The California Supreme Court came out with its opinion yesterday on whether the defendants of Prop 8 have legal standing to be able to defend the initiative in court. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asked for California’s highest court to weigh in on the issue of standing after Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision striking down Prop 8 was appealed.
California’s Supreme Court justices were unanimous in their determination that ballot initiative proponents in the state have a “legitimate concern” when it comes to representing the interests of a law arising from the passage of a ballot initiative, especially when the state’s governor and attorney general choose not to defend the law in court. California’s unique ballot initiative process required that California’s judiciary advise the 9th Circuit on how standing is conferred under state law when it comes to the ballot initiative process.
Here is what the California Court’s decision on the matter states about the issue:
[B]ecause the initiative process is specifically intended to enable the people to amend the state Constitution or to enact statutes when current government officials have declined to adopt (and often have publicly opposed) the measure in question, the voters who have successfully adopted an initiative measure may reasonably harbor a legitimate concern that the public officials who ordinarily defend a challenged state law in court may not, in the case of an initiative measure, always undertake such a defense with vigor or with the objectives and interests of those voters paramount in mind.
Allowing official proponents to assert the state‘s interest in the validity of the initiative measure in such litigation (along with any public officials who may also be defending the measure) (1) assures voters who supported the measure and enacted it into law that any residual hostility or indifference of current public officials to the substance of the initiative measure will not prevent a full and robust defense of the measure to be mounted in court on the people‘s behalf, and (2) ensures a court faced with the responsibility of reviewing and resolving a legal challenge to an initiative measure that it is aware of and addresses the full range of legal arguments that reasonably may be proffered in the measure‘s defense. In this manner, the official proponents‘ general ability to appear and defend the state‘s interest in the validity of the initiative measure and to appeal a lower court judgment invalidating the measure serves to enhance both the fairness of the judicial process and the appearance of fairness of that process.
…Neither the Governor, the Attorney General, nor any other executive or legislative official has the authority to veto or invalidate an initiative measure that has been approved by the voters. It would exalt form over substance to interpret California law in a manner that would permit these public officials to indirectly achieve such a result by denying the official initiative proponents the authority to step in to assert the state‘s interest in the validity of the measure or to appeal a lower court judgment invalidating the measure when those public officials decline to assert that interest or to appeal an adverse judgment.
Now the 9th Circuit will be able to move forward with evaluating the merits of the appeal and whether Judge Walker’s decision to strike down Prop 8 on the basis that it violates due process ought to be upheld.