Amendment 6 is a three-part amendment that would:
- Add ‘Marsy’s Law’ to the state constitution, a provision which explicitly spells out and expands the rights of victims during the criminal justice process.
- Would raise the required retirement age of judges from 70 to 75.
- Would prohibit state courts from deferring to an administrative agency’s interpretation of laws.
The fiscal impact is likely to be spending in the millions of dollars per year to help enforce and regulate Marsy’s Law.
Proponents’ Argument For
Proponents argue that the victim rights bestowed in Marsy’s Law ensure that crime victims have clear and enforceable rights, at least to the extent that criminals do. They say it is not justice to allow victims of crimes to be intimidated, abused, and neglected by their perpetrators and the criminal justice system.
Proponents argue that raising the age of retirement for judges is a nonpartisan change that reflects a better living standard and longer average lifespans.
Lastly, proponents say that Florida courts have been far too deferential to state agencies’ interpretation of the legislative statutes rather than judging the laws themselves. When the legislature passes down a mandate to a state agency and it is challenged, the court should decide the interpretation, not the agency itself. Allowing agencies to interpret their own mandates is an internal contradiction that would allow agencies to defy legislative intent.
Opponents’ Argument Against
The group Save My Constitution opposes every measure on the ballot and is particularly against the multi-pronged measures like Amendments 6-11.
It is a terrible idea to bundle disparate measures together in a ballot initiative, even if they are loosely related as in this case. The bundling denies voters the opportunity to vote on the merits of each of the major legal changes in the amendment, forcing them to accept or deny the good elements with the bad, which can look very much like an attempt to bundle popular measures with unpopular ones to achieve a different electoral outcome than the state would get if the measures were presented to voters individually.
As it pertains to Marsy’s Law, while criminal rights are based on the US Constitution there is no similar basis for these laws creating victim’s rights, but they have become common in state law. They actually don’t create any new rights—Marsy’s law provides crime victims a list that includes due process, protection from intimidation harassment and abuse, speedy trials, etc. Those are already rights we all have. This particular amendment is similar to others and essentially bolsters some laws already on the books such as stalking and harassment. While it may be somewhat redundant, it could make it easier for victims to fight back against bad behavior by the accused.
As it pertains to raising the judicial age, this is a sensible change. The average human life is now longer than it was when the retirement age of 70 was put in place.
As it pertains to not allowing courts to defer to administrative interpretation, this has become a very important and contested issue at the federal level, as well as in Florida. When legislation does not answer every question that arises, the agencies charged with enacting the law have to interpret the law and act on that interpretation. Deference is when someone challenges the agencies interpretation in court, and the judge rules that it is up to the agency to interpret the law, not the court. In reality, it should be more of a balancing act, where agencies interpret and act on that interpretation, but people can take that decision to court to determine if agency interpretation is reasonable and consistent with legislative intent. Judges have to play that role for checks and balances to work. If the courts simply defer to agency interpretation then the balance isn’t there.
The Voters’ Guide examines the proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution that are on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot.