Marsy’s Law; Experiences in other states show it’s not good for press, public’s right to know

Earlier this week, Sen. Whitney Westerfield got the Senate to approve, again, his legislation called Marsy’s Law. I say again because he did this previously but the wording in the Constitutional Amendment advertising did not pass muster with the Supreme Court and it was ruled unconstitutional. That came after what Senator Westerfield said was approved by 63 percent of Kentucky’s voters.

We’re being warned by some other states that the law is not good for the press or the public’s right to know. Below, I’ll let Dave Bordewyk from the South Dakota Press Association explain the issues and what to watch for when legislation enacting the law comes up in the 2021 session.

I’ve already alerted Jon Fleischaker and Michael Abate as well as Leigh Ann Thacker and Danny Slaton with Top Shelf Lobby that we already have one potential bill to work on during 2021.

“Marsy’s Law was passed by voters in a statewide initiative in South Dakota in 2016. Bad law from our point of view. Quite frankly, we got caught off guard by it and didn’t appreciate the ramifications of it on the public’s right to know as it was being voted on in 2016.

“Most direct impact for press in South Dakota has been the delay by the state in releasing names of victims of vehicle accidents. We now have a 72-hour wait period before state releases names of victims. (Newspapers run death notices of persons killed in a car accident while in the same edition the front-page news story says authorities can’t release the names of victims yet.)  There are other implications as well. I call it the new “HIPAA” of public’s right to know when it comes to crime and accident-related news. 

“Our legislature dialed some of it back in 2018 but not enough. So we’re stuck with it.

“I know a few other states have it: Florida, ND, Montana. Perhaps others.

“A bit of info on our AG’s website:

“Be sure to understand implications on press and public’s right to know if it’s proposed in your state.

“The billionaire behind it has his own problems:

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