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California Supreme Court Rules There Is Standing For Prop 8 Intervenors

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

When the Ninth Circuit initially referred the issue of standing for the Defendant-Intervenors in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger/Brown back at the start of the year, I wrote this:

I still look for the California Supreme Court to certify this issue, and my best guess is they will find standing, the case will be sent back to the 9th Circuit for a merits decision and the 9th will uphold Vaughn Walker. Assuming all that is the case and plays out accordingly, it will sure eviscerate much of the ability of the US Supreme Court to avoid the merits on standing (which I think they otherwise would do). The bad news is this is going to take well over a year, and could easily be two years if there is an en banc process as well in the 9th. An attempt to repeal Proposition 8 will almost certainly be on the ballot for the 2012 election and if it gets repealed, this case is moot. That would not be so bad, as it would reinstate marriage equality in California. However if it fails, and Barack Obama loses in 2012, and there is a very early opening on the Supreme Court, the resulting extreme rightward shift would be very detrimental. There are a lot of ways this could go in the future, stay tuned!

The California Supreme Court just issued its opinion and I have been affirmed! In short, the highest California appellate court has certified to the 9th Circuit that, as a matter of state law, the DI’s have legitimate standing to represent their side of the matter in Federal appellate courts.

The key finding is:

At the request of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, we agreed to decide a question of California law that is relevant to the underlying lawsuit in this matter now pending in that federal appellate court. (Perry v. Brown (9th Cir. No. 10-16696); see Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.548.) As posed by the Ninth Circuit, the question to be decided is “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, 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”.
….
Accordingly, we respond to the question posed by the Ninth Circuit in the affirmative. In a postelection challenge to a voter-approved initiative measure, the official proponents of the initiative are authorized under California law to appear and assert the state’s interest in the initiative’s validity and to appeal a judgment invalidating the measure when the public officials who ordinarily defend the measure or appeal such a judgment decline to do so.

Here is the full decision.

The opinion was written by newly seated Chief Judge Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who was literally sworn in the day before the 9th Circuit dumped this question in the laps of the California Supremes. It appears quite well sculpted and the full court signed on to her opinion; however, Judge Kennard issued a specially concurring opinion to “highlight the historical and legal events that have led to today’s decision and to explain why I concur in that decision”. As I said back in January, this was not really all that novel of an issue in California jurisprudence, and so the court has noted and, now, established with certainty.

Time for Steve Reinhardt and his merry band of 9th Circuit pranksters to fire up the cert alert in the stodgy halls of SCOTUS! And I think that will be happening sooner rather than later as the 9th has already received full briefing and oral argument on the merits. I would even go so far as to say there are draft opinions already written and ready to be tweaked and supplemented with today’s California Supreme Court ruling. So expect a ruling from the 9th fairly quickly.

I will be adding in some more analysis after a thorough reading of the full opinion.

[The absolutely incredible graphic, perfect for the significance and emotion of the Perry Prop 8 case, and the decision to grant marriage equality to all citizens without bias or discrimination, is by Mirko Ilić. Please visit Mirko and check out his stock of work.]

New York’s Enlightenment & Some Thoughts On Perry Prop8 Case

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

New York gets it done for marriage equality:

Lawmakers voted late Friday to legalize same-sex marriage, making New York the largest state where gay and lesbian couples will be able to wed and giving the national gay-rights movement new momentum from the state where it was born.

The marriage bill, whose fate was uncertain until moments before the vote, was approved 33 to 29 in a packed but hushed Senate chamber. Four members of the Republican majority joined all but one Democrat in the Senate in supporting the measure after an intense and emotional campaign aimed at the handful of lawmakers wrestling with a decision that divided their friends, their constituents and sometimes their own homes.

…..

Senate approval was the final hurdle for the same-sex marriage legislation, which was approved last week by the Assembly. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the measure at 11:55 p.m., and the law will go into effect in 30 days, meaning that same-sex couples could begin marrying in New York by late July.

Outstanding. A friend in New York told me this was going to happen and that it would be done late and on Friday night, because that is how monumental and controversial legislation gets done in Albany historically. And that is exactly how it came down. You can almost feel the awesomeness of New York all the way out here in the desert.

But I want to touch on the bigger picture and what the enlightened New York action means to the push for marriage equality for all across the nation. In short, this is Read more

Using Domestic Surveillance to Get Rapists to Spy for America

The reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act focused a lot of attention on the fact that the Administration is interpreting the phrase “relevant to an authorized [intelligence] investigation” in Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act very broadly. As Ron Wyden and Mark Udall made clear, the government claims that phrase gives it the authority to collect business records on completely innocent people who have no claimed tie to terrorism.

There’s something that’s been haunting me since the PATRIOT reauthorization about how the government has defined intelligence investigations in the past. It has to do with Ted Olson’s claim–during the In Re Sealed Case appeal in 2002–that the government ought to be able to use FISA to investigate potential crimes so as to use the threat of prosecuting those crimes to recruit spies (and, I’d suggest, informants). When Olson made that claim, even Laurence Silberman (!) was skeptical. Silberman tried to think of a crime that could have no imaginable application in an intelligence investigation, and ultimately came up with rape. But Olson argued the threat of a rape prosecution might help the Feds convince a rapist to “help us.”

