Two of these proposals strengthen crime victims' rights
Amidst all of the difficult decisions confronting voters in the May 20 primary election, it will be nice to have some easy choices.
Three issues on the ballot - Measures 51, 52, and 53 - all can be categorized as election no-brainers that Oregonians should approve.
The three measures all have to do with criminal matters, and all three were referred to the ballot by the 2007 Legislature. The first two - Measures 51 and 52 - are related and they both would advance the straight-forward notion that crime victims ought to have greater ability to enforce their constitutional rights in the court system.
The third referral, Measure 53, is an artfully crafted legislative compromise that fixes flaws in another constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2000.
While we believe that the choice to vote 'yes' on each of these measures is an easy one, these are hardly unimportant issues for the state's judicial system. Here is a brief summary of the proposals:
• Measure 51 is a follow-up to a 1999 voter-approved constitutional amendment that granted certain rights to crime victims - including such basic concepts as the right to be present at trial, the right to be heard at pretrial release hearings and the right to be heard at sentencing proceedings.
The 1999 amendment resulted in improved treatment of crime victims, but such progress has been inconsistent and sometimes impeded by judges or by the actions of defense attorneys. Measure 51 would fix those problems by allowing crime victims the legal authority to use the courts to enforce those rights.
• Measure 52 is a companion to Measure 51, but it has to be voted on separately because it involves a different section of the Oregon Constitution. The rights proposed within this measure include giving crime victims the right to be protected from the criminal defendant before and after a trial. Again, these rights are in the Constitution, but Measure 52 is needed to enforce them in court.
• Measure 53 also is an attempt to clarify a previously approved ballot measure. In November 2000, voters approved the Oregon Property Protection Act, which prohibited property forfeitures before a defendant's conviction.
In practice, however, one flaw of this act has been its failure to adequately protect animals that are seized from an abuser. To correct this mistake as well as other problems with the 2000 law, legislators worked with law enforcement officials, civil libertarians and defense attorneys to come up with a proposal that upholds people's rights while also allowing commonsense forfeitures prior to actual criminal convictions.
Measures 51, 52 and 53 represent thoughtful legislative work. Voters should give each of these proposals their enthusiastic support.