A Tallahassee judge on Monday ordered the Constitution Revision Commission’s proposed Amendment 6, which would guarantee crime victims’ rights and raise judges’ retirement age, stripped from the November ballot.
“Because the title and summary do not meet the requirements of Florida laws … in fully, fairly, and accurately telling the voters the chief purpose of the proposed amendment, and because the title and summary are, in addition, misleading, the CRC’s proposal … does not meet ‘truth in packaging’ requirements for submission to the voters and must be removed from the ballot,” Circuit Judge Karen Gievers wrote.
This makes the second amendment that Gievers has ruled against: She already struck down a measure aimed at ending live greyhound racing in the state. That decision is now being appealed at the state Supreme Court, as this latest ruling will no doubt be.
During a bench trial last week, Gievers had warned litigants she would hold the CRC to a high standard for straightforwardness in ruling in two separate challenges to the proposed revision.
In her ruling, the judge conceded that “courts should use extreme care, caution, and restraint before removing a proposal from the voters’ consideration.” They should do so, she continued, only when the laws have been “clearly and conclusively violated.”
In this case, “the problem lies not in what is said but what was not said,” Gievers wrote. “Here, the CRC has not mentioned crucial language in the title and summary.”
Specifically, it does not make clear that the revision 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 wrote.
In addition, the amendment would raise judges’ retirement age from 70 to 75, and limit the deference courts give to government agencies’ interpretations of laws and regulations.
Defending the law last week were Greenberg Traurig legal legend Barry Richard, representing Marsy’s Law for Florida, a victims’ rights group, and Karen Borden of the Office of the Attorney General. Richard had no immediate comment Monday evening.
Mark Herron, one of the attorneys challenging the proposal, had no comment: “I will let it speak for itself,” he said via email.