OLSON: And it seems to me, if anything, it illustrates the position that we’re taking about here. That, Judge Silberman, makes it clear that to the extent a FISA-approved surveillance uncovers information that’s totally unrelated — let’s say, that a person who is under surveillance has also engaged in some illegal conduct, cheating —

JUDGE LEAVY: Income tax.

SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: Income tax. What we keep going back to is practically all of this information might in some ways relate to the planning of a terrorist act or facilitation of it.

JUDGE SILBERMAN: Try rape. That’s unlikely to have a foreign intelligence component.

SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: It’s unlikely, but you could go to that individual and say we’ve got this information and we’re prosecuting and you might be able to help us. I don’t want to foreclose that.

JUDGE SILBERMAN: It’s a stretch.

SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: It is a stretch but it’s not impossible either. [my emphasis]

Olson went on to claim that only personal revenge in the guise of an intelligence investigation should be foreclosed as an improper use of FISA.

JUDGE SILBERMAN: In your brief you suggested only that the face of the application indicated something was wrong. I don’t quite understand what would be wrong though. The face of the application, suppose the face of the application indicated a desire to use foreign surveillance to determine strictly a domestic crime, that would be — but then you wouldn’t have an agent, you wouldn’t have an agency. You must have some substantive requirement here if significant purpose is given its literal meaning, you must have some logic to the interpretation of that section which falls outside of the interpretation of an agent of a foreign power.

SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: And I suppose if the application itself revealed that there was a purpose to take personal advantage of someone who might be the subject of an investigation, to blackmail that person, or if that person had a domestic relationship and that person was seeing another person’s spouse or something like that, if that would be the test on the face of things. In other words, I’m suggesting that the standard is relatively high for the very reason that it’s difficult for the judiciary to evaluate and secondguess what a high level executive branch person attempting to fight terrorism is attempting to do.

This is not just Ted Olson speaking extemporaneously. The government’s appeal actually makes its plan to use FISA-collected information to recruit spies (and informants), in the name of an intelligence investigation, explicit:

Although “foreign intelligence information” must be relevant or necessary to “protect” against the specified threats, the statutory definition does not limit how the government may use the information to achieve that protection. In other words, the definition does not discriminate between protection through diplomatic, economic, military, or law enforcement efforts, other than to require that those efforts be “lawful.” 50 U.S.C. 1806(a), 1825(a). Thus, for example, where information is relevant or necessary to recruit a foreign spy or terrorist as a double agent, that information is “foreign intelligence information” if the recruitment effort will “protect against” espionage or terrorism.

[snip]

Whether the government intends to prosecute a foreign spy or recruit him as a double agent (or use the threat of the former to accomplish the latter), the investigation will often be long range, involve the interrelation of various sources and types of information, and present unusual difficulties because of the special training and support available to foreign enemies of this country. [my emphasis]

Ultimately, the FISA Court of Review rejected this broad claim (though without discounting the possibility of using FISA to get dirt to use to recruit spies and informants explicitly).

The government claims that even prosecutions of non-foreign intelligence crimes are consistent with a purpose of gaining foreign intelligence information so long as the government’s objective is to stop espionage or terrorism by putting an agent of a foreign power in prison. That interpretation transgresses the original FISA. It will be recalled that Congress intended section 1804(a)(7)(B) to prevent the government from targeting a foreign agent when its “true purpose” was to gain non-foreign intelligence information–such as evidence of ordinary crimes or scandals. See supra at p.14. (If the government inadvertently came upon evidence of ordinary crimes, FISA provided for the transmission of that evidence to the proper authority. 50 U.S.C. 1801(h)(3).) It can be argued, however, that by providing that an application is to be granted if the government has only a “significant purpose” of gaining foreign intelligence information, the Patriot Act allows the government to have a primary objective of prosecuting an agent for a non-foreign intelligence crime. Yet we think that would be an anomalous reading of the amendment. For we see not the slightest indication that Congress meant to give that power to the Executive Branch. Accordingly, the manifestation of such a purpose, it seems to us, would continue to disqualify an application. That is not to deny that ordinary crimes might be inextricably intertwined with foreign intelligence crimes. For example, if a group of international terrorists were to engage in bank robberies in order to finance the manufacture of a bomb, evidence of the bank robbery should be treated just as evidence of the terrorist act itself. But the FISA process cannot be used as a device to investigate wholly unrelated ordinary crimes. [my emphasis]

Understand what this exchange meant in 2002: the government claimed that it could use FISA to collect information on people that they could then use to persuade those people to become spies or informants. That all happened in the context of broadened grand jury information sharing under PATRIOT Act. Indeed, the FISA application in question was submitted at almost exactly the same time as OLC wrote a still-secret opinion interpreting an “implied exception” to limits on grand jury information sharing for intelligence purposes.

