DA Zappala to intervene in lawsuit challenging Marsy’s Law amendment
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. filed a petition Friday in Commonwealth Court to intervene in a lawsuit filed this week by opponents of a proposed crime victims’ rights amendment to the state constitution.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia resident Lorraine Haw.
It argues that the proposed amendment is unconstitutional because it combines several changes to the state constitution into a single amendment, according to a statement from the ACLU.
Zappala argues that the proposed amendment would directly impact the work of the district attorney’s office and therefore he should be allowed to participate in the ACLU lawsuit, according to court documents.
“This proposed constitutional amendment is intended to provide your petitioner and other prosecutors across the Commonwealth with another tool to aid them in this endeavor,” Zappala argued in court documents filed Friday. “Accordingly, your petitioner will be directly impacted by the outcome of this action, and therefore, ought to have an opportunity to be heard by the Court.”
Changes covered by the amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, would include the availability of bail, who can be called as witnesses, the pardons process and the right to be free from double jeopardy.
It also would bolster laws that give crime victims the right to be notified of and present for court proceedings, seek restitution, offer victim impact statements in court and to be notified of parole proceedings and inmate release dates.
The ACLU of Pennsylvania declined to comment Friday afternoon on Zappala’s petition to intervene.
Pennsylvania voters would vote to approve or reject the amendment when they head to the polls in November.
In a separate statement, Zappala criticized the ACLU and the League of Women voters for challenging the amendment.
“The fact that the ACLU, along with the League of Women Voters, has decided to politicize the rights of crime victims across the commonwealth is profoundly disappointing,” Zappala said in a statement. “The fact that they waited until three weeks before election day to do this when they have known about Marsy’s Law for the past two years is quite telling as to their true intentions.”
Speaking with the Tribune-Review after the lawsuit was filed Thursday, Pennsylvania ACLU Deputy Legal Director Mary Catherine Roper told the Tribune-Review that the group could not file a lawsuit until members saw how the ballot measure would be worded.
Roper said she also plans to seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the state from counting votes on the amendment.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter .