The Constitution is Not a Rough Draft: Defeat the VRA

This should be getting more attention. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) have successfully pushed their proposed Victim's Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution through a Senate Panel vote. But the bill has many detractors in Congress.

Every Democrat on the panel voted against her. Think about it for a moment. A constititutional amendment? Why? Wouldn't a federal law do, if that's what Congress wants to pass?

While just about everyone in Congress says they favor increasing the rights of crime victims, some say a constitutional amendment isn't needed and threatens to do more harm than good.

...33 states, including California, have victims' rights amendments in their state constitutions that provide for everything from restitution to requiring prior notice of all court or parole board appearances in their cases.

Her measure, co-written with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., grants victims of violent crime the right to prior notice of any public proceeding in the case, as well as notice of the release or escape of the accused or convicted, the right to be heard at trials and pardon hearings, access to any court decisions in their case and the right to restitution.

But opponents of the proposed amendment said the proper route would be to first try a federal law -- which can be changed relatively easily -- rather than the far more permanent step of enshrining victims' rights in the Constitution.

"I will fight this with everything I have," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N. Y. "No one has shown we need a constitutional amendment." (empahsis supplied)

Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., who as a state senator voted for Wisconsin's victims' rights amendment, said he feared the Feinstein measure would undermine the criminal justice system.

We wrote this detailed article about why the VRA is a lousy idea some years ago. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post opposed it in editorials, here and here.

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