused,” Gievers wrote. “Neither the title nor summary mentions the adoption of the CRC (Constitution Revision Commission) proposal expressly repeals the 30-year-old existing constitutional provision … nor any effect on the accused.”
The Marsy’s Law proposal is part of a broader national victims’ rights movement stemming from the 1983 death of a California woman, Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend.
It has faced two legal challenges, with one filed by Naples defense lawyer Lee Hollander and the League of Women Voters of Florida and the other by Plantation Key resident Amy Knowles. Gievers’ decision in the consolidated lawsuits appears likely to be appealed, joining the other cases that have gone to the Supreme Court.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
This judge and her family have likely never been the victims of crime, and I hope the never are. If they had been, I doubt she would have been so inclined to not be supportive of enhancing victim rights. So crime victims and their families will continue to be victimized by the judicial system.
Nancy N. says
The victim’s rights movement has been destroying the constitutional rights of defendants in our court system and turning our “justice” system into a system of vengeance instead. Good for Judge Gievers for trying to help guarantee the rights of the accused to a fair trial.
Clearly, Nancy N has also never been the personal victim of crime. And again, I pray she never is. Respectfully, it appears that she has not read the details of the proposed amendment and what it truly purports to do and not do…perhaps only this Flagler Live article. I hope she does so and gains a better understanding. What has been “destroying” and bogging down our justice system is not any perceived victim’s rights movement but rather, the criminals and those who enable them so that they become criminals and then enable them further so that they retain lawyers who have brought us to where the system is today. The amendment is an effort to bring parity to victims of crime…not diminish, infringe upon or take away the constitutional rights of criminals which I would not want done either. I have not seen anything in any courtroom anywhere that suggests to me that somehow, an accused criminal’s constitutional rights have been compromised or curtailed. If anything, it seems to still be quite the opposite, which is really what this proposed amendment is about. It’s about justice for victims, too, who will never recover and be made whole regardless of a trial’s outcome. It’s not about taking away constitutional rights of criminals or those accused of criminal conduct.
I agree this judge is not protecting the victim rights at all. It falls right along in “not hurting anyone’s feelings” .personally I think the punishments fir crimes should go back to what it was when America was young they were either hanged or put in prison to do hard labor. If that was implemented again you wouldn’t have repeat offenders in the Bible God says if a man commits murder send him to me to be judged . The judges in this country are nothing but a joke any more they don’t follow the letter of the law . The purpose of the judicial system is to convict and punish criminals and to protect the innocent. It is the exact opposite now. Last year a man shot into my son’s truck and then shot my son in the leg while he was standing in the middle of a state road there were never any charges brought against the man but they tried to turn around and charge my son with a weapon because he had a hunting knofe on his side when he was taken to the hospital. That’s a prime example of how the justice system works.