California Proposition 9, Marsy's Law (2008)

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California Proposition 9, or the Victims' Rights and Protection Act of 2008, also known as Marsy's Law, was on the November 4, 2008 ballot in California as a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute, where it was approved.[1]

Proposition 9 altered laws governing victim's rights in California. It amended the California Constitution to add new provisions regarding victims of crimes.[2]

Specifically, under the provisions of Proposition 9:

  • Victims and their families are to be notified during all aspects of the justice process, including bail, sentencing and parole.
  • Authorities must take a victims' safety into concern when assigning bail or conducting a parole review.

California voters first approved official victims' rights in 1982 when they approved Proposition 8, The Victims' Bill of Rights.


In January of 2012, federal judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that the parts of Proposition 9 that govern the revocation of parole were unconstitutional.[3] (Read more below.)

Election results

California Proposition 9 (2008)
Approveda Yes 6,682,465 53.9%

Turnout: 79.4% of registered

Final results from the California Secretary of State

Constitutional changes

Proposition 9 amended Section 28 of Article I of the California Constitution.

Ballot language


The ballot title was:

Criminal Justice System. Victims' Rights. Parole. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.


The official summary provided to describe Proposition 9 said:

  • Requires notification to victim and opportunity for input during phases of criminal justice process, including bail, pleas, sentencing and parole.
  • Establishes victim safety as consideration in determining bail or release on parole.
  • Increases the number of people permitted to attend and testify on behalf of victims at parole hearings.
  • Reduces the number of parole hearings to which prisoners are entitled.
  • Requires that victims receive written notification of their constitutional rights.
  • Establishes timelines and procedures concerning parole revocation hearings.

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

  • Potential loss of future state savings on prison operations and potential increased county jail operating costs that could collectively amount to hundreds of millions of dollars annually, due to restricting the early release of inmates to reduce facility overcrowding.
  • Net savings in the low tens of millions of dollars annually for the administration of parole hearings and revocations, unless the changes in parole revocation procedures were found to conflict with federal legal requirements.



Proposition 9 was sponsored by Henry Nicholas and his family. Nicholas, who donated $4,845,000.00 to the campaign to put Marsy's Law on the ballot, stepped away from active support of the Marsy's Law campaign when a criminal indictment on drug and securities offenses was unsealed in June 2008 so as not to serve as a distraction during the campaign. [4],[5]

Other backers of Proposition 9 were the California Coalition of Law Enforcement Associations, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and Crime Victims United of California.

Arguments in favor

Notable arguments that were made in favor of Proposition 9 included:

  • Proposition 9 would save money because under the current system, taxpayers are spending money to fund hearings for criminals who have little chance of release. For example, supporters of Prop 9 argue, "'Helter Skelter' inmates Bruce Davis and Leslie Van Houten, followers of Charles Manson, convicted of multiple brutal murders, have had 38 parole hearings in 30 years. That’s 38 times the families involved have been forced to relive the painful crime and pay their own expenses to attend the hearing, plus 38 hearings that taxpayers have had to subsidize."
  • The rights of victims are important.
  • Parole judges could increase the number of years between parole hearings typically to 15 years, saving money.[6]


$5,149,931 was contributed to the campaign in favor of a "yes" vote on Proposition 9.[7]

Donors of $50,000 or more were:

Donor Amount
Henry Nicholas $4,851,406
Crime Victims United of California $100,000
California Correctional Peace Officers Association $85,000
Marcella M. Leach $50,240



The No on Propositions 6 & 9, Communities for Safe Neighborhoods and Fiscal Responsibility committee filed with the California Secretary of State as an opposition group.[8]

Notable opponents included:

Arguments against

Notable arguments that were made against Proposition 9 included:

  • Voters already approved many components of Proposition 9 when they passed California Proposition 8 (1982), including the requirements that victims be notified of critical points in an offender’s legal process as well as the rights for victims to be heard throughout the legal process.
  • Proposition 9 amounts to political grandstanding without really changing any significant problems in the criminal justice system.
  • The provision in Proposition 9 to stop early release of criminals could end up costing the taxpayer in the "hundreds of millions"
  • The annual parole rate for those convicted of second degree murder or manslaughter has been less than 1% of those eligible for parole for the last twenty years. Opponents of Proposition 9 say this means that the taxpayers would spend a lot of money with minimal resulting changes, since at most Proposition 9 would affect early parole of 1% of the most violent criminal population.
  • Money spent enforcing the provisions of Proposition 9 won't be available for other important government programs.[9]


$2,356,567 was contributed to the campaign committee that spoke out against both Proposition 6 and Proposition 9.[10]

Donors of $100,000 or more were:

Donor Amount
California Teachers Association $955,911
California State Council of Service Employees/SEIU $572,805
California Democratic Party $467,129
California Federation of Teachers $100,000

