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Know before you vote: Amendment Six

Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.

This is the sixth in a series of articles that will appear in the Madison Enterprise-Recorder. Each article will examine one of the 13 proposed constitutional amendments that will be appearing on the Florida elections ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. This week's article takes a look at Amendment Six.

The sixth amendment facing Florida voters on the November ballot addresses the judicial system in the state. There are three separate components to this amendment: the establishment of "Marsy's Law," an increase in the mandatory retirement age of judges from 70 to 75 years of age and a prohibition of state courts from deferring to an administrative agency's interpretation of a state statute or rule in lawsuits.

The first component to the amendment establishes "Marsy's Law" for the state. "Marsy's Law" deals with victim's rights in criminal proceedings. "Marsy's Law" is named after Marsy Nichols, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Nichols' brother, Henry (the co-founder of Broadcom, Corp.) and mother were confronted by Marsy's ex-boyfriend after he was released from prison. They were not aware of his release from prison on bail.

Among other rights and considerations, the amendment would guarantee:

"[The] right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect for the victims dignity."

"The right to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse."

"[The] right, within the judicial process, to be reasonably protected from the accused and any person acting on behalf of the accused."

"[The] right to have the safety and welfare of the victim and the victim's family considered when setting bail, including setting pretrial release conditions that protect the safety and welfare of the victim and the victim's family."

Florida joins Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Nevada in voting to add Marsy's Law to their state constitutions this November. Most states either have Marsy's Law or similar legislation on the books. Thirteen states currently do not have Marsy's Law or similar legislation in place.

Another part of Amendment Six is the raising of the mandatory retirement age of judge's from 70 years of age to 75. Currently, 19 states have no mandatory retirement age for judges. Eighteen states share the 70-year mandatory retirement age with Florida. Vermont is the state with the highest mandatory retirement age, at 90.

The third component of the amendment deals with judicial deference. Judicial deference is when a state court, i.e. a judge, yields to an agency's interpretation of a rule or statute that the agency has been instructed to administer by the legislature or a regulation that is put into effect by an agency. If passed, the amendment would put the burden of interpreting those rules and statutes on the court.

To date, there are no organized groups either supporting or opposing the passing of Amendment Six.

In order to become law, this proposed amendment will have to pass with at least 60 percent of the vote in the November election. As with any proposed legislation, one should carefully weigh both sides of the argument and then make the wisest choice.

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