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Marsy’s Law procedural rules advancing

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Legal booksProcedural rules to carry out the Marsy’s Law victims’ rights constitutional amendment have been approved by rules committees and are on the way to the Florida Supreme Court.

A new Rule of Judicial Administration 2.423 won unanimous Board of Governors’ acceptance on June 17 and the board will review new Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.143 for a second time at its July 17 meeting.

Both are scheduled to be filed with the Supreme Court by the end of July.

Drafting the rules, especially Rule 2.423, was tricky because of differing opinions on whether privacy rights conferred on victims were automatic or victims had to request them.

“Originally, we were going with having minority/majority positions and you know how fun those are,” said Michael Schmid, who chaired the Joint Rules Committee that drafted Rule 2.423 at the RJA committee’s June 19 meeting. “But we were luckily able to eventually draft a rule that avoided the requirement that the rule impose an interpretation.

“We believe that the rule allows the person [or agency] reading the rule to still interpret how they believe it [applies]. The interpretation doesn’t have to be made by this committee.”

The proposed rule provides that, “[C]onfidential crime victim information is determined to be confidential on the grounds that confidentiality is required to comply with the Florida Constitution.”

It also says that if the initial filer of the criminal charges “indicates the existence of confidential crime victim information, the clerk of the court shall designate and maintain the confidentiality of any such information contained within the initial charging document.”

Victims also would be allowed to file a confidentiality notice at any time to protect their information, and the rule spells out the confidentiality notice form to be used and how clerks should identify and protect the affected information.

The challenge for the Appellate Court Rules Committee was fulfilling the amendment’s guarantee that victims could be notified and participate in appellate as well as trial court proceedings.

Keith Upson, chair of the Criminal Practice Subcommittee, said the goal was to carry out the constitutional protections in the amendment.

The rule would require that in criminal and juvenile appeals all victim filings would be included in the record, the victim can file a statement up to 2,500 words, and the victim can request to participate in oral argument.

The comment to the amendment says, “This rule responds to the 2018 amendment of article I, section 16, Florida Constitution, and is not intended to confer party status on a victim.”

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