EDITOR: In 1911, California grafted a unique system of direct democracy, the initiative and referendum, into its state constitution. Over the years, this system has provided political answers to some vexing issues that had produced only inaction or deadlock from conventional governance.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on Proposition 8 dealt a deathblow to the initiative and referendum by allowing the governor and the attorney general to refuse to represent the voting public and simultaneously denying the proponents of the amendment, representing the voting majority of the people, to defend it in court proceedings. This raises a question: If the people exercise their right of direct democracy under their state constitution, how can they not have status in a federal proceeding? Since when do the elected officers of the people bear more status in court than the people themselves?
The Supreme Court employs the rhetoric of states' rights, but it pays them no heed at all when those rights are actually exercised. California's state constitution has a definite role to play when the federal courts exercise appellate review of state cases, particularly in the case of the exercise of direct democracy.
RICHARD L. SUTTER