Dechert Assists ACLU and League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania on Marsy’s Law Ballot Question

November 05, 2019

Dechert LLP, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, is representing the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and an individual, Lorraine Haw of Philadelphia, in their challenge to the legality of Marsy’s Law with a lawsuit filed in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.  The lawsuit contends that a pending Marsy’s Law ballot question is unconstitutional because it consolidates many changes into a single amendment – a practice known as ‘logrolling’—even though the constitution requires that they be voted on separately. 

Marsy’s Law (Senate Bill 1011) proposes an amendment to Article I of the Pennsylvania Constitution to establish a crime victims’ ‘bill of rights,’ granting victims comparable rights to ‘justice and due process’ equal to those provided to the accused. 

The lawsuit argues that because the proposed amendment impacts three articles and eight different sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution, each proposal must be considered as a separate amendment in line with Article 11, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. 

On October 30, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that the legal challenge to the proposed constitutional amendment is likely to succeed and issued a preliminary injunction to stop the Pennsylvania Department of State from certifying the vote until the litigation on the Marsy’s Law ballot question is resolved. On November 4, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the injunction by a 4-3 vote.

The Dechert team includes Steven Bizar, Tiffany E. Engsell and Craig J. Castiglia.

“From the start, this case has not been about victims’ rights, but about protecting the rights of Pennsylvania voters. That is what our clients are concerned about here. When constitutional requirements are skirted, even for good reasons, every one of us suffers. We are very pleased with the Commonwealth Court’s carefully reasoned opinion and the prompt ruling by the Supreme Court affirming, and remain ready  to press ahead to ensure that the requirements for amending the constitution are met,” said Steven Bizar. 

See a copy of the court's ruling

About Dechert

Dechert is a leading global law firm with 26 offices around the world. We advise on matters and transactions of the greatest complexity, bringing energy, creativity and efficient management of legal issues to deliver commercial and practical advice for clients.