A court has declared this amendment “affirmatively misleading.” We agree.
Amendment #6 was introduced by the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) and will appear on the ballot in November of 2018. It will require a 60% “Yes” vote to pass. The Green Party of Florida (GPFL) opposes Amendment #6.
It is a “bundled” amendment, meaning it combines several questions into a single “Yes” or “No” vote. Amendment #6 also includes language that is not explained in either the title or ballot summary. The GPFL condemns both of these practices. On these grounds, a judge has ordered the amendment to be removed from the ballot. That order is currently under appeal by the state.
Amendment #6 consists of four parts. It would:
- Raise the mandatory retirement age for Florida’s judges from 70 to 75.
- Disallow judges from deferring to state agencies’ interpretations of statutes and rules when making decisions.
- Enshrine in the Florida Constitution a number of victims’ rights, many of which already exist in state law. It also removes constitutional language ensuring that the rights of victims do not interfere with the rights of the accused.
- Limit appeals in criminal case to two and five years for non-capital and capital crimes, respectively.
The GPFL has no opinion on part 1, the retirement age of judges.
Part 2 may seem arcane but can have dangerous implications for governmental balance of powers. Currently, state agencies often issue interpretations when deciding on the implementation of new laws or rules. If a private party brings suit against a public agency, courts will generally defer to the agency’s interpretation, provided that the interpretation meets minimum standards (it meets the letter of the law, it meets the spirit of the law, and is based on evidence). This provision would forbid judges from deferring to agency interpretations under any circumstances, and would force them to create their own. This would shift more power to the judiciary at the expense of other branches. It would create uncertainty among state agencies, and among the public when it is dealing with state agencies.
Part 3 of the amendment has several troubling aspects. It would grant constitutional status to existing laws, and would create new rights for the victims of crimes, such as:
freedom from intimidation and abuse;
protection from the accused;
protections for victims if bail is granted; and
protections from disclosing victims’ information.
The proposal would let victims request a broad array of additional rights, such as:
access to and notification of all proceedings;
the ability to speak at proceedings that involve sentencing or pre-trial release;
access to prosecutors to discuss facets of the case;
input into pre-sentencing investigations; and
access to sentencing reports.
Other elements for victims address restitution and the return of property. Most importantly, it removes the constitutional provision that the rights of victims shall not interfere with the rights of the accused. While we support many of the individual enumerated rights of victims, we feel they are better left to statute than locked into the Constitution. Additionally, the rights of those accused but not convicted should be upheld, especially in our current environment of unequal justice.
Part 4 is the worst section. It requires that all state level criminal appeals be completed within two years (or five years for capital crimes). Since Florida leads the nation in death penalty exonerations, passage of this amendment likely means that more innocent Floridians will be put to death or remain incarcerated for illegitimate reasons. The CRC has omitted this critical element from both the amendment’s title and the ballot summary.
The GPFL urges Floridians to vote “no” on amendment 6.