Ladd Erickson: A Prosecutor’s Point Of View On Marsy’s Law For North Dakota

By Rob Port

Last week former police officer and current criminal defense attorney, Mark Friese, posted a very thoughtful and spot-on practitioner’s analysis of some of the pitfalls in the proposed “Marsy’s Law” initiated measure.  Viewing the content of Marsy’s Law through the lens of a prosecutor, I can only add some additional points to Mark’s post.

From a legal doctrine prospective, “Marsy’s Law” is still in the experimental or infant stage in the states that have enacted it. It began by initiated measure in California in the late 2000’s, and there is yet to be a body of caselaw, law review articles, or other sources that have studied its effects.

What few things I could find are troubling.

In reading the “victim’s rights” contained in Marsy’s Law, there is obviously a built-in leap of faith that the laws intended beneficiaries – honest real crime victims – will be the primary people the law helps if the voters enact this as constitutional law in our State. However, as Mark pointed out, North Dakota already leads the nation in protecting crime victims through our statutes, victim advocate programs and services, and court rule requirements and practices. Likely, this is why the sponsor’s press statements so far have used the “some other states have this so we should to” inferiority complex tact, instead of citations to instances where North Dakota’s current protection of crime victim rights is broken and in need of a fix.

Amending our Constitution, absent an identifiable in-state need to do so, reduces that document from a status of loft and deliberate forethought, to that of fodder for interest group politics.

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