Matt Rothschild
Op Ed

Why I Oppose Marsy’s Law

State holds hearing on bill that’s arguably unconstitutional and a proposal bankrolled by a billionaire.

By , Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Jan 13th, 2019 02:39 pm
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Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

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.

Here’s why.

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.

Tihs article was originally published by The Cap Times.

Matthew Rothschild is executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

2 thoughts on “Op Ed: Why I Oppose Marsy’s Law”

  1. Mary says:

    After reading this op ed by Matt Rothschild, I “googled” to find out more about the topic.

    Among several articles on the topic, I found this op ed which was published in 2017:

    Strang: Marsy’s Law bill unworkable, unconstitutional
    Dean Strang Published 1:15 p.m. CT Oct. 30, 2017

    https://www.jsonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2017/10/30/strang-marsys-law-bill-unworkable-unconstitutional/799667001/

    ( I do not know if Attorney Strang has written again on this topic or changed his opinion since the op ed was published.)

    I also found this (from victims advocates):

    “Constitutional rights for the accused exist to limit the state’s power against individuals when the state seeks to deprive them of life, liberty, and property. The accused have constitutional rights because getting it wrong means we imprison innocent people and an offender remains free to harm others.”
    “Victims’ rights serve a completely different purpose aimed at ensuring recovery for individuals, not protection against state power.”

    https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/were-victims-rights-advocates-and-we-opposed-marsys-law

    and…
    “In 1980, Wisconsin became the first state in the country to adopt a “crime victim bill of rights” and in 1993 adopted a constitutional amendment to afford them privacy and ensure they are kept abreast of their cases.”

    https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/politics/2018/08/16/marsys-law-leader-facing-drug-trafficking-charges/1011826002/

    (a quick google search on 1/14/2019 did not indicate the status of the accusations in this jsonline article, as yet unproven, against Mr. Nicholas)

    and finally this:

    The Billionaire’s Crusade
    Broadcom’s Henry Nicholas is spending millions to give victims a bigger voice, but not everyone agrees.

    https://www.themarshallproject.org/2018/05/22/nicholas-law

    all worth reading, in my opinion, if you have the time…..

  2. mkwagner says:

    In this country we tend to swing from one extreme to another. After decades of judicial abuse of sexual assault victims, Marsy’s Law looks to remedy that by disregarding the rights of the acused.
    It was not that long ago that a Black man could be sentenced to long prison terms or even lose his life on the simple, uncorroborated say of a white woman. Emmitt Till lost his life because he smiled at a white woman.
    There are many abuses of rape victims in our judicial system. So much so, many victims refuse to participate. Any legislative remedies should focus on the abuse victims experience. It is absolutely wrong to allow victims to opt out of the process altogether. Marsy’s law attempts to remedy the problems with our current system with too broad a brush. This is not about choosing between the rights of the victim and the accused. There are better ways to protect the victims of sexual assault. Remedies such as extending the statue of limitations on rape, giving victims a chance to heal before being thrust into judicial system. Marsy’s Law is a bad idea because it goes too far.

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