Monday, November 28, 2005

Winner: Stupidest Statement From A Court Opinion Ever

From a case I'm reading for my California Civil Procedure class, on this, the eve of my Final Day Of Classes Ever:

We decline to hold that failure of the bill to reach the Assembly floor is determinative of the intent of the Assembly as a whole that the proposed legislation should fail.
Um, except that it is. No, really, what in the hell does it mean then?

Would you refuse to hold that failure of the initiative to pass is determinative of the intent of the voters that the proposed initiative should fail? Or, more closely analogous, would you refuse to hold that failure of an initiative to garner the necessary signatures to reach the ballot is determinative of the people's intent that the proposed legislation or constitutional amendment fail?

Honestly, why have a representative government at all.

Thank goodness I can get back to my branch of choice shortly . . .

4 comments:

Mary said...

With holdings like that, is it even a question where we are getting the inaccurate petitions at Hastings? If the court can't even decide what is going on, how are the students to know they are not legislators?:) Just kidding, but just another example of how the judicial system can really come up with some weird things.

Congrats on your last day of class. I am quite jealous and will miss having you to catch the errors that are oh so abundant around us!

HB said...

Actually, that sentence makes perfect sense to me. (Should I be frightened?) Bills get held up all the time for stupid reasons that reflect only the intent of one or two members and not the intent of the body as a whole. A committee chair may be having a fight with the author over who paid the tab the last time they went out (or, more likely - purely coincidentally - may have had a fundraiser the night before with some lobbyists who don't like the bill), and may stop the bill from ever getting to the floor by killing it in committee... precisely b/c they know it would pass if it reached the floor. I've seen a lot of really good reforms to the insurance and banking industries go down this way.

The key is that the sentence indicates that the bill did not *reach* the Assembly floor for a vote, not that it failed once there. I think the trick in the sentence is the negative. Very circuitously written. I'd circle that sentence with a red pen if the Court were in my Intro to Gov class.

Am I making sense or is it just too damn early and someone should get me more coffee before I head out to warp those innocent young minds this morning.....???

Cheers!

cd said...

Politically, yes, you are correct - that situation frequently can and does occur.

But think about the consequences of the court being allowed to rule in such a fashion. Constant second guessing and swapping in its intent for the Legislature's? There are many presumptions that guide statutory interpretation - some of which are laughable to those of us who have worked inside the building. But they are necessary to maintain order between the branches.

For whatever reason, the considered reform was never passed. The presumption SHOULD be that since it died, the Legislature didn't think it worthy of passage. Period.

The CA Legislature isn't like Congress with thousand page omnibus bills where some unrelated rider can sink things and a court could conceivably tease out that the reform at issue in the case was sabotaged.

And either way - even if it were so - wouldn't the court then be substituting its political discresion for the body that is SUPPOSED to be making law?

I think it's a heinous sentence and though it can be given meaning by the politically nuanced, it is a window on the court's constant hostility toward the first branch.

HB said...

I totally agree with you that the Court cannot presume to determine Legislative intent from such a scenario. Absolutely not. It can't say the Leg intended too, or didn't. No way to know since a vote never occured.