On October 10, 2019, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the law firm Dechert LLP filed a state constitutional challenge against the ballot question commonly known as Marsy's Law, which would be considered by voters at the general election on November 5. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and an individual, Lorraine Haw of Philadelphia.

Marsy's Law adds 15 new constitutional rights for victims of crime, impacting eight different sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution. But the constitution says that if an amendment contains more than one subject, or alters more than one section, those changes must be considered as separate amendments.

The Marsy's Law ballot question is also unconstitutional because it is vague; voters have no clarity on what they're voting for. The proposed constitutional amendment is more than 500 words while the ballot question is merely 73 words.

In October 2019, the Commonwealth Court temporarily halted the certification of the vote on the ballot question to allow this lawsuit to proceed, a decision that was affirmed a few weeks later by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

In January 2021, the Commonwealth Court ruled that the ballot question is unconstitutional and invalid. On December 21, 2021, the state Supreme Court upheld the Commonwealth Court's ruling, declaring the ballot question unconstitutional and ending the lawsuit.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania both oppose Marsy's Law because it undermines the rights of people who are accused of crimes. More information about ACLU-PA's position on Marsy's Law is available at aclupa.org/MarsysLaw.


Mary Catherine Roper and Andrew Christy of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Steven Bizar, Tiffany E. Engsell, and Craig J. Castiglia of Dechert LLP

Date filed

October 10, 2019


Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania