According to the Marsy's Law For All website, Marsy’s Law developed out of the passage of Marsy's Law in California in November 2008 – an amendment to the California constitution in the form of the Victim's Bill of Rights Act of 2008. In addition, the website says that the amendment became the "strongest and most comprehensive victims' rights law in the U.S. and put California at the forefront of the National Victim's Rights Movement."
The basic concept behind Marsy's Law is the notion that victims of crime should have the same constitutional Rights that are afforded criminal defendants.
The law is named for Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. In 2009, her brother, Henry T. Nicholas III, formed Marsy’s Law for All, which provides expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide which would ensure victims’ rights for all Americans.
The Wisconsin efforts seek to update the 1993 Victim Rights Constitutional Amendment "by giving victims new rights and strengthening existing ones …. Marsy's law does not impact the rights of the accused. It only ensures that victims have equal rights as the accused – nothing more, nothing less."
Supporters of the law argue that victims deserve the same rights as their attackers, and that ensuring such rights will not change the constitutional rights of the accused.
Opponents of the law argue that, although it is appropriate to support fair, respectful, and sensitive treatment of crime victims within the criminal justice system, certain provisions of Marsy's Law go too far, and infringe on the rights guaranteed to criminal defendants in the U.S. Constitution as well as the Wisconsin Constitution. In particular, opponent cite a provision in Marsy's Law that permits victims "to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery requests made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused."
The joint resolution bills were filed Jan. 8, 2019, the second day of the recently convened legislative session, with committee meetings heard on the third day of the session.
The reason for the rapid movement is that both the Senate joint resolution (SJR2), and the Assembly joint resolution (AJR1) needed to pass before Jan. 23, 2019, in order to be on this spring's ballot. This was before the Legislature for second consideration after the measure passed first consideration in the previous legislative session.
The Legislature was unable to vote on the bill for second consideration by the Jan. 23 deadline, and therefore, the measure will not be on the ballot in spring 2019. If the bill is passed by the Legislature later this spring, it could then be on the ballot in 2020.
Although this may give legislators additional opportunities to study the issues and the positions in support of and in opposition to this bill, the bill cannot be amended. From a procedural standpoint, the proposal can only be placed on the ballot if the second consideration is identical to the version that passed last session.
This article was originally published on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Family Law Section Blog. Visit the State Bar sections or the Family Law Section web pages to learn more about the benefits of section membership.