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Proposed: Florida Constitutional Amendment 6 Rights of Crime Victims; Judges

Amendment 6: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges 

Ballot summary: “Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing offers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state justices and judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization to complete judicial term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age.”

Florida voters could face twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments include complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and whether Florida should ban vaping in public places.

Some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters may be forced to vote for something they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court)

What it’s about?

Amendment 6 is the first “bundled” Amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot. This means voters will be able to cast only one vote on multiple subjects. The Amendment has faced multiple legal challenges because of the bundled topic issue, but the state Supreme Court ruled earlier this month to keep it on the November ballot.

Amendment 6 tackles three topics: It would add more rights for victims of crime to the state’s Constitution (read the important pros and cons of this provision – called “Marsy’s Law” here and raise the retirement age for judges and justices from 70 to 75 years old, and change how courts go about interpreting state laws.

Currently, government agencies interpret the laws that affect them, and courts rely on this interpretation for how to rule on whether the agencies have followed the law. This is known as a “Chevron deference.” Amendment 6 would make it so that courts must interpret laws without deferring to the agency’s interpretations or to previous rulings about them.

Who’s for it:

Thirty-seven Florida sheriffs,  crime victims who feel they are being intentionally kept out of court proceedings that affect them, the Florida Smart Justice Alliance (a group of businesses that advocate for criminal justice reform), and the Florida chapter of the national group that pushed Marsy’s Law for Florida.

Who’s against it:

The Florida Public Defender Association, League of Women Voters of Florida and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. The organizations say that it would upset the balance of rights already in the state’s Constitution that protect victims of crime, and subsequently limit rights for those who are accused of crimes. Many of the organizations that oppose Amendment 6 do so just because of the Marsy’s Law provision.

Other key points:

Florida is one of 18 states that currently sets the retirement age for judges and justices at 70. Other states either have a higher retirement age or none. Changing the retirement age to a judge’s or justice’s 75th birthday would increase their retirement pension by an additional 15 percent of their salary.

Amendment 6 needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.

CD Davidson-Hiers is a 2017 summa cum laude graduate of Florida State University with a degree in Creative Writing and French. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Golden Key honors societies and has received multiple writing awards for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Prior to joining the Florida Phoenix, CD worked at the Tallahassee Democrat and has bylines in Tallahassee Magazine. She is a native of Pensacola.

This piece appeared in the Florida Phoenix and was reprinted by the Columbia County Observer with permission or license.

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