Editorial: Marsy’s Law ruling is right | TribLIVE.com
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Editorial: Marsy’s Law ruling is right

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court chambers.

Kelsey Grammer will be disappointed.

The former “Frasier” star lent his star power — and his understanding as someone who lost loved ones to violent crime — to the Marsy’s Law proposal that looks to give constitutional standing to victims. A referendum for the amendment was on Tuesday’s ballot.

But while the question still appeared, any votes it received will not be counted. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s appeal of a Commonwealth Court ruling Monday.

The issue? The amendment doesn’t meet the state’s requirement that an amendment address just one issue. Instead, Marsy’s Law ties a shopping cart of proposed rights to the constitution.

That’s a real problem. Referendums are presented as a true-or-false, when they are often more like an essay.

The amendment as it was proposed on the ballot is riddled with holes.

It asks that victims be “treated with fairness, respect and dignity,” which is definitely a sliding scale. It addresses their rights in bail, their ability to take part and be informed in court, that they be protected, that they be allowed to refuse discovery requests made for trial. It touches on restitution and property rights, speedy trials and information.

None of these things, on their own, is a problem. However they are actually about 10 distinct issues, some of which can be at odds with each other. What if a voter believed in five of them, but had questions about five others?

And that’s why an amendment — the most serious way we can address our laws — has to be more streamlined and more targeted.

Maybe you agree with Grammer on the need for Marsy’s Law. Maybe you oppose it along with those who think it redundant with the state’s existing victim-rights laws.

But years of watching free speech and gun rights challenges in state and federal court should show us all that amendments are no place for ambiguity and confusion.

Categories: Opinion | Editorials
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