Rights of Crime Victims; Judges
The proposal would establish a series of rights for crime victims, including the right to be notified of major developments in criminal cases and the right to be heard in legal proceedings. It also would increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75. It also would provide that judges or hearing officers should not necessarily defer to the interpretation of laws and rules by governmental agencies in legal proceedings.
The exact ballot summary language reads:
"Creates constitutional rights for victims of crime; requires courts to facilitate victims’ rights; authorizes victims to enforce their rights throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes. Requires judges and hearing officers to independently interpret statutes and rules rather than deferring to government agency’s interpretation. Raises mandatory retirement age of state judges from seventy to seventy-five years; deletes authorization for judges to complete term if one-half of term has been served by retirement age."
States in blue passed Marsy's Laws; states in orange will vote on Marsy's Laws in 2018, states in dark grey have been identified by Marsy's Law for All as states with crime victim rights amendments (but not Marsy's Laws), and states in light grey have been identified by Marsy's Law for All as not having crime victim rights amendments.
The type of crime victim legislation addressed by this measure is often referred to as a Marsy's Law. Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., started campaigning for this kind of legislation to increase the rights and privileges of victims. He was the primary sponsor of the original 2008 Marsy's Law in California and formed his national organization, Marsy's Law for All, in 2009. Marsy's Law for All—funded by Nicholas—was behind similar 2016 initiatives in Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota and a 2017 initiative in Ohio—which all passed. Nicholas was also behind legislative proposals in Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, and other states.
The legislation is named after Henry Nicholas' sister Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Henry and his mother were also confronted by Marsy's ex-boyfriend after his release from prison; they were unaware of his release from prison on bail. Marsy's Law for All is the national organization that advocates for Marsy's Law.
MANDATORY JUDICIAL RETIREMENT AGES
The measure would increase the age at which judges are required to retire in Florida from 70 to 75. As of 2018, the judicial retirement age is 70 in Florida. Florida is one of 18 states with a required retirement age of 70. Missouri requires non-municipal judges to retire at 70 and municipal judges to retire at 75. The highest retirement age in the U.S. was 90 in Vermont. However, 19 states do not have a required retirement age for judges.
JUDICIAL DEFERENCE IN FLORIDA
According to the Florida CRC Executive Committee analysis of the proposal, the Florida Supreme Court, as of 2018, had "shown a substantial deference to an agency’s interpretation" of statutes and rules. In Tallahassee v. Mann (1982), the state Supreme Court concluded that agency interpretations "come to this court clothed with a presumption of validity." In Florida Interexchange Carriers Association v. Clark (1996), the state Supreme Court ruled that "an agency’s interpretation of a statute it is charged with enforcing is entitled great deference and will be approved by this court if it is not clearly erroneous."
CRC Commissioner Roberto Martinez, who was the lead sponsor of the amendment related to judicial deference, said that state courts giving deference to agencies' interpretations of statutes and rules was not common until the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council in 1984. The case is famous for establishing the extent to which a federal court, in reviewing a federal government agency's action, should defer to the agency’s construction of a statute that the agency has been delegated to administer. This principle is commonly known as Chevrondeference. Chevron deference is a practice in which federal courts, in reviewing a federal government agency's action, defer to the agency’s construction of a statute that Congress directed the agency to administer.
A Florida attorney wants a judge to remove from this year's ballot a proposed constitutional amendment dealing with victims' rights. Lee Hollander, a criminal defense lawyer based in southwest Florida, filed the lawsuit late last week in a Leon County court. Hollander's lawsuit maintains that the proposed constitutional amendment that is going before voters is misleading and does not adequately inform them about what it actually does.
We are all familiar with federal and state laws that provide those accused and convicted of a crime with clear protections to ensure due process. However, many are surprised to learn crime victims don’t have any clear, enforceable rights within the state constitution. This means that, legally, crime victims have less rights than criminals.
The Florida Smart Justice Alliance on Tuesday endorsed a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a crime victims’ bill of rights, according to a press release.