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Supreme Court sets arguments in Amendment 6 appeal

The Florida Supreme Court took jurisdiction Tuesday over a challenge to the Constitution Revision Commission’s victims’ right proposal known as Amendment 6 and set oral argument for Sept. 5.

The move came a day after a Tallahassee judge ordered the amendment off the November ballot because it “does not meet ‘truth in packaging’ requirements for submission to the voters.”

The high court consolidated two separate challenges to the proposed revision, bypassing the 1st District Court of Appeal. That court had certified the matter as a “question of great public importance requiring immediate resolution by this court,” the Supreme Court said in its order.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, presiding in a bench trial in Leon County’s Circuit Civil court on Friday, had acknowledged the Supreme Court would have the final word.

The court gave attorneys from the Office of the Attorney General and Marsy’s Law for Florida, a victims’ rights group, until Thursday to file written arguments. Attorneys for two private citizens challenging the measure have until Friday. The defenders then will have until Monday to file final briefs.

The Supreme Court said it would hear oral arguments in the 4th District Court of Appeal’s courthouse in West Palm Beach. Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters said that’s because the justices had committed to the “annual educational conference for appellate judges and clerks” next week that’s held in that area.

Amendment 6 would ensure victims’ rights to attend and participate in certain criminal proceedings; it would also raise judges’ retirement age from 70 to 75, and limit the deference judges must extend to administrative agencies in interpreting laws.

Among other things, Gievers found the measure’s ballot title and summary would not make clear to voters that the constitutional change would eliminate some rights for criminal defendants.

“Neither the title nor summary mentions that the victims’ rights … were qualified and subject to the constitutional rights of the accused,” she wrote, or that it would include delinquency proceedings.

The measure “does not tell voters that years of settled law and provisions that comprise the criminal justice system and the juvenile justice system will be significantly changed,” Gievers added in her order.

Written By

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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