November 16, 2011
By Adam Bink
The California Supreme Court just announced it will issue its opinion tomorrow, November 17th at 10 AM PST regarding whether the proponents of ballot initiatives have authority to represent the state of California when the state’s public officials (governor and attorney general) decline to do so. From the court’s release:
The court granted the request of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to address the following question: “Whether under Article II, Section 8 of the California Constitution, or otherwise under California law, the official proponents of an initiative measure possess either a particularized interest in the initiative’s validity or the authority to assert the State’s interest in the initiative’s validity, which would enable them to defend the constitutionality of the initiative upon its adoption or appeal a judgment invalidating the initiative, when the public officials charged with that duty refuse to do so.”
Opinion(s) in the above case(s) will be filed on:
Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 10:00 a.m.
For those not familiar with the timeline of the case, this is not a binding decision on the case. That rests with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Some background: in December of last year, the 9th Circuit heard the appeal of Judge Walker’s ruling, which struck down Prop 8. The court heard arguments on the constitutionality of Prop 8, and arguments on whether the proponents of Prop 8 (ProtectMarriage.com, et al) even have standing to represent the state of California in the case as defendant when Gov. Brown and Attorney General Harris decline to do so. For the live-blogging of those arguments, click here.
Rather than immediately rule on those arguments, the 9th Circuit decided to kick the ball over to the California Supreme Court on the issue of standing, asking an important question: do proponents of ballot initiatives in California — in this case, those who collected signatures and raised money and helped pass the initiative — have the authority to represent the state when the state’s public officials decline to defend the initiative? If ultimately not, then Prop 8 goes without a defendant, our side (the plaintiffs) wins and Prop 8 ends.
The California Supreme Court accepted the question, heard arguments (for live-blogging of those arguments at the hearing, click here), and tomorrow will issue its opinion. From there, the 9th Circuit 3-judge panel which heard the appeal of Judge Walker’s decision and kicked the ball over to the California Supreme Court will read the opinion and then issue its own ruling some time after, which actually functions as a decision in the case. It’s important to note that tomorrow’s opinion, while influential, is more of a “hey 9th Circuit, here’s what we think about your question.” It’s not a binding decision per se. That said, many legal observers believe that the 9th Circuit will follow what the California Supreme Court decides on standing. The issue of whether Prop 8 is constitutional is another question.
From there, the ruling can be appealed to the full 9th Circuit en banc, and of course the U.S. Supreme Court, both of which may or may not take up the case.
We’ll have coverage and reaction to the opinion tomorrow here at Prop8TrialTracker.com.