[OLC] has concluded that, despite statutory restrictions upon the use of Title III wiretap information and restrictions on the use of grand jury information under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), the President has an inherent constitutional authority to receive all foreign intelligence information in the hands of the government necessary for him to fulfill his constitutional responsibilities and that statutes and rules should be understood to include an implied exception so as not to interfere with that authority. See Memorandum for the Deputy Attorney General from Jay S. Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, Re: Effect of the Patriot Act on Disclosure to the President and Other Federal Officials of Grand Jury and Title III Information Relating to National Security and Foreign Affairs 1 (July 22, 2002);

It seems possible the government was hoping to take grand jury allegations, use FISA to investigate them, and in turn use what they found to recruit spies and informants. The one limit–and it is a significant one–is that the government would first have to make a plausible argument that the potential target in question was an agent of a foreign power.

Of course, at precisely that same time–and apparently unbeknownst to Ted Olson (I have emailed Olson on this point but he did not respond)–the government was using new data mining and network analysis approaches to establish claimed ties between Americans and al Qaeda. And the bureaucracy Royce Lamberth and James Baker had implemented to prevent such claimed ties to form the basis for FISA applications–an OIPR chaperone for all FISA applications–was rejected by the FISCR in this case. So while FISA required the government show a tie between a target and a foreign power, there was little to prevent the government from using its nifty new data mining to establish that claim. And remember, NSA twice explicitly chose not to use available means to protect Americans’ privacy as it developed these data mining programs; it made sure it’d find stuff on Americans.

(Interesting trivia? Olson used the phrase “lawful” to describe the limits on what FISA allows the President to do at least 6 times in that hearing.)

Moreover, while the FISCR ruling held (sort of–but probably not strongly enough that John Yoo couldn’t find a way around it) that the government couldn’t use FISA to gather dirt to turn people into spies and informants, it never actually argued the government couldn’t use other surveillance tools, including the PATRIOT Act, to dig up dirt to use to recruit spies and informants, at least not in this FISCR ruling. The limit on using FISA for such a purpose came from court precedents like Keith, not any apparent squeamishness about using government surveillance to dig up dirt to recruit spies.

The Senate Intelligence Committee presumably had what was supposed to be a meeting on the government’s very broad interpretation of data it considers “relevant to an authorized [intelligence] investigation” today. We know that one of the concerns is that the government claims it can use Section 215 to collect information on people with no ties to terrorism. Ted Olson’s claim we could use FISA to recruit informants make me wonder how they’re using the information they collect on people with no ties to terrorism. After all, the ability to collect bank records on someone–or geolocation–might provide an interesting evidence with which to embarrass them into becoming an informant.

In Re Sealed Case and the Goldsmith Memo

In addition to what I laid out here, comparing the 2006 White Paper with the May 6, 2004 Goldsmith memo on the warrantless wiretap program made me realize that the White Paper relies more frequently on In re: Sealed Case than Goldsmith does, at least in the unredacted portions. By my count, the White Paper refers to In re Sealed Case 9 times, whereas Goldsmith refers to it just 3 times (see pages 34, 47, 48; though technically one citation includes three quotes from it).

So I wanted to see why that might be–and what it might say about the program generally and the redacted sections of Goldsmith’s memo.

In Re Sealed Case: How Did the Patriot Act Change the “Wall” between Criminal and Intelligence Investigations?

In the PATRIOT Act, Congress expanded the limit on how the information sought in a FISA warrant could be used. It had required that foreign intelligence be the primary purpose of collection; in an attempt to break down the wall between criminal and intelligence investigations, PATRIOT allowed that foreign intelligence only be a “significant” purpose of the collection. In response to that change, Attorney General Ashcroft issued a memo finding that meant law enforcement could be the primary purpose of such collection and holding that criminal prosecutors could consult on the terms of the wiretaps to be used.

The FISA Court, noting that the FBI had misrepresented its goals in FISA collection in a number of recent instances (but citing only those from before 9/11) invoked its role in ensuring FISA collection meet certain minimization guidelines. It ruled that the government had to keep the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review in the loop in conversations between criminal and intelligence personnel, and criminal personnel could not direct wiretaps.

The FISA Court of Review reversed that decision, finding that the two functions were so intertwined as to permit the involvement of criminal personnel in planning wiretaps.

But its ruling also considered whether the change–allowing the government to use FISA to investigate “intelligence crimes”–was Constitutional under the Fourth Amendment. That discussion, while somewhat inconclusive, lays out some guidelines for what might be a reasonable search for a foreign intelligence purpose. It’s that discussion that provides ripe material for Goldsmith’s and the White Paper’s project of trying to claim the warrantless wiretap program was legal. But also, likely, caused big problems for the warrantless program as well.

The In Re Sealed Case Citations

Here’s how the unredacted parts of Goldsmith and the White Paper rely on In re Sealed Case.

