September 19, 2006

Breaking News: Ninth Circuit Decides Padilla v. Lever, Holding 14-1 That Recall Petitions (and likely Initiative Petitions) Need Not Be Translated to Comply with Language Provisions of the Voting Rights Act

You can find the opinion by Judge Canby (the dissenter when the case was heard initially by a three-judge panel) here. Judge Reinhardt concurred, based on the plain meaning of section 203. Judge Pregerson (who wrote the original majority opinion for the three judge court) dissented for himself alone.

Importantly, the court reached the merits of the dispute, despite lots of questions at oral argument over whether or not the claim was moot. This was definitely the right result, as I have been chronicling on this blog the extensive uncertainty caused by Padilla, which would have continued had the case been dismissed as moot.

The Ninth Circuit now joins two other circuits in hold that voter-circulated petitions (in this case, recall petitions; in the other cases, initiative petitions) need not be translated into other languages to comply with section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. The majority held, and Judge Reinhardt agreed, that these petitions were not materials "provided by" the state to comply with the VRA.

None of the opinions mentioned the recent statement in support of this position contained in the House Report reauthorizing the VRA.

I expect that any petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court will be rejected.

My LA Times oped from December urging the Ninth Circuit to take this case en banc is here.

Posted by Rick Hasen at September 19, 2006 09:55 AM