Kentucky Supreme Court voids victims’ rights amendment

Posted at 1:52 PM, Jun 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-13 16:15:03-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A proposed amendment on crime victims’ rights was voided by the Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday because the question posed to voters was too vague.

Voters in November approved the amendment on Kentucky’s version of Marsy’s Law, which would guarantee the rights of crime victims. It passed with 63% of the vote.

But a circuit court judge ruled before last year’s election that the question on the ballot was misleading, and the Supreme Court agreed in a 22-page ruling.

The high court ruled that the General Assembly is required to submit the full text of a proposed constitutional amendment to the electorate for a vote.

Kentucky Sen. Whitney Westerfield, who pushed for the law, said in a statement Thursday that he hopes the General Assembly would offer the voters another chance to “voice their support for crime victims in 2020.”

The question posed to voters on the November ballot 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?”

The Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers challenged the ballot question, arguing it failed to inform the voters adequately of the substance of the amendment.

The proposed law based on the question would guarantee crime victims have 10 constitutional rights, including the right to be timely notified of all court proceedings, the right to be present for those hearings and the right to be heard in any hearing involving a release, plea or sentencing. It would also give victims the right to ask a judge to enforce those rights.

The Supreme Court wrote in its ruling that the entire amendment should have been included, instead of the question that was presented to voters.

“Because the form of the amendment that was published and submitted to the electorate for a vote in this case was not the full text, and was instead a question, the proposed amendment is void,” the opinion said.

Kentucky was one of six states that approved versions of Marsy’s Law last year.