Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Supreme Court unanimously rules to allow I-960 to go to the ballot

The Court didn't agree that there was a justiciable scope challenge:
Neither of appellants' challenges is subject to preelection review. I-960 does not purport to amend the constitution, whatever its practical "effect" may be. Appellants' argument is essentially that the initiative would be unconstitutional if enacted. We made clear in Coppernoll that we will not entertain such a claim prior to an election. The challengers there similarly argued that provisions of a proposed initiative were "unconstitutional and accordingly exceed[ed] the legislative power as a matter of law." Coppernoll, 155 Wn.2d at 302.

Specifically, the challengers claimed that the initiative's limitations on noneconomic damages and contingency fees were beyond the initiative power because they invaded the jury's exclusive constitutional authority to determine damages and this court's exclusive constitutional authority to regulate the practice of law. But we rejected this argument, seeing it properly as not a subject matter challenge but a challenge to the constitutionality of the initiative. Id. at 303-04. We declined to adopt the notion that "any proposed legislation that could be potentially unconstitutional would operate as an amendment to the constitution [and therefore would be] beyond the legislative power." Id. at 304.
If you compare several parts of I-960, you can argue that it looks like it is amending the Constitution. But apparently the Court is not interested in invalidating a measure that pretends to be legislation when it isn't. It's an amendment dressed up as an initiative, but no matter, the Court says.

We believe this simply opens the door to more mischief in the future. Given the Court's ruling today, we wonder: is pre-election review ever appropriate? Initiative 960 will be on the general election ballot where it doesn't belong.

We are committed to helping mount the most effective "No" campaign we can. But even if we fail, and I-960 passes, it is extremely unlikely that it will ever become law. Its constitutionality will be challenged post-election and it will be struck down. All Eyman and his supporters have won today is a temporary reprieve. They are free to celebrate that if they want. They won't be celebrating in a few months.

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