League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Degraffenreid
Marsy’s Law is a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would create a lengthy victims’ bill of rights, including a right to refuse to provide discovery, broad and ill-defined rights to notice and an opportunity to be heard, and a right to full and timely restitution. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania held that the law is too complex and multi-faceted to be treated as a single ballot amendment.
Juvenile Law Center, with law firm Troutman Pepper, filed an amicus brief in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court highlighting the impact of Marsy’s Law on the juvenile justice system and urging the Court to affirm the Commonwealth Court’s ruling. Our brief argued that Marsy’s Law could undermine the due process rights of youth and threaten timely case processing, which is especially important for youth. We further argued that the proposed right to full and timely restitution could eliminate courts’ ability to impose individualized restitution amounts that reflect both a youth’s ability to pay and the court’s rehabilitative goals, compounding existing serious, long-term harms of restitution to youth and their families.
In an important win, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the lower court concluding that "the array of wide-ranging changes to the Pennsylvania Constitution made by the Victim's Rights Amendment" are "not sufficiently interrelated so as to justify having been presented to the electorate a single vote," and "doing so denied the voters . . . their right to vote on each change separately."
Jessica Feierman, Marsha Levick