By Margo Kirchner
Oral argument on WJI’s challenge to the victims’ rights constitutional amendment known commonly as “Marsy’s Law” is set for 9 a.m. Thursday.
The hearing will be conducted virtually, and the public may watch on YouTube using this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5SDXzrIBTLO0a0I8iz2P9w.
Dane County Circuit Judge Frank D. Remington presides over the case. WJI and four individuals allege that the April 2020 ballot question asking voters to approve the amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution was invalid.
Attorney Dennis Grzezinski will represent WJI and the other plaintiffs at the hearing.
As reported previously, the plaintiffs contend that the ballot question failed to fully and fairly inform the public of the essential components of the amendment, misstated the contents and impact of the proposed amendment, and improperly encompassed more than one subject.
Although under Wisconsin Supreme Court cases the Legislature has discretion in formulating a ballot question, the question must nevertheless “reasonably, intelligently, and fairly comprise or have reference to every essential of the amendment” so the public “may be fully informed on the subject” on which they are voting.
The plaintiffs contend that, among other things, the amendment struck the state constitution’s only reference to a “fair trial for the defendant,” eliminated a defendant’s right to exclude an alleged victim from the courtroom if necessary for a fair trial, and altered defendants’ rights set forth in other sections of the Wisconsin Constitution or state statutes. Yet the ballot question failed to tell voters of such changes.
The plaintiffs argue that the ballot question told voters the amendment would protect a victim’s and an accused’s rights “with equal force,” but the amendment’s actual text permits giving a victim greater protection of rights than an accused receives.
Also, the plaintiffs say, the amendment contains more than one subject, requiring separate ballot questions. The Wisconsin Constitution mandates that “if more than one amendment be submitted, they shall be submitted in such manner that the people may vote for or against such amendments separately.” The plaintiffs charge that the amendment created a new category of victims, including roommates or live-in caregivers of deceased individuals, but the ballot question failed to reference that change.
The plaintiffs' brief in support of striking th eamendments is here; the state's brief in opposition is here; and the plaintiffs' reply is here.
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