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South Dakotans Recognize Marsy’s Law Deeply Flawed, Dramatically Scale Back Constitutional Victims’ Rights

In yesterday’s special primary election, South Dakotans recognized that Marsy’s Law, the vanity project peddled by California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas, is deeply flawed. To check enormous new costs that Marsy’s Law imposed on police and prosecutors, refocus on victims of the most serious crimes the services Marsy’s Law spreads too thin, and to restore some transparency, South Dakotans voted 80% to 20% yesterday for Amendment Y, Marsy’s Fix, to dramatically scale back the poorly written provisions of Marsy’s Law.

Amendment Y undoes Marsy’s Law in three key ways:

  1. Marsy’s Fix takes away the constitutional guarantee that crime victims enjoy Marsy’s rights from the moment they are victimized, transforming them instead to privileges that victims must explicitly invoke to receive.
  2. Marsy’s Fix takes even those privileges away from many currently covered victims by narrowing the definition of victim.
  3. Marsy’s Fix gives the state immunity against lawsuits seeking damages for failure to provide any of Marsy’s privileges.

As faithful readers know, I would much rather see Marsy’s Flaw completely repealed rather than watered down. It is constitutional garbage motivated by one rich man’s grief and vanity, not by constitutional scholarship and grassroots recognition of any problem that warrants a constitutional fix.

But Amendment Y knocks a fair-sized hole in Marsy’s Flaw, one that I hope will give other states pause when Henry T. Nicholas comes a-knocking at their doors with his millions of dollars and the costly graffiti he wants to scrawl across their constitutions.

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