Proof that “the wall” was a problem independent of 9/11

In attempts to dismiss the argument that the modifications Congress made to FISA after 9/11 prove Congress still intended the Administration to rely on its, both papers point to the discussion in In re Sealed Case about the problem of a “wall” between criminal investigations and intelligence. (Goldsmith 34, White Paper 28fn)

A claim that the opinion treats foreign wiretapping as an inherent authority

In a discussion of the President’s inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches of foreign intelligence, both papers cite In re Sealed Case on past Circuit discussions of the President’s power to use warrantless wiretaps to obtain foreign intelligence. Goldsmith does so in one discussion.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review recently noted that all courts to have addressed the issue have “held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information.” In re Sealed Case, 310 F 3rd 717, 742 (Foreign Intel. Surv. Ct. or Rev. 2002). On the basis of that unbroken line of precedent, the Court “[took] for granted that the President does have that authority,” and concluded that, “assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power.” (Goldsmith 48)

The White Paper cites the first quote on page 31 and again on 37, the second on page 8, and the third on page 35.

In addition to the general use of In re Sealed Case to argue inherent authority, there’s a footnote in In re Sealed Case that dismisses concerns Laurence Silberman raised during the original debate on FISA about the non-adversary process laid out in it; Goldsmith noted that footnote did not extend to Silberman’s larger complaints about inherent power. (Goldsmith 47fn)

Discussion of how “special needs” would permit the use of FISA for criminal wiretaps

The White Paper, unlike Goldsmith in his unredacted discussion of times when “special needs” allow the government to avoid a warrant, relies on In re Sealed Case’s discussion on the topic. The White Paper  includes this quote:

One important factor in establishing “special needs” is whether the Government is responding to an emergency that goes

beyond the need for general crime control. See In re Sealed Case, 310 F.3d at 745-46. (page 38)

It repeats that very reference later on the same page.

In re Sealed Case, 310 F.3d at 745-46 (noting that suspicionless searches and seizures in one sense are a greater encroachment on privacy than electronic surveillance under FISA because they are not based on any particular suspicion, but “[o]n the other hand, wiretapping is a good deal more intrusive than an automobile stop accompanied by

questioning”).

It cites the same passage again, claiming the FISCR had concluded that that passage held that foreign intelligence fit the definition of special needs.

And then borrows from what it claims the FISCR concluded.

As explained by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, the nature of the “emergency” posed by al Qaeda “takes the matter out of the realm of ordinary crime control.” In re Sealed Case, 310 F.3d at 746. (page 39)

In other words, the unredacted sections of Goldsmith do not rely on In re Sealed Case to claim warrantless wiretapping qualifies as a special need, whereas the White Paper does. Mind you, he does discuss special needs and his discussion covers most of the same cases as the White Paper–notably on page page 39 and to some degree on 105. But he doesn’t cite FISCR.

“The Government … Has Affirmatively Argued that FISA Is Constitutional”

Now, obviously, we can only compare the unredacted parts of Goldsmith’s memo with what the White Paper uses. And there are definitely places in his memo where it appears likely that he discussed In re Sealed Case in currently redacted passage.

For example, two pages following Goldsmith’s use of In re Sealed Case to claim FISCR had endorsed warrantless wiretapping as part of the President’s inherent authority are redacted.

I’m guessing that Goldsmith might have felt obliged to address this part of In re Sealed Case:

The government, recognizing the Fourth Amendment’s shadow effect on the FISA court’s opinion, has affirmatively argued that FISA is constitutional.

Read more

The New Obama Policy On Constitutionality Of DOMA & Boies/Olson Reaction

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

As Marcy Wheeler pointed out, the Obama Administration this morning made an abrupt and seismic shift in its legal policy and position on DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). There are two documents of note in this regard, the Attorney General’s press announcement and the detailed letter to speaker John Boehner announcing the change in policy and describing the legal foundation therefore.

Marc Ambinder explains what this means to the two key cases in question:

The decision means the Justice Department will cease to defend two suits brought against the law. The first was a summary judgment issued in Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services last May by the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the law’s definition of “marriage” as a legal union between a man and a woman.

District Judge Joseph Louis Tauro ruled Section 3 of the act unconstitutional on the grounds that it violated states’ rights to set their own marriage policies and violated the rights of same-sex couples in the states that permitted marriages. But the president felt compelled to defend the law, reasoning that Congress had the ability to overturn it. The Justice Department entered into an appeal process on October 12, 2010. Tauro stayed implementation of his own ruling pending the appeal. The department filed its defense in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit on January 14.

The second lawsuit, involving the cases of Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management and Windsor v. United States, would have been appealed in the Appeals Court for the 2nd Circuit, which has no established standard for how to treat laws concerning sexual orientation.

