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Standing to Defend Initiatives

The California Supreme Court today heard oral argument in the same-sex marriage case regarding the standing of initiative backers to defend their initiative when executive officers decline to do so.  This report by Lisa Leff of AP indicates the argument went well for the backers.

"Never in any recorded (case) have proponents been denied the right to advance their interests," Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar noted during the closely watched arguments. "The present state of California law is we allow liberal intervention."
CJLF takes no position on the underlying controversy.  I do think, though, as a general matter, that the proponents of an initiative should be able to come into court to defend their measure.  The whole point of initiatives is for grass roots people to be able to put a measure on the ballot to challenge the existing power structure.  For the executive to be able to veto a measure de facto by not defending it in court would defeat that purpose.

This issue may very well come up in a criminal law context if our present executive officers refuse to defend tough-on-crime initiatives.  In that event, we will need to step into the breach.

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