By Jim Nelson
First, the proposed amendment is a solution in search of a problem. Montana’s Legislature has already enacted a comprehensive body of laws that provide virtually the same victim’s rights as does I-116.
Second, it is wrong to assume that police officers, prosecutors and judges, among others, presently ignore the plight of crime victims. They don’t, based on my 40+ years of experience as a former prosecutor working with state and federal law enforcement and as Supreme Court justice.
Third, constitutionalizing victim’s rights, especially given the overly broad language of the amendment, creates numerous hidden problems. For example:
If one of the victim’s (and that term is very broadly defined) numerous constitutional rights is violated she or he is entitled to file suit for a remedy, which the court must fashion. This suit can be brought directly under the new amendment since it is “self executing” — something very rare in constitutional law. The victim will likely need the assistance of an attorney to file suit — but there is no provision for appointed counsel; so hiring an attorney is on the victim’s dime.