I would like to say this is not only a welcome, but extremely strong position that has been taken by President Obama, Attorney General Holder and the Administration. You can say they are late to the dance, that it is political opportunism because the boat was already sailing, or that it is a “bone to the base” with an election looming. To varying degrees, all would have some validity. However, the bottom Read more

9th Circuit Punts On Perry Prop 8; Certifies Standing To California

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

We have unexpectedly quick news out of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on the Perry v. Schwarzenegger Proposition 8 marriage equality appeal. As you will recall, the case is in the 9th on appeal from the three week long evidentiary trial in the Northern District of California last January in front of Judge Vaughn Walker with closing arguments made on June 16 (summary of EW live coverage here) and Judge Walker’s opinion finding such marriage discrimination unconstitutional was issued on August 4th. The current appeal had oral argument less than a month ago, on Monday December 6th.

Now we have the surprisingly fast first decision, if you can call it a “decision”. It is really a disguised punt. The main opinion is in docket No. 10-16696, where the effective docket order reads:

Filed Order for PUBLICATION (STEPHEN R. REINHARDT, MICHAEL DALY HAWKINS and N. RANDY SMITH) for certification to California State Supreme Court. Before this panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is an appeal concerning the constitutionality under the United States Constitution of Article I, § 7.5 of the California Constitution (“Proposition 8”). Because we cannot consider this important constitutional question unless the appellants before us have standing to raise it, and in light of Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997) (“Arizonans”), it is critical that we be advised of the rights under California law of the official proponents of an initiative measure to defend the constitutionality of that measure upon its adoption by the People when the state officers charged with the laws’ enforcement, including the Attorney General, refuse to provide such a defense or appeal a judgment declaring the measure unconstitutional. As we are aware of no controlling state precedent on this precise question, we respectfully ask the Supreme Court of California to exercise its discretion to accept and decide the certified question below. (See order for full text).

….

The case is withdrawn from submission, and further proceedings in this court are stayed pending final action by the Supreme Court of California. The parties shall notify the Clerk of this Court within three days after the Court accepts or rejects certification, and again within three days if the Court renders an opinion. The panel retains jurisdiction over further proceedings. IT IS SO ORDERED.

Now, as you will also recall, there were two cause numbers consolidated for oral argument and that, really, comprise the same effective case. In the second one, Docket No. 10-16751, the part of the action initiated by Imperial County attempting to intervene and provide governmental cover for standing on appeal, the effective corollary docket order reads:

FILED PER CURIAM OPINION (STEPHEN R. REINHARDT, MICHAEL DALY HAWKINS and N. RANDY SMITH) AFFIRMED; DISMISSED. The district court order denying the motion to intervene is AFFIRMED. Movants’ appeal of the district court order concerning the constitutionality of Proposition 8 is DISMISSED for lack of standing. The deadline for filing a petition for panel rehearing or rehearing en banc is hereby EXTENDED until the deadline for such petitions in No. 10-16696, which will be 14 days after an opinion is filed in that appeal. The Clerk is DIRECTED to stay the issuance of the mandate in this case until the mandate issues in No. 10- 16696. AFFIRMED in part; DISMISSED in part. FILED AND ENTERED JUDGMENT.

In the second cause number, 10-16751, the court issued a 21 page per curiam (by the whole panel collectively) opinion addressing the Imperial county attempt at intervention. the court held:

None of the Imperial County movants has demonstrated a “significant protectable interest” at stake in this action, as it was brought by Plaintiffs, and we affirm on that basis alone.

The court effectively laughed at the attempt to use Deputy County clerk Isabel Vargas as a mule for intervention, wondering why the hell a minion would be used instead of, you know, the actual County Clerk. A real valid question, and the court found no good answer. The court similarly found that the Imperial County Board of Supervisors was not a proper vehicle, stating “…the Board plays no role with regard to marriage, which is “a matter of ‘statewide concern’ rather than a ‘municipal affair'”. The court rounded out the fisking as follows:

Moreover, the duties of the Supervisors themselves are not directly affected by this litigation, so they lack a significant protectable interest.

Second, the County itself has failed to demonstrate any interest of its own, apart from those claimed by Vargas or the Board of Supervisors.

So, in a nutshell, the argument by Imperial County that they were entitled to intervene as a matter of right was denied in full. Oh, and the 9th also found that Vaughn Walker was correct in finding no necessary basis for permissive intervention by Imperial County as well, and affirmed that denial. So Imperial County, unless they get some appellate relief, which is unlikely, is toast.

And, so that completes the fun today, right? Oh no! We have more! The estimable Judge Stephen Reinhardt lodged a concurring opinion that is a little, shall we say, more interesting. I will excerpt a few key quotes, but this one is only ten pages long and is well worth the read. I think you will quickly understand why I have said Reinhardt is such a wonderful treasure as a judge.

Today’s two orders involve a procedural question known as “standing.” The public may wonder why that issue is of such great importance, and what the significance of our standing decisions is. For that reason, while I agree entirely with our two dispositions, both of which are filed in the names of all three of us who are considering the appeals and both of which represent our unanimous views, I believe it desirable to set forth a few explanatory remarks of my own.

