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PA Supreme Court Takes Up Marsy's Challenge

PACDL filed an Amicus Curiae in Support of Appellees arguing that without notice to the voters, the single ballot question seeks impermissibly to amend several provisions of the Declaration of Rights at once, the proposed amendments alter and repeal the presumption of innocence, and amend provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution which attempt to guard against wrongful convictions. PACDL's brief explained that the resulting harms include inevitable undermining of the rights that PACDL exists to protect for the accused, and immediate interference with the effective performance of the defense function that PACDL exists to support and facilitate for its members. It stated, "These harms will be compounded by uncertainty, confusion and needlessly increased costs to all actors and institutions that make up the criminal justice system." Moreover, the brief stated, "The Proposed Amendments effectively strip any person within this Commonwealth who is accused of a crime of the presumption of innocence, and amends -- without notice to the voters -- provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution which act as a shield against wrongful convictions."  Thanks to Lauren A. Wimmer (Philadelphia), Peter Goldberger (Ardmore) and Barbara Zemlock (Harrisburg) for expediting the writing and filing of the brief in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  In a 4-3 decision, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court upheld the preliminary injunction to not certify the ballot.  

Commonwealth Court Agrees with the League of Women Voters' Challenge to Marsy's Law

Judge Ceisler granted the League of Women Voters' petition for a preliminary injunction on October 30 to halt the certification of the ballot results. The League asserted that Marsy's Law violated Article XI of Pennsylvania's Constitution because the ballot question does not fairly, accurately, and clearly apprise the electorate of the issues because it fails to enumerate all the rights set forth in the Proposed Amendment and omits many of the changes that the Proposed Amendment would have on existing constitutional rights of the accused. 

Ron Greenblatt of Greenblatt Pierce Funt and Flores in Philadelphia intervened and testified at the hearing.  He indicated that anyone who has been directly impacted by the crime will immediately have the absolute right "to refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused."  He also stated that defense counsel will be forced to immediately file pretrial motions and appeals setting forth the nature of the case, the relevance of the requested discovery and the reason why the discovery request was denied in order to protect the accused, and the record, for future appeals.  

The court concluded that, "Petitioners have raised substantial questions as to the constitutionality of the Proposed Amendment ... as a result, the electorate's right to vote separately on each right to be afforded may result in disenfranchisement .... there is no greater adverse effect on the public interest if the electors are deprived of their constitutional right to vote."