ACLU Says Misguided Constitutional Amendment Hasn't Improved; Measure to Diminish Due Process Rights Unnecessary Change to Constitution

May 9, 2002 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Saying that the Constitution should never be modified to diminish individual rights, the American Civil Liberties Union today urged Congress to reject the disingenuously named “Victim’s Rights Amendment.”

“Nothing has changed since this amendment first came up for consideration — it still doesn’t do anything that can’t be achieved through statute,” said Rachel King, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Modifying the Constitution in any way – especially if the changes will diminish rights in this country – would be an extremely dangerous move.”

The so-called Victims’ Rights Amendment was the subject of a hearing in the Constitution Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), of the House Judiciary Committee.

A Republican-controlled Senate rejected the amendment in 2000 after a strong backlash from conservatives, including George Will, and – ironically – several victims and victims’ rights groups. Opposition centered around the amendment’s potential to diminish seriously due process protections in America as well as fears over the enormity of amending the Constitution in a manner that would shrink the rights and freedoms accorded to all Americans.

Critics of the measure have also questioned its supporters’ insistence that it take the form of a constitutional amendment; prominent legal figures in Washington and across the country have pointed out that many of the amendment’s provisions can be implemented by statute. Not since Prohibition has the Constitution been changed in any way that would diminish civil liberty in America.

The ACLU said it has three main concerns with the proposed constitutional amendment:

· Victim’s rights are already well protected both in the Constitution and state laws; what is the point of amending the founding documents?

· The proposed amendment is too specific; the Constitution and Bill of Rights were meant to codify broad principles of freedom in America like “freedom of speech” or “freedom of assembly.” Specific prohibitions on freedom are meant to be dealt with in the law books.

· There is a good possibility that, were this to become part of the Constitution, victim’s rights would actually be diminished as the amendment’s unnecessary mandates on police and attorneys begin to hamper effective law enforcement and legal proceedings.

The ACLU’s Letter to the House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee can be found at:
/crimjustice/victimsrights/10095leg20020509.html

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