Amendment 6

Rights of Crime Victims; Judges

There’s been a lot of political advertising about Amendment 6, aka Marsy’s Law – so much so that we got this question about it from an anonymous reader: “What is that amendment 6 we’ve been seeing commercials for? Raised red flags immediately.”

This is one of those bizarre omnibus amendments that have unrelated amendments jammed together. It originated with the Constitution Revision Commission. Here’s how it reads:

Creates Constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.

The provisions that are part of the first part of this, dubbed Marsy’s Law, have been adopted in a bunch of other states. They expand the rights of victims quite a bit, according to the League of Women Voters:

But this measure would dramatically expand, and outline in deep detail, those constitutional provisions to include victims’ rights to due process; freedom from intimidation and abuse; protection from the accused; protections for victims if bail is granted; and protections from disclosing victims’ information. The proposal also allows victims to request a broad array of additional rights, such as access to and notification of all proceedings; the ability to speak at proceedings that involve sentencing or pre-trial release; access to prosecutors to discuss various facets of the case; input into pre-sentencing investigations; and access to sentencing reports.

All of this sounds like a good thing. But groups like LWV and the ACLU say that these protections are already enshrined in the state constitution, making them unnecessary, and that the amendment actually goes so far as to infringe on the rights of the accused.

The second major part of this amendment is about the mandatory retirement age for state justices and judges. Right now they must retire at 70, although they can finish the term during which they turn 70. If this amendment passes, the retirement age will be raised to 75 and judges will not be able to finish out their term if they turn 75 while in office.

If you vote yes, you are voting both to double down on victims’ rights (something already enshrined in the state constitution) and to raise the retirement age for judges. Progressive groups say that passing the so-called Marsy’s laws would actually infringe on the right of the accused while not changing much about victims’ rights.

If you vote no, you are voting to maintain the status quo, which provides most but not all of the rights detailed above, and sticks to an earlier retirement age for judges.