Amendment 6, proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission, packages three proposals that create a bill of rights for crime victims and set new requirements for judges.
The first part is the victim bill of rights, which is modeled after California’s Marsy’s Law. Marsy’s Law requires that courts and law enforcement keep victims and families abreast of what is going on during prosecution. The 11 victims’ rights in the amendment include freedom from intimidation or harassment, protection from the accused and having their safety considered when authorities set bail or pretrial release of the accused.
The second item in Amendment 6 maintains that judges’ mandatory retirement age would be bumped up from 70 to 75, effective July 1, 2019.
The third item requires judges and hearing officers to interpret statutes and rules, instead of deferring to governmental agencies. It essentially forces courts and judges to decide if a state agency interpreted the law correctly before making a decision on a case.
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Amendment 6 has drawn support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers but is criticized by others for potentially dumping additional responsibility onto the justice system.
The Supreme Court ruled this amendment could remain on the ballot after a set of plaintiffs challenged it in August, saying its title and summary did not meet the constitutional standard..
Most sheriffs support the amendment, but the Florida chapter of American Civil Liberties Union and League of Women Voters oppose it. They say the amendment would infringe on accused peoples’ rights and that those people would face new time limits on appeals.
The amendments were struck from the ballot in August by two Leon County judges, forcing the state to appeal the decisions. Both cases were heard in the state Supreme Court to expedite a ruling.
Two sets of plaintiffs argued that the amendment title and summary were misleading to voters.
Mark Herron, an attorney for one group of plaintiffs, told the Herald/Times in September that the ballot summary didn’t fully summarize the amendment’s impact on a defendant’s appeals process or right to a speedy trial. Another attorney, Harvey Sepler, said the multifaceted amendment has too many parts, and infringes on the right “to exercise a free and meaningful vote.”
This issue of “logrolling,” or combining multiple issues in one amendment, is the subject of an ongoing case brought by retired state Supreme Court chief justice Harry Lee Anstead and former Florida Elections commissioner Robert Barnas in August. Anstead initially asked that the court remove the six CRC that combine different issues. But because individual cases regarding amendments 6, 8, 13 and 10 had separate cases filed challenging their stance on the ballot, those questions were dropped from the Anstead case. Now the case only applies to 7, 9 and 11
The state Constitution does not have a limit on how many subjects a CRC amendment can include.
In order to become law, each of the amendments on the ballot must be approved by at least a 60 percent vote.
A “yes” vote means the voter is in favor of all three items.
A vote “no” is a vote against all three items.
Voters do not have the option of saying yes to one or two items and no to others.