By Professor Karl Manheim and Adjunct Professors John S. Caragozian and Donald Warner
This op-ed originally appeared in the Oct. 21 edition of the Los Angeles Daily Journal.
A case has reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that may further determine the fate of the initiative process in California. In Vivid Entertainment v. Fielding, No. 13-56445 (9th Cir. filed Aug. 20, 2013), the court is being asked whether an initiative will be invalidated, even after its constitutionality has been upheld at trial, because executive officials have abandoned its defense.
Vivid follows on the heels of Hollingsworth v. Perry, decided by the Supreme Court in June. In Hollingsworth, same-sex California couples challenged voter-approved Proposition 8, which had banned same-sex marriage. The U. S. district court ruled that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional, and state officials refused to appeal. Accordingly, Prop. 8's official proponents -- who had successfully intervened as defendants at trial -- appealed. The 9th Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling of unconstitutionality, and the proponents petitioned for certiorari.
The Supreme Court held that Prop. 8 proponents lacked Article III standing and dismissed the appeal. Chief Justice John Roberts' majority opinion stated that only state "officials" may represent the state's interests in defending a voter-enacted initiative. Although the California Supreme Court earlier had held that Prop. 8's official proponents were authorized by state law to represent the state's interests, Roberts characterized the proponents as mere "bystanders" for Article III purposes.
Vivid challenges another voter-passed initiative, and elected officials are again refusing to defend it. Measure B, which was passed by Los Angeles County voters, requires, inter alia, condom use by actors in adult films made in the county. Vivid's plaintiffs -- movie producers and actors -- sued the county in U. S. district court, claiming that Measure B was an unconstitutional restriction on expression.