Marsy’s Law struck down by Montana Supreme Court

Marsy’s Law has been deemed unconstitutional.

City of Great Falls officials said they are reviewing the processes they implemented for Marsy’s Law and determining how to proceed.

The Montana Supreme Court ruled  in favor of the ACLU of Montana’s lawsuit today that CI-116, commonly referred to as Marsy’s Law, is unconstitutional and is “void in its entirety.”

As a result of the Court’s ruling, Marsy’s Law – designated as Section 36 in Montana’s Declaration of Rights – is stripped from the Constitution, and Montana’s already-overburdened criminal justice system will remain unobstructed by C-116’s unintended consequences.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling today is an important victory for Montana’s declaration of rights and vindicates the original principles of the state’s constitutional convention,” said ACLU of Montana Legal Director, Alex Rate. “The Supreme Court ruled on the side of these constitutionally enshrined rights.” 

The Court held that Marsy’s Law amended multiple sections of Montana’s Constitution, and therefore violates Article XIV, Section 11’s separate-vote requirement.  Writing for the majority, Justice Laurie McKinnon held:  “CI-116 impliedly changed Montana’s Constitution in numerous ways and we deem those changes to be both substantive and not closely related.  When voters were required to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for CI_116 in its entirety, they were forced to vote for or against multiple, not closely related, changes to the Montana Constitution with one vote… The way in which CI-116 was submitted to the electorate violated the separate-vote requirement…”

Adrian Miller, a petitioner in the suit and a victims’ rights advocate said, “Now that the overbroad constitutional initiative has been thrown out, we must redouble our efforts to protect victims’ rights in Montana.  We need to call on our legislators to amend laws as necessary to protect victims and to provide vital resources to enact this goal.  We also need to ensure that the current victims’ rights laws are adequately enforced.”

“Although well intentioned,” explained petitioner and Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher, “the process leading to CI-116’s passage deprived Montana voters of the ability to consider the many, separate ways it changed Montana’s constitution or explain the significant administrative, financial, and compliance burdens its unfunded mandates imposed upon state, county and local governments while jeopardizing the existing rights of everyone involved with the criminal judicial system.”

The Supreme Court opinion and synopsis are available on the ACLU of Montana’ web site.