Montana Supreme Court halts Marsy’s Law implementation

The Montana Supreme Court has ordered a temporary stay on the implementation of CI-116, more commonly known as Marsy’s Law.

The constitutional amendment was set to take effect tomorrow, July 1.

“This stay means that, until the Supreme Court has an opportunity to review and deliberate on the arguments presented by the parties, local governments and other affected parties won’t have to guess about what this ill-conceived law requires,” said Alex Rate, Legal Director for the ACLU of Montana. “CI-116 effectively amended numerous provisions of the Montana Constitution, including some of our most important civil liberties protections, and therefore it is unconstitutional.”

The order states that any interested persons seeking to file an amicus brief in the case must file their motion and brief, consisting of no more than 3,000 words, by July 27. The principal parties may each file a single response brief, of no more than 5,000 words, to opposing amicus briefs by August 10.

Earlier this week, the court ordered that Lee Enterprises and its Montana newspapers could file an amicus brief in the case within 30 days.

The City of Great Falls was already changing their processes to comply with Marsy’s Law and will continue to do so for violent and sexual crimes, said Joe Cik, assistant city attorney.

Cik said they’ll continue with those changes under the stay.

Constitutionality of Marsy’s Law challenged at Montana Supreme Court

For property crimes, the city is already under statutory obligations to seek restitution and communicate with victims and will continue to do so, but may not meet all of the Marsy’s Law requirements for property crimes like theft under the stay, Cik said.

The law would also consider businesses as victims in cases like theft and some businesses in town are regularly the victim of theft, sometimes multiple times in a day.

Under Marsy’s Law, the city would have to notify those businesses every step of the way for every incident of theft or other crimes. That could add considerable time to the process, so the city drafted letters to those businesses that are frequently involved in those kinds of cases asking them to waive the notification rights.

Cik said so far, 10 businesses have signed those forms waiving their notification rights under Marsy’s Law.

The city will still prosecute those cases and seek restitution, but they’re also trying to administer cases as efficiently as possible with a small staff, Sara Sexe, city attorney, told The Electric earlier this month.

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana filed suit challenging the constitutionality of Marsy’s Law. Petitioners in the case include the Montana Association of Counties, Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, ACLU of Montana, Leo Gallagher and Adrian Miller.  They are represented by Kyle Gray and Brianne McClafferty with Holland and Hart, LLP, James Molloy with Gallick, Bremer and Molloy, P.C., and Alex Rate, Legal Director of the ACLU of Montana.

The full Supreme Court order can be found here.