Challenge to victims’ rights amendment heads to Commonwealth Court
A state appellate court will hear arguments Wednesday in Harrisburg in a suit seeking to bar Pennsylvania from counting votes in the Nov. 5 referendum on a crime victims’ rights amendment.
Civil liberties advocates say Marsy’s Law, the proposed amendment that has attracted widespread support from victims’ rights groups and law enforcement, fails to meet a provision of the state constitution that requires each change to be considered separately.
The proposed amendment would affect, among other things: 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 reinforce various laws adopted over the last two decades giving crime victims the right to be notified of and present for court proceedings, seek restitution, offer victim impact statements in court and be notified of parole proceedings and inmate release dates.
The suit filed this month follows votes approving the measure in the last two legislative sessions. That standard must be met before a proposed amendment can be put on the ballot. If approved, such measures are typically added to the constitution.
Ballots for the general election were already finalized when lawyers for the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and Lorraine Haw, a Philadelphia woman active in criminal justice reform efforts, filed suit. They are seeking an injunction to bar a vote count.
The court battle commenced as supporters of the amendment launched an emotionally-charged statewide advertising campaign calling for victims’ rights to be enshrined in the state constitution.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .