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Kentucky Supreme Court Justices hear arguments on constitutionality of Marsy’s law ballot language


By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether the ballot language for a proposed Constitutional Amendment regarding crime victims’ rights was constitutional after hearing oral arguments on Friday.


Sixty-three percent of the voters approved the measure last November, but Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ordered the results not to be certified by the State Board of Elections, saying the ballot language was not accurately worded.
 

The ballot language said: “Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and to have a voice in the judicial process.”


Proponents appealed and a request for a direct transfer to the high court was approved by justices, bypassing the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Supreme Court hears arguments on the ballot language of ‘Marsy’s Law.’


Attorney Sheryl Snyder, representing Marsy’s Law for Kentucky and State Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, who sponsored the bill, argued that although the ballot question did not contain all the provisions of the proposal, was sufficient to allow voters to decide.


But Attorney Robert Kenyon Meyer, representing the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, maintained voters must know the entire substance of a proposed amendment, and that requirement was not met.
    

After the arguments Snyder told reporters that according to state law, “The ballot question can’t be page after page after page, it’s supposed to state the substance of the proposed amendment, and our argument is this question certainly did that.  And when two-thirds of the people voted for it, they knew what they were voting on.”


Snyder said the proposal cleared the General Assembly in January and the lawsuit against the ballot language wasn’t filed until August, just before ballots were to be printed. “We think it would be a very bad precedent to allow people to wait until the 11th hour to try to stop an amendment and then have it invalidated after the people have spoken.”


Meyer said he’s hopeful the ruling will go in his favor, affirming the lower court ruling. “I think the Justices, as always, well-informed, and realized this is an important question. My goal was to advocate that if we’re going to change our Constitution, which is a very important document, the voters should know what those changes are.”

He added, “You can’t have a two-page Constitutional amendment that adds ten new Constitutional rights, and boil it down to one sentence that says, ‘Do you think people should be treated with dignity and fairness.’ That was what I chose to focus the argument on.”


Only six Justices heard the case instead of the usual seven, since Justice Bill Cunningham retired Feb. 1 and the process to fill the vacancy is still underway. If the vote is 3-3, then Judge Wingate’s ruling would stand.    


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