Editorial opinion

2008 propositions
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February 5
Proposition 91Proposition 92
Proposition 93Proposition 94
Proposition 95Proposition 96
Proposition 97
June 3
Proposition 98Proposition 99
November 4
Proposition 1AProposition 2
Proposition 3Proposition 4
Proposition 5Proposition 6
Proposition 7Proposition 8
Proposition 9Proposition 10
Proposition 11Proposition 12
Local measures

"Yes on 9"

  • The Eureka Reporter.[11]
  • Gay and Lesbian Times.[12]

"No on 9"

The Los Angeles Times encouraged a "no" vote on 9, saying, "If the concern is protection of families from further victimization, as proponents claim, that goal can be met without granting families a new and inappropriate role in prosecutions."[13]

Other editorial boards opposed:

  • Pasadena Star News.[14]
  • Press Democrat.[15]
  • Press Enterprise.[16]
  • Tracy Press.[17]
  • San Diego Union Tribune.[18]
  • Orange County Register.[19]
  • Sacramento Bee.[20]
  • San Francisco Chronicle.[21]
  • Bakersfield Californian.[22]
  • La Opinion.[23]
  • Fresno Bee.[24]
  • Woodland Daily Democrat.[25]
  • San Jose Mercury News.[26]
  • Chico Enterprise-Record.[27]
  • Stockton Record.[28]
  • New York Times.[29]
  • Contra Costa Times.[30]
  • San Gabriel Valley Tribune.[31]
  • Napa Valley Register.[32]
  • Salinas Californian.[33]
  • Monterey County Herald.[34]
  • Long Beach Press-Telegram.[35]
  • Desert Dispatch.[36]
  • The Vacaville Reporter.[37]
  • Los Angeles Daily News.[38]
  • Santa Cruz Sentinel.[39]
  • The Modesto Bee.[40]
  • The Appeal-Democrat.[41]
  • Redding Record Searchlight.[42]
  • Milpitas Post.[43]


See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

Valdivia v. Brown

2012 measure lawsuits
By state
North DakotaOhioOklahoma
OregonRhode Island
By lawsuit type
Ballot text
Campaign contributions
Motivation of sponsors
Petitioner residency
Post-certification removal
Single-subject rule
Signature challenges
Initiative process

2012 ruling

On January 24, 2012, U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton ruled in the class-action lawsuit case Valdivia v. Brown (S-94-671 LKK) that the part of the Victims' Bill of Rights created under Proposition 9 which govern parole revocation was unconstitutional. Karlton stated that the parole revocation laws, which had been codified in the state penal code, in part violated minimum due process provided by the constitution and affirmed under two U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 (Morrissey v. Brewer) and 1973 (Gagnon v. Scarpell). The law was also found to violate certain rights to a lawyer and rights to a neutral and detached hearing body. While several provisions were upheld, Karlton ruled that they could not stand alone and therefore struck down the entire parole revocation law.[3][44][45]

  • The ruling can be found here.

2009 and 2010 rulings

On March 26, 2009, Karlton had blocked part of the measure, arguing that the proposition did not nullify the administration's settlement of the class-action inmate rights lawsuit. The judge had previously issued a stay on a portion of the measure after the November election. [46]

However, in March 2010, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit overturned the 2009 Karlton ruling and said that Proposition 9's provision that legal counsel must be provided by the state only in particularly complex cases can stand.[47]

Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation said of the March 2010 decision, "Today's decision makes it clear that a judge's order to grant more rights to parolees than constitutionally required does not trump a state constitutional amendment adopted by the people." Scheidegger helped draft Proposition 9.

Federal appellate judges John T. Noonan, Michael Daly Hawkins and Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote the decision upholding Proposition 9. Their decision says:

"Because the district court made no express determination that any aspect of the California parole revocation procedures, as modified by Proposition 9, violated constitutional rights, or that the injunction was necessary to remedy a constitutional violation, we vacate and remand the March 2009 order for the district court to make that determination and reconcile the injunction with California law as expressed in Proposition 9."

Esteban Núñez commutation lawsuit

Esteban Núñez, the son of Former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, received a 16-year voluntary manslaughter sentence after killing Luis Santos, a 22-year-old student at San Diego Mesa College in 2008.[48]

In 2011, as one of his last acts in office, then Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commuted Esteban's 16-year sentence to seven years. However, Schwarzegger did not notify the victim's family of this commutation. Under Proposition 9, Schwarzenegger was required to provide that notice. Since he did not, two separate lawsuits were started, one by the victim's family in Sacramento where they live, and one by the San Diego County Deputy District Attorney in San Diego where the incident happened. Those lawsuits were later combined.[48][49]

Path to the ballot

See also: California signature requirements

As an initiated constitutional amendment, 694,354 signatures were required to qualify Proposition 9 for the ballot.

Its supporters turned in over 1.2 million petition signatures in April 2008 to qualify the measure for the November 2008 ballot[50],[51].

