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Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously dismisses legal challenge to Marsy’s Law, favored by voters

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

In a unanimous opinion, the Kentucky Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge to Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment on crime victim rights, which won voter approval in 2020.

This was the second time the issue came before the high court.

In 2018, the General Assembly proposed, and Kentucky voters ratified, Marsy’s Law.

Supreme Court Justices

However, the justices threw out the results because the entire text of the proposed amendment was not placed on the ballot, agreeing with the lawsuit filed by the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Inc., or KACDL.

The same group filed suit against the 2020 proposed amendment, but the Supreme Court rejected their arguments this time, in a 20-page decision, saying they lack standing to bring the suit.

“Appellants have not met their burden of establishing that the alleged injuries harmed them in a concrete and particularized manner,” the Justices wrote. “Instead, Appellants’ claims constitute nonjusticiable generalized grievances because the harms they assert are shared in equal measure by all citizens of the Commonwealth.”

The Court pointed out, “Appellants contend that they have standing as citizens and voters. But Appellants’ Complaint does not assert standing based on status as a voter. The Complaint says that ‘Plaintiff David M. Ward is a resident of this Commonwealth who pays taxes to the Commonwealth.’ Furthermore, the Complaint does not allege that members of KACDL are voters. The Complaint is devoid of any mention of Appellants being harmed as voters.”

The KADCL has 20 days to ask the Justices to reconsider their ruling, otherwise the case will return to Franklin Circuit Court, with instructions to be dismissed.

After that, the State Board of Elections will certify the result, which had over 63% voting in favor.

Reacting to the ruling, Marsy’s Law for Kentucky state director Emily Bonistall Postel called the ruling an historic victory for crime victims in the state, with rights guaranteed in the Kentucky constitution.

“It sends a resounding message to those who oppose equal rights for crime victims that frivolous lawsuits cannot defeat the will of the people of Kentucky,” she stated.

“Crime victims have been guaranteed the right to be notified, be heard and be present in court proceedings giving them the voice and dignity they deserve as they navigate the criminal justice system.”

She added, it was fitting that the ruling was handed down during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The ACLU of Kentucky, meanwhile, expressed disappointment in the ruling.

“Marsy’s Law is well-intentioned but deeply misguided,” said spokesman Samuel Crankshaw. “We agree with proponents of Marsy’s Law that the current legal system can and does fail victims, but Marsy’s Law is not the answer. It unnecessarily complicates the criminal legal process, threatens to increase prison populations, interferes with due process and clogs already overburdened courts.”

He noted, “The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of Marsy’s Law, meaning the measure could still be challenged in the future.” 

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