Grand Forks County state's attorney: No on Marsy's Law
GRAND FORKS--On Nov. 8, voters will decide whether lengthy changes should be made to the North Dakota Constitution through Measure 3, also known as Marsy's Law.
GRAND FORKS-On Nov. 8, voters will decide whether lengthy changes should be made to the North Dakota Constitution through Measure 3, also known as Marsy's Law.
There are fundamental problems with this measure, and I urge a No vote.
Marsy's Law is the cause of eccentric California billionaire who paid for signature gatherers to get his measure on our November ballot. This man's cause is to get this deceased sister's name enacted into the state constitution. He is now paying millions of dollars for slickly produced mailers, radio ads and TV ads that are designed solely to play on voter emotions.
The same type of ads are running in every state in which this California-based measure is on the ballot, and they are all very misleading.
Measure 3 represents an abuse of our initiated measure process. As intended, the requirement to gather thousands of signatures to get on the ballot is meant to show there is a worthy grassroots cause to vote on. Paying for signatures negates that purpose.
In addition, our forefathers called conventions to enact or significantly amend our constitution. Those conventions involved debate and thoughtful deliberation over each proposed provision. That hasn't occurred with Measure 3, despite the 23 new paragraphs it proposes for our Constitution.
North Dakota already has 18 enumerated victim rights in state law - including the right to notice of court and parole hearings, and notice if an offender is released from custody. Current state law has automated notices of all these proceedings through the North Dakota Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification system, through which crime victims and their families can get emails, texts or calls informing them of case developments.
In Grand Forks County, we are blessed with the services of victims advocates working through the Community Violence Intervention Center. These advocates work tirelessly on behalf of victims and hand in hand with my office to ensure victims' rights are protected.
It is an affront to their professionalism to claim failures in protecting those rights.
North Dakota crime victims also have the right to get restitution ordered from offenders, and the Grand Forks County State's Attorney's Office employs two full-time restitution coordinators to make sure this right is protected.
In addition, North Dakota crime victims also have the right to input in sentencing, the right to be present during court hearings, the right to be free from harassment or intimidation and the right to have their concerns considered in bond or parole hearings.
If Measure 3 passes, the complete lack of thought or debate put into the wording of the provisions will result in a diversion of resources from victims of serious crimes and bog down court proceedings with unfunded constitutional mandates that serve no legitimate end.
If enacted, Measure 3 inevitably will lead to a great deal of litigation in which it will be left to the attorneys, the district courts and inevitably the North Dakota Supreme Court to interpret the law's meaning and effect.
There will be constitutional clashes between well-established law and the provisions of this poorly conceived measure. This will result in justice delayed as well as greater cost to the legal system.
The State Office of Management and Budget estimates the costs of implementing Measure 3 to be nearly $4 million a biennium. But there is no funding provision in the measure, so either that cost will be placed on taxpayers, or services for victims of serious crimes will have to be cut.
Because of its harm to victims of serious crimes and other flaws, Measure 3 is opposed by the Council on Abused Women's Services, the North Dakota Victim's Assistance Association, the North Dakota Women's Network, the North Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the First Women's Alliance, the North Dakota Fraternal Order of Police and the North Dakota State's Attorneys' Association.
Former North Dakota attorney general and retired district judge Robert Wefald describes Measure 3 as the "nickname amendment," and has stated that amending our constitution for this billionaire's personal cause creates bad constitutional law.
Jones is Grand Forks County state's attorney.