The standing problem arises out of a trend in our judicial system over the past few decades. It is a trend that emphasizes technical rules over deciding cases on the merits, and indeed over the merits themselves.

Reinhardt’s disdain for the avoidance of meritorious claims on technical standing issues just drips off the pages. Indeed he cites his own previous tomes on just this subject in a prominent footnote (See footnote 3 for the cites). But as to the instant case, Reinhardt acidly remarks:

All I can say now is that the issues concerning standing were wholly avoidable in this case.

He goes on to take a crystal clear shot directly at the broadside of Ted Olson and David Boies for filing their action, and obtaining their relief, against one two of the 58 counties in California:

Whether Plaintiffs are correct or not, it is clear that all of this would have been unnecessary and Plaintiffs could have obtained a statewide injunction had they filed an action against a broader set of defendants, a simple matter of pleading. Why preeminent counsel and the major law firms of which they are a part failed to do that is a matter on which I will not speculate.

Ouch. Reinhardt then goes on to blast Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, the Governor and Attorney General at the time respectively, for not giving the intervenors appellate cover (as I have consistently carped about as well) and Imperial County for the incredibly lame effort of trying to appear through a common deputy clerk. Reinhardt is spot on in each of these regards.

The last paragraph from Steve Reinhardt’s concurring opinion summarizes where the case stands, and is likely to do so better than I could, so I am going to let him speak:

None of this means that ultimately there is no standing in this case. Because of a United States Supreme Court ruling regarding the availability of standing to proponents of initiatives, Arizonans for Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43 (1997), we have certified to the Supreme Court of California the question of an initiative proponent’s authority and interests under California law. Although that matter must be decided by the Supreme Court of California, Proponents advance a strong argument on this point. Thus, in the end, there may well be standing to maintain this appeal, and the important constitutional question before us may, after all, be decided by an appellate court – ours, the Supreme Court, or both – and may apply to California as a whole, instead of by being finally decided by a trial court, or by default, in only two counties or in none. As a result, the technical barriers and the inexplicable manner in which the parties have conducted this litigation may in the end not preclude an orderly review by the federal courts of the critical constitutional question that is of interest to all Americans, and particularly to the millions of Californians who voted for Proposition 8 and the tens of thousands of same-sex couples who wish to marry in that state. In the meantime, while we await further word from the Supreme Court of California, I hope that the American public will have a better understanding of where we stand today in this case, if not why.

The one last parting thought I have is that this California Supreme Court certification process is likely to take some time. Six months would be a miracle, a year is far more likely. First off, the California Supreme Court does not have to accept consideration, and there will be a briefing process on whether they even should do that. Assuming they then accept consideration on the merits, and I do think it extremely likely they will, there will then be a full briefing schedule on the merits before any decision.

It would have been expected that the Court under Chief Justice Ron George (very nice article here) would take this up, but he just left and the new Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, literally was just sworn in yesterday. She is known as being cautious and moderately conservative, but fair and open minded. Which, really, is probably a fair description of Ron George, so there may not be that much of a change at the top of the California Supremes.

I still look for the California Supreme Court to certify this issue, and my best guess is they will find standing, the case will be sent back to the 9th Circuit for a merits decision and the 9th will uphold Vaughn Walker. Assuming all that is the case and plays out accordingly, it will sure eviscerate much of the ability of the US Supreme Court to avoid the merits on standing (which I think they otherwise would do). The bad news is this is going to take well over a year, and could easily be two years if there is an en banc process as well in the 9th. An attempt to repeal Proposition 8 will almost certainly be on the ballot for the 2012 election and if it gets repealed, this case is moot. That would not be so bad, as it would reinstate marriage equality in California. However if it fails, and Barack Obama loses in 2012, and there is a very early opening on the Supreme Court, the resulting extreme rightward shift would be very detrimental. There are a lot of ways this could go in the future, stay tuned!

UPDATE: Here is Judge Reinhardt’s collateral final order on the earlier motion to disqualify him that he previously denied long before oral argument.

[The absolutely incredible graphic, perfect for the significance and emotion of the Perry Prop 8 case, and the decision to grant marriage equality to all citizens without bias or discrimination, is by Mirko Ilić. Please visit Mirko and check out his stock of work.]

Perry v. Schwarzenegger 9th Circuit Oral Argument Liveblog Primer

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

Emptywheel and Firedoglake have covered the groundbreaking marriage equality civil rights litigation in Perry v. Schwarzenegger from the outset. today is the critical appeal in the 9th Circuit and it is being televised on CSPAN live. In a separate dedicated post, Marcy Wheeler will be liveblogging and I will be assisting with color commentary both through her and in comments.

The case was filed by plaintiffs Kristin Perry, Sandra Stier, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo in response to the passage of an amendment to California’s constitution by Proposition 8 providing “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

There was a three week long evidentiary trial in the Northern District of California last January in front of Judge Vaughn Walker with closing arguments made on June 16 (summary of EW live coverage here) and Judge Walker’s opinion finding such marriage discrimination unconstitutional was issued on August 4th. The appeal being argued today is from that decision by Judge Walker.

