By Shereen Siewert
A judge on Friday rejected an attempt to remove from the April 7 ballot a constitutional amendment that will give crime victims in Wisconsin more rights.
Dane County Circuit Judge Frank Remington denied an attempt by challengers of the amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, to block its inclusion on the ballot. If voters approve the amendment, a legal challenge could be brought again to block the law from taking effect.
Supporters of the amendment call it a no-brainer: whether to grant crime victims certain rights under the state constitution, such as the right to be treated with fairness, the right to confer with the prosecution and the right to attend key court proceedings. The proposed amendment would make it a state constitutional right for people directly harmed by a crime to request and receive notification when the alleged perpetrator is released from jail or prison, for instance.
But even as a coordinated, billionaire-backed campaign spreads across the country, some lawyers and civil rights experts say the push to give crime victims constitutional rights equal to those of criminal defendants could set up a clash over core aspects of the U.S. legal system, such as the accused person’s Sixth Amendment right to due process and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Similar amendments in other states have had mixed results. Critics in Florida, for example, say the new rules led to a lack of transparency by police in a number of cases.
Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for the group advocating for passage of the amendment, praised the ruling and said they look forward to continue to educate voters about the issue, which passed the Wisconsin Legislature with broad bipartisan support.
If the amendment passes, the state constitution would then be amended to include new victims’ rights while duplicating some existing protections.
The lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Justice Initiative and three voters alleged that the question is invalid and unconstitutional, but the judge disagreed.
Ten states — California, Ohio, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida — have enacted a version of the law. It is named for Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California woman who was killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend after he was released from jail without her being notified.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.