Analysis and Opinion
From the League of Women Voters
Editor’s Note: This is a 12-day series that looks at each amenement the League of Women Voters analyzed and made a recommendation. Today their analysis and recommendation is on Amendment 6.
From the League of Women Voters
Amendment 6: Oppose
Quick Summary: Vastly expands the scope of victims rights under the state Constitution; increases the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75; forces courts and judges to interpret laws and rules for themselves rather than rely on interpretations by government agencies.
Full Summary: This question has three parts:
The first part is about victims rights. It borrows many of the elements of what are known as Marsy’s laws that voters have approved in a half-dozen states. Florida is one of five additional states with some version of a Marsy’s law on the ballot this fall. These existing and proposed laws are named for Marsy Nicholas, a California college student murdered in 1983. Shortly after her death, Marsy’s brother, who founded a technology company, encountered his sister’s accused killer in a grocery store, unaware he had been granted bail. Many of the rights outlined in the proposed amendment already are found in Florida statutes, and the state Constitution has a victims-rights provision. 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. Other elements of the victims’ rights portion address restitution and the return of property. The proposal also sets deadlines to complete any state appeals: two years for a non-capital case and five years for a capital case, with limited exceptions. The amendment would require that all of these rights be distributed to victims on some type of card. Finally, the proposed amendment eliminates an existing constitutional provision that victims’ rights “do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.”
The second part of this proposal raises the mandatory retirement age of Florida judges, including Supreme Court justices, from 70 to 75. It also deletes a provision that lets judges complete a term on the bench past retirement age if they were halfway through that term. According to Ballotpedia, Florida is one of 18 states that sets retirement at 70. Other states either have a higher retirement age or none. The new retirement age would take effect on July 1, 2019.
The third part of this proposal relates to how courts interpret state laws (a CRC analysis of this part is here). When a new law or rule is passed, it’s often up to a state government agency to interpret the law when deciding how to implement it. When those laws or rules are challenged, state courts and administrative judges “generally defer to an administrative agency’s interpretation of a statute or rule,” according to an analysis by the CRC. Under this proposed change to the Constitution, courts and judges would be prohibited from deferring to a state agency’s interpretation and decide on their own if the law was interpreted correctly. While this issue may seem arcane, it essentially forces courts and judges, before deciding on a case, to first decide if a state agency interpreted the law correctly.