The signature-gathering drive to qualify Proposition 9 for the ballot was managed by Bader & Associates, Inc., a petition management company owned by Tom Bader and Joy Bader, at a cost of $2,258,034.00.[52]

See also: California ballot initiative petition signature costs

External links

Suggest a link

Basic information:



Additional reading:


  1. Official election results
  2. Los Angeles Times, "California's Propositions", September 21, 2008
  3. 3.0 3.1 The Sacramento Bee, "Judge strikes parole-revocation provisions in California law," January 26, 2012
  4. Los Angeles Times, The Two Nicholases, June 11, 2008.
  5. Campaign donation from Nicholas to Marsy's Law committee
  6. Arguments in favor of Prop 9 from the California voters guide
  7. Follow the Money, "Donors to Yes on Proposition 9"
  8. Registration information for the No on 6 & 9 committee
  9. Arguments against Proposition 9 from the California voter's guide
  10. Follow the Money, "Donors to No on Propositions 6 & 9"
  11. Eureka Reporter, "The Eureka Reporter recommends," October 14, 2008.
  12. Gay and Lesbian Times, "Our endorsements for state and local propositions," October 9, 2008.
  13. Los Angeles Times, "No on Proposition 9", September 26, 2008
  14. Pasadena Star News, "Vote 'no' on props. 6 and 9", October 6, 2008
  15. Press Democrat, "Wrong Way," September 8, 2008
  16. Press Enterprise, "No on 9," September 12, 2008
  17. Tracy Press, "Proposition 9 has victims as a concern, but it would put too much burden on our prison system if it passes," September 23, 2008.
  18. San Diego Union Tribune, "No on Prop 9: Measure is poorly drafted and wrongheaded," September 25, 2008
  19. Orange County Register, "California Proposition 9 Editorial: Unnecessary tinkering with constitution," October 2, 2008
  20. Sacramento Bee, "Proposition 9", October 9, 2008
  21. San Francisco Chronicle, "Props. 6 and 9 are budget busters," October 9, 2008.
  22. Bakersfield Californian, "Ballot-box budgeting: Vote NO on Props 6 and 9," October 9, 2008
  23. La Opinion, "Two Measures to Reject," October 12, 2008
  24. Fresno Bee, "Vote 'no' on Proposition 9, an ill-considered crime victims bill," October 13, 2008.
  25. Woodland Daily Democrat, "Voters should turn down Props. 5, 6, and 9", October 14, 2008.
  26. San Jose Mercury News, "Editorial: Proposition 9 would increase prison costs; vote no," October 14, 2008.
  27. Chico Enterprise-Record, "Flawed measures should be rejected," October 16, 2008.
  28. Stockton Record, "Proposition 9 - No," October 16, 2008.
  29. New York Times, "Fiscal Disaster in California," October 9, 2008.
  30. Contra Costa Times, "Times recommendations on California propositions," October 19, 2008.
  31. San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Propositions in Review," October 19, 2008.
  32. Napa Valley Register, Vote No On Proposition 9, October 16, 2008
  33. Salinas Californian, "Vote no on state Props. 5, 6 and 9," October 18, 2008.
  34. Monterey County Herald, "Proposition endorsements," October 17, 2008.
  35. Long Beach Press-Telegram, "No on Proposition 9," October 4, 2008.
  36. Desert Dispatch, "Victims' Rights Yes, Amendment No," October 8, 2008
  37. The Reporter, "Vote No on Proposition 9," October 22, 2008.
  38. Los Angeles Daily News, "No on Props. 5, 6, and 9.
  39. Santa Cruz Sentinel, "As We See It: Vote No on Props. 6 and 9," October 15, 2008.
  40. Modesto Bee, "Proposition 9 is too ambitious," October 9 2008.
  41. The Appeal-Democrat, "Our View: Victims’ rights Proposition 9 doesn’t seem necessary," October 5, 2008.
  42. Record Searchlight, "Victims' rights act only on paper," October 10, 2008.
  43. Milpitas Post, "Blasting some of the worst propositions," October 9, 2008.
  44., "Parole-revoking rules toughened by Prop. 9 tossed," January 27, 2012
  45. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation , "Victim's Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy's Law"
  46. Mercury News, "Federal judge limits Calif. crime victims measure", March 26, 2009
  47. Los Angeles Times, "Appeals court backs Proposition 9 parole revocation rule", March 26, 2010
  48. 48.0 48.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "Fabian Núñez's words enrage slain man's family", July 12, 2011
  49. The Sacramento Bee, "Nunez, Schwarzenegger commutation case to stay in Sacramento," August 4, 2011
  50. News 10, "Marsy's Law" Seeks New Rights For Crime Victims
  51. Sacramento Bee, Signatures submitted for victims' ballot measure, April 28, 2008
  52. Campaign expenditure details