Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. says it’s too late for opponents to stop a scheduled November referendum on a state constitutional amendment on victim’s rights and has filed a motion to intervene in the issue.
The state League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit Thursday through the American Civil Liberties Union to stop the Nov. 5 referendum on a change known as Marsy’s Law. The suit claims the amendment combines too many changes into one referendum and the ballot description of the changes isn’t sufficient to inform voters about the issue.
But Mr. Zappala filed a motion in Commonwealth Court Friday to allow his office to participate in the case and argue against removing the referendum from the ballot. As district attorney, the petition says, Mr. Zappala has a duty to protect victims of crime, which is the purpose of the proposed amendment.
The petition noted the proposed change, which is being pushed in states across the country, passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the state Legislature. Mr. Zappala also said it is too close to the election to remove the ballot question.
“The fact that the ACLU, along with the League of Women Voters, has decided to politicize the rights of crime victims across the commonwealth is profoundly disappointing,” Mr. Zappala said in a statement released by his office.
“The fact that they waited until three weeks before election day to do this when they have known about Marsy's Law for the past two years is quite telling as to their true intentions.”
The ACLU suit says the proposed amendment should be broken into several different items that could be voted on individually.
“By bundling so many amendments in one proposal the Legislature has ignored the right of the people to carefully consider each proposal on its own merits,” Jill Greene, executive director of the League of Women Voters, said in a Twitter post.
Under state law, constitutional amendments have to be approved by two successive sessions of the Legislature before they go before the voters in a referendum.
The law, named for a 1983 murder victim in California, would give victims the right to be notified about, attend and weigh in during plea hearings, sentencings and parole proceedings.
Commonwealth Court hasn’t set a date to hear the suit.
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1470 or on Twitter @EdBlazina.