The oral argument is being televised live by CSPAN, will be carried by live feed on numerous internet sites, and will likely be on several other television networks as well. Here is a page with links and viewing information.

Here is Firedoglake’s dedicated Proposition 8 Resource Page containing just about everything you could possibly want to know about the case from start to finish including links to all of our coverage of the trial, closings, and judgment process, as well as the lead up to today’s argument, and nearly every important document, filing and brief in the case.

An article yesterday by Maure Dolan in the Los Angeles Times hit the nail on the head as to where to focus watching the oral argument:

When a federal appeals court meets in San Francisco on Monday for arguments on Proposition 8, legal analysts will be closely watching Judge Michael Hawkins, a moderate Democratic appointee whose vote is expected to be critical in the same-sex marriage case.

The randomly chosen three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals also includes Judge Stephen Reinhardt, a California liberal appointed by President Carter, and Judge N. Randy Smith, a conservative from Idaho appointed by President George W. Bush.

“It’s a very favorable panel for the challengers to Proposition 8,” said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor and expert on the 9th Circuit.

Hawkins, an Arizonan appointed by President Clinton, “is the one to watch most closely,” Hellman said. He has sided with liberals in some key cases and will probably cast the decisive vote in the case if there is a split decision, Hellman and other analysts said.

Having spent my legal career practicing in the 9th Circuit, I can tell you Dolan is spot on here. Reinhardt is Read more

Breaking News: Perry Prop 8 Stay Granted By 9th Circuit

The order granting the Proponents/Appellants request for stay in Perry v. Schwarzenegger was just sent to me by the 9th Circuit. The docket text is as follows:

Filed order (EDWARD LEAVY, MICHAEL DALY HAWKINS and SIDNEY R. THOMAS) Appellants’ motion for a stay of the district court’s order of August 4, 2010 pending appeal is GRANTED. The court sua sponte orders that this appeal be expedited pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 2. The provisions of Ninth Circuit Rule 31-2.2(a) (pertaining to grants of time extensions) shall not apply to this appeal. This appeal shall be calendared during the week of December 6, 2010, at The James R. Browning Courthouse in San Francisco, California. The previously established briefing schedule is vacated. The opening brief is now due September 17, 2010. The answering brief is due October 18, 2010. The reply brief is due November 1, 2010. In addition to any issues appellants wish to raise on appeal, appellants are directed to include in their opening brief a discussion of why this appeal should not be dismissed for lack of Article III standing. See Arizonans For Official English v. Arizona, 520 U.S. 43, 66 (1997). IT IS SO ORDERED.

Well, I thought there was a very good chance that there would be an accelerated briefing and consideration if there was to be consideration on the merits. And there will be consideration on the merits, even if it is concurrent with consideration of the standing issue (here is a very good and detailed discussion of the standing issues and law).

This is a bit of a new wrinkle and, safe to say, gives more life to Proponents/Appellants than many people were giving them recently. And it appears there will be oral argument in San Francisco during the second week of December. Now the next question is what panel for the merits will the appeal be handed to – will it be Wardlaw, Fisher and Berzon – or will it be a new panel? Time will tell, and we should know that very soon. Exciting!

Breaking News: Judge Walker’s Prop 8 Stay Decision

Liberty & Justice by Mirko Ilic

A week ago yesterday, Judge Vaughn Walker issued his landmark decision in the Perry v. Scwarzenegger Proposition 8 marriage equality case. Concurrent with his decision, Walker ordered a temporary stay of the judgment pending his consideration and determination of Defendant-Intervenors’ Motion For Stay Pending Appeal, and there has been much anticipation of that ruling ever since.

It is here.

The stay requested by DIs has been DENIED by the court, but will be kept in force until August 18 in order to give DIs a chance to apply for a stay from the 9th. The key language from the ruling:

None of the factors the court weighs in considering a motion to stay favors granting a stay. Accordingly, proponents’ motion for a stay is DENIED. Doc #705. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment forthwith. That judgment shall be STAYED until August 18, 2010 at 5 PM PDT at which time defendants and all persons under their control or supervision shall cease to apply or enforce Proposition 8. It is so ordered.

I thought from the outset of the stay application that Judge Walker would deny it at the District level in order to force the 9th to get moving on the appeal quickly:

Furthermore, Walker not granting a stay for DIs, by definition, accelerates the appellate process by making the 9th Circuit assign a panel and consider the the certain stay request by DIs there once Walker denies it at the District level. Walker knows this will accelerate the consideration by the 9th and keep it moving along.

Not to mention that the tenor, tone, assertiveness, vibrancy and passion of Judge Walker’s main judgment on the merits is, as the real defendants in interest, the State of California and Governor have argued, simply not consistent with there being a legitimate basis for stay. And so it has been decided exactly as predicted.

