The state Assembly plans to vote on a constitutional amendment bolstering crime victim rights next week.
Constitutional amendments must pass two consecutive legislative sessions and a statewide referendum.
Both the Assembly and Senate passed the victims amendment, known as Marsy's Law, in 2017. The Assembly expects to vote on it for a second time on May 15. If the amendment passes the Senate this year the earliest it could appear on the ballot would be the April 2020 election.
The amendment largely duplicates existing victim protections but goes further in several areas. Victims would have the right to be heard at plea, parole and revocation proceedings, the right to refuse defense attorneys' interview, deposition or discovery requests and the right to attend all proceedings in their cases.
In an article from The Cap Times from January 13, 2019, Matthew Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign discusses Marsy’s Law and why he is opposed to it:
On Jan. 9, the Legislature held a joint hearing on “Marsy’s Law.” It’s an effort to change the Wisconsin Constitution, ostensibly to protect victims’ rights.
But it’s misguided.
The resolution contains a poisonous item that interferes with the fundamental right of the accused, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
It says that victims shall be entitled “to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused.”
This would be a facial violation of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor…”The U.S. Constitution, under the Fifth and 14th Amendments, also guarantees defendants “due process of law,” and by denying them the ability to confront their witnesses, these resolutions would be depriving them of due process and thus violate these amendments as well.
The Wisconsin Legislature does not have the power, nor should it have the power, to override the Constitution of the United States or to amend the Bill of Rights.
Increasingly, our legislatures and our courts have stripped away at the fundamental due process rights of the accused. The government has immense and growing powers to deprive people of life, liberty and property. Marsy’s Law would only increase those powers.
There is one additional problem that has to do with how our legislators decide on which resolutions to back. In other words, who is driving this effort?
Nationwide, the answer is billionaire Henry Nicholas, who has spent $72 million in six other states so far to amend their constitutions, according to Forbes.
In the last legislative session in Wisconsin, a lobbying group calling itself Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, LLC, spent a whopping $864,710 on the resolution here.
This effort to amend the Wisconsin Constitution does not appear to emanate from the people of Wisconsin but from an out-of-state billionaire.
He shouldn’t be able to purchase an amendment to our Wisconsin Constitution.
Call your state representatives and tell them Marsy’s Law is bad law.
Sen. Wanggaard - (608) 266-1832
Sen. Wirch - (608) 267-8979
Rep. Ohnstad - (608) 266-0455
Speaker Vos - (608) 266-9171
Senate Pres. Roth - (608) 266-0718
Sources: “Why I oppose Marsy’s Law,” by Matthew Rothschild, The Cap Times, Jan 13 2019
“Wisconsin Assembly Plans Vote on Victims Amendment, Associated Press, May 8, 2019