Victims’ rights amendment could be taken off Florida ballot
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida attorney wants a judge to remove from this year’s ballot a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with victims’ rights.
Lee Hollander, a criminal defense lawyer based in southwest Florida, filed the lawsuit late last week in a Leon County court. Hollander’s lawsuit maintains that the proposed constitutional amendment that is going before voters is misleading and does not adequately inform them about what it actually does.
The measure, known as Amendment 6 or Marsy’s Law, was put on the ballot earlier this year by the state’s Constitution Revision Commission. The commission meets every 20 years and has the power to place amendments directly before voters. They must be approved by 60 percent of voters in order to pass.
Amendment 6 would spell out crime victims’ rights, including protections from harassment, being informed of the accused’s custody status, the right to be heard during criminal proceedings and the right to confer with prosecutors about any plea agreements. The proposal also puts in limits on how long appeals can take. The amendment, if passed, would also raise the mandatory retirement age for judges and justices from 70 to 75.
Hollander contends that the measure removes rights of criminal defendants while at the same time promising to create new rights that are actually already in place for victims. He called the proposal an attempted “vote getter” that will actually spark “mischief” as the state’s courts are forced to interpret it.
“There’s no need for it,” Hollander said. “We’ve already got all this stuff.”
Jennifer Fennell, a spokeswoman for the group that is pushing Marsy’s Law, criticized the lawsuit.
“It is critical that these clear, enforceable rights are enshrined in our state’s most powerful legal document to ensure they are uniformly provided to every Florida victim,” Fennell said. “We are confident that baseless, last minute legal maneuvering by special interest groups will not strip Floridians of their opportunity to support victims and vote in favor of Amendment 6.”
This is the third lawsuit that has been filed against amendments proposed by the revision commission. Last week the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit to remove a charter schools measure from the ballot. In May, a group representing greyhound owners and breeders in Florida filed a lawsuit against an amendment that would ban betting on dog races held in Florida.