HELENA- The Montana Supreme Court has found that voter-approved Constitutional Initiative 116, also known as Marsy’s Law, is unconstitutional.
According to the order, the initiative as passed made at least five substantive and not closely related to changes to the Montana constitution.
Montana’s Constitution requires a separate vote for each unrelated change to the constitution. The Court found Marsy’s Law effectively made too many changes to be covered by the one constitutional initiative.
The ruling says, “Because voters were asked to cast a single vote on multiple substantive and unrelated changes to the Constitution, the Court held that CI-116 was unconstitutionally submitted to Montana voters and void in its entirety.”
Two of the Court’s seven justices dissented.
Marsy’s Law was passed by voters November 2016. It adds specific rights for crime victims and their families to the Montana Constitution. Almost two-thirds of voters in the state supported it in last November’s election.
A legal challenge to CI-116 was filed by the ACLU of Montana, the Montana Association of Counties, the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and several individual attorneys.
You can read the Montana Supreme Court’s full order right here.
Chuck Denowh, who led the campaign to pass CI-116, released a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“The decision to strip Montana’s citizens of the crime victim rights they approved is disappointing, especially given the technical legal grounds employed by a few to the detriment of many,” Denowh said. “The people of the state overwhelmingly supported Constitutional rights for victims of crime. We will continue to work to see that crime victims receive the equal rights that they deserve.”
“According to the Montana Board of Crime Control, a rape occurs in Montana every 23 hours,” Denowh’s statement continued. “Those who brought forward this case to Montana Supreme Court have denied those rape victims rights that voters approved by a two to one margin. Montana voters should expect those in key roles in the criminal justice process to follow the will of the voters despite this decision.”