Today the 9th Circuit Appellate Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that the City Clerk acted properly and reasonably when he refused to certify a medical marijuana initiative.
In 2012, Jeremy Coltharp and Edith Frazier circulated a petition to place a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot for a special election. The petition specifically advised persons signing the initiative that the ballot measure would be placed on a special election, as opposed to the next general election.
The petition, however, did not have enough valid signatures to qualify for a special election, and the City Clerk was unable to certify the ballot initiative. Faced with this problem, Coltharp and Frazier instead insisted that then City Clerk, Larry Herrera, certify the petition for the next regularly scheduled general election. The petition did have enough valid signatures to qualify for a general election.
Interpreting California election law as limiting his discretion to change the wording on a ballot initiative, Herrera refused. Coltharp and Frazier sued Herrera and the City in federal court, seeking an order compelling Herrera to place the initiative on the next general election.
After both parties filed pre-trial motions, the trial court found in favor of the City and Herrera, and against Plaintiffs. In particular, the trial court found that Herrera did not have the discretion to ignore the specific wording of the petition, and impose his own interpretation on the intent of the individuals signing the petition. The trial court also found that Herrera did not violate either Plaintiffs’ federal constitutional rights or state law, and acted reasonably in discharging his duties. The Plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s order to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The 9th Circuit upheld the trial court’s ruling. The Court noted that “Plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that Herrera arbitrarily interpreted California Elections Code § 9215. After finding Plaintiffs’ petition insufficient for a special election, Herrera followed California Elections Code section 9115(e), which requires that ‘no action be taken on the petition.’ No due process violation resulted from that approach.”
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