A Coalition of Montana Groups Seek Supreme Court Opinion to Establish Effective Date of CI-116 as July 1, 2017

The ACLU of Montana, working with the Montana Association of Counties, the Montana League of Cities and Towns, and the Montana County Attorneys Association, is filing a lawsuit today about the effective date of CI-116, also known as Marsy’s Law. The Montana Constitution, in Article XIV, Section 9(3), requires that changes to our Constitution approved by ballot initiative go into effect on July 1, 2017, unless the amendment provides otherwise. The ACLU, MCAA, MLCT, and MACo are arguing that the Attorney General’s ballot summary incorrectly stated the initiative would become effective immediately. On November 28, a majority of the Board of Canvassers met, and pursuant to their statutory obligations, declared that the effective date of CI-116 is July 1, 2017. The Secretary of State improperly rejected their decision, contrary to Montana law. On November 30, the Secretary of State again rejected the Board’s decision about the effective date, and has set a third meeting for December 5. Because we have no reason to believe the Secretary will change her position, we have moved forward with a petition directly to the Montana Supreme Court. 

Marsy’s Law mandates a dramatic reinterpretation of how the criminal justice system in Montana functions. Among other issues, it defines the victim of a crime expansively.  It includes the actual victim that suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission, or attempted commission of a crime. The term victim includes the spouses, parents, grandparents, children, siblings, grandchildren, or guardians of the victim. And finally, the term includes any person with a relationship to the victim that is “substantially similar.”

Marsy’s Law creates significant administrative, financial, and compliance burdens. A July 1, 2017 effective date is not only legally required, but makes practical sense as it allows for organizations time to comply with the procedures mandated by CI 116. 


Contact: Jim Taylor, Legal Director aclu@aclumontana.org