The criminal justice system in the United States is, by design, adversarial.
The criminal justice system in the United States is, by design, adversarial. On one side, there are the advocates for the people in the form of the City Attorney, District Attorney, State’s Attorney, and US Attorney. The job of that that person is to take the facts and evidence gathered by law enforcement and hold individuals accountable for their actions. On the other side, there are the Defense attorneys, whose job it is to make sure that the fundamental rights we all have as citizens of the United States are upheld, protected, and honored. Often, the interactions between Prosecutors and Defense attorneys are frigid at best and can sometimes be downright hostile.
So, if there are ever occasions on which both sides unanimously agree on something, I believe it is significant and we should take notice. If there is an issue which unites both sides into a chorus with a single voice, that voice should be heard. The chorus of voices of the attorneys in the State of North Dakota have joined together and are singing a resounding “NO!” to the proposed Constitutional Amendment changes being brought forth to the voters in Measure 3, or “Marsy’s Law”.
Speaking of the chorus, it has been widely reported that Measure 3 is moving forward with the support of the Law Enforcement Community. Particularly vocal among that sector is Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert. Sheriff Heinert and the supporters for Measure 3 proudly proclaim that on February 4th the North Dakota Sheriff’s Association voted to support the amendment, which shows that law enforcement stands behind the changes proposed. The fact of the matter is that the vote on February 4, 2016 by the North Dakota Sheriff’s Association was an endorsement by a handful of the members of that board and support for Measure 3 is far from unanimous in the law enforcement community. Our own Sheriff, Travis Collins, stands with me in opposition to the Measure and the overarching implications it brings.
To be certain, this law comes draped in a noble cause, protecting victims. The fact of the matter is, however, that this law will do little to increase protections and may, in fact, lead to a decrease in the ability of our criminal justice system to help those who need it. Resources with be diverted from investigations, trial preparation, and research. The trial dockets will become further overburdened by cases which cannot be concluded because of witnesses whom are unavailable or unwilling to cooperate. At the end of the day, raising these provisions, the vast majority of which already exist in our current Century Code, to the level of a Constitutional right is the wrong move for North Dakota and will have long lasting and detrimental implications.
A few weeks ago, I submitted a Letter to the Editor which was penned by JR Kerzmann, McLean County Sheriff, David Lindell, Attorney for the McLean County Family Resource Center, Jenell Olson, Director of the McLean County Family Resource Center, and Ladd Erickson, the McLean County State’s Attorney. In that letter, the above describe the problems with Marsy’s Law including the fact that it’s not needed (there are already laws on the books which proscribe many of the provisions of the amendment) and the cost (nearly $4,000,000 per biennium). I am writing this letter to raise my voice above the chorus and unequivocally urge you, as a voter in Adams County, to vote NO ON MEASURE 3. I am making this plea as an attorney, as a prosecutor, and as a citizen.
Very rarely has an issue come along in which all sides of a profession are united. Measure 3 is such an issue. Prosecutors are against it. Defense Attorney’s are against it, Victims Advocacy Groups are against it. Many in Law Enforcement are against it. You should be against it too. Please, vote no on Measure 3.
Truly and Sincerely,
Adams Co. State’s Attorney