And with that, the case now moves on to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. As the DIs have already noticed their appeal, the case is already docketed at the 9th and a presumptive briefing schedule set. Appellant/DIs’ opening brief is due November 12, 2010 and Appellee/Plaintiffs’ answering brief is due December 13, 2010. Appellee/DIs have the option to file a reply brief if they wish (and they would) by December 27, 2010.

So now the question is which three judges will be assigned to the panel that will consider and rule on the appeal, because the makeup of the appellate panel is absolutely critical to the process and potential outcome. There has not yet been a formal panel assigned to the appeal, but just as with the court protocol I used to predict Walker’s decision ahead of time, there is a tradition and protocol generally followed in the 9th Circuit that may give us an idea of the panel that will be deciding this seminal case.

In the 9th Circuit, when a case goes up on appeal, and it has been there before to a given panel on any issue, that panel has the option of taking the full appeal when it is filed. Well, the Perry case has indeed already been up to the 9th previously on an interlocutory appeal of a discovery issue during the trial process, and that appeal was decided by a panel consisting of Judges Wardlaw, Fisher and Berzon. I think there is a very decent chance the standard 9th protocol is followed here and the full appeal is assigned to the previous panel of Wardlaw, Fisher and Berzon, which makes sense in terms of judicial economy since they are already up to speed on the parties and the case facts and posture.

So who are these judges, and what is the book on them? Well, that is where the fun comes in. They are all three Clinton appointees, and two of them, Marsha Berzon and Ray Fisher, clerked for Justice Brennan. Solid liberal credentials for sure, and Kim Wardlaw may actually be even more enlightened. If the appeal gets assigned to this panel, it would be in excellent hands and I would like very much the chances for upholding Judge Walker’s decision in favor of marriage equality for all.

So the case now moves on from the meticulous hands of Vaughn Walker and up to the 9th Circuit. First there is the matter of assignment to a panel. Then we will see whether the automatically generated briefing schedule set upon filing stays in place or is accelerated, whether by motion by a party or sua sponte by the court. It will be exciting to watch such a historic case continue to play out right in front of our eyes, and Emptywheel and Firedoglake will be bringing you complete coverage every step of the way including planned live coverage of the critical oral argument. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: And, as a simply beautiful little parting shot poke in the eye to the DI H8ters and bigots, Judge Walker’s court also just executed and lodged the Permanent Injunction prohibiting any and all enforcement of Proposition 8.

This action having come before and tried by the court and the court considered the same pursuant to FRCP 52(a), on August 4, 2010, ordered entry of judgment in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors and each of them, Doc #708, now therefore:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that:

Defendants in their official capacities, and all persons under the control or supervision of defendants, are permanently enjoined from applying or enforcing Article I, § 7.5 of the

California Constitution.

Vaughn Walker is something special, and the way he has worked this case is simply a work of art. My hat is off to a wonderful man and great judge. Liberty, justice and equality are beautiful things when you really see them in action. Let’s hope the 9th keeps that vision intact and alive; I think they will.

[The absolutely incredible graphic, perfect for the significance and emotion of the Perry Prop 8 case, and the decision to grant marriage equality to all citizens without bias or discrimination, is by Mirko Ilić. Mirko is an artist par ecellence in New York who also teaches illustration and design. Please visit Mirko and check out his stock of work, it is really superb.]

The Stay Issue in the Perry Prop 8 Case

As pretty much every sentient being knows by now, Judge Vaughn Walker issued a groundbreaking decision finding California’s Proposition 8 ban on marriage equality to be fundamentally unconstitutional under both equal protection and due process considerations. The defendant-intervenors in the case, who are the dogmatic people supporting Proposition 8 and fighting against marriage equality, did not even wait for Walker’s verdict to be publicly issued before lodging their Motion For Stay Pending Appeal.

The same Wednesday afternoon as he publicly released his opinion, Judge Walker set an accelerated schedule for consideration of DI’s Motion For Stay.

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Plaintiffs, plaintiff-intervenor and defendants are DIRECTED to submit their responses to the motion to stay on or before August 6, 2010, at which time the motion will stand submitted without a hearing unless otherwise ordered.

Well, that is today and the briefs are hitting the docket.

California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s Opposition To Stay

Governor Schwarzenegger’s Administration’s Opposition To Stay

Plaintiff Perry and City of San Francisco’s Joint Opposition To Stay

I will update with any further filings on the stay issue, as they come in. Suffice it to say though, the three linked above paint quite a picture. Of course the Plaintiffs oppose the stay; that is to be expected. But the Attorney General of California, representing the law department of the state, and the Governor and Administration of the state are something different altogether. You see, the State of California is the real defendant in interest in the case; the DIs are effectively interlopers that got involved because they thought Brown and Schwarzenegger might not, shall we say, put much effort in defending the egregious and discriminatory Proposition 8 (which is undoubtedly quite correct). Nevertheless, the state is actual putative primary defendant in this case, and the state has now officially accepted, conformed and ratified Walker’s verdict. A marginally significant thing you might say.

From AG Brown’s Opposition To Stay: Read more