Constitution in Conflict: The Doctrine of Independent State Grounds and the Voter Initiative in California
Van Cleave, Rachel A.
In 1990, California voters passed Proposition 115, the "Crime Victims Justice Reform Act." Proposition 115 added three sections to article I of the California Constitution and attempted to amend section 2410 of the same article. These sections of Proposition 115, as well as sections of Proposition 8 (the "Victims' Bill of Rights"), altered California's criminal justice system. Proposition 8 set forth the constitutional rights of crime victims and Proposition 115 set forth those of the people of the State of California. These constitutional amendments create clear conflicts between the rights of criminal defendants and the rights of both crime victims and other California citizens. This Article addresses the process used to achieve the results of the propositions. Part I discusses the nature of the rights found in California's Declaration of Rights, and the need to maintain their stability. It also discusses the problems inherent in forcing the interpretation of California rights to follow federal interpretations. Part II traces the development of the independent state grounds doctrine in the United States, and specifically, in California. Part III explains the history and procedure of the voter initiative in California. Part IV analyzes how Propositions 8 and 115 have limited the ability of the California judiciary to give independent meaning to California's Declaration of Rights. Part V concludes that a super-majority vote for changes to the Declaration of Rights would best achieve balance between the right of the voters to alter the Declaration of Rights and the right to an independent state constitution.