Living in Interesting Times

August 16th, 2010

What's the old Chinese proverb, "May you live in interesting times"? 

Well, we're certainly living in interesting times. Pensions, Illegal Immigration, and PROPOSITION 8 all hitting big this past week. Be sure to read to the bottom (or skip to the bottom) for an IMPORTANT ACTION REQUEST.
Before I give my report of last week's constitutional law news, I want to thank all of you who responded to the debt retirement plea. We raised nearly $1,500 in on-line contributions, and are making slow but steady progress toward retiring the campaign debt. Still a ways to go, though, so please take a moment and click the "contribute" button above to make an on-line donation or print out the form to mail in a contribution. I am deeply grateful for your help.
Now to the constitutional law news. The big news continues to be California's Proposition 8, of course, but let me first describe some developments in a couple of other major issues I've been involved with.
Pensions. The City of Bell, California, has now become the poster child not just for grossly inappropriate salaries but for the utter fraud on the taxpayers that was perpetuated by the bloated pensions that will follow those bloated salaries. And most of the $600,000 annual pension tab due to just one of the extravagant salary thiefs, former City Manager Robert Rizzo, is not being picked up by taxpayers in Bell, but by taxpayers in Hesperia ($80,000 a year), Glendale ($160,000), and the numerous other cities that are in the same pension pool as Bell, taxpayers who had absolutely no say over the fraud at all, but were unfortunate enough to have employed Rizzo at a modest salary at some point in his career. CalPERS, the state pension fund, apparently knew of this all along. Attorney General Jerry Brown says he's now looking in to the matter, but (surprise), we then learned that Jerry Brown's own pension appears to have been illegally padded. California law allows taxpayers to sue public officials who have spent taxpayer funds illegally or wastefully, but the hurdle for proving "waste" is a high one, so let's hope AG Brown pursues the criminal investigation with vigor and we find a way to repudiate the raid on the taxpayers.
Illegal Immigration and Birthright Citizenship. I participated in a national news conference hosted by Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas last week, talking about the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment's Citizenship Clause. Great turn-out from the press, including reporters from Politico, Federal News Service, Congressional Quarterly, Fox News, Talk Radio News, Dallas Morning News, Human Events, and Voice of America, as well as policy analysts from such groups as Amnesty International, Center for American Progress, Eagle Forum, and even the Government Accounting Office!  A good summary of the dispute, which is now gaining national attention, was published by the Christian Science Monitor. I published an executive summary of the legal analysis a few years back with the Heritage Foundation.
And now, what you've all been waiting for, PROPOSITION 8: Some major new developments this past week, after Judge Vaughn Walker's earth-shattering (yet, as I noted last week, predictable!) decision the week before holding that Proposition 8's restoration of the traditional definition of marriage violated the federal Constitution. First, news accounts have suggested that Judge Walker may himself be in a long-term homosexual relationship that, if true, should have disqualified him from serving as judge in the case, as I argued in an op-ed published by the San Francisco Chronicle. Second, Proponents of the initiative had requested that Judge Walker put a hold on his decision so that the appellate courts could have a chance to review it. He agreed to hold it for a week, until 5:00 p.m. this coming Wednesday (August 18), but he also dropped a bombshell, questioning in his written ruling whether the Proponents would even be allowed to bring the appeal. They were allowed to intervene to defend the Initiative at trial, but the legal standard required for them to continue to press the matter on appeal is higher, when the government defendants themselves won't file a notice of appeal. And as of today's writing, it appears that an appeal is not going to be filed by ANY of the government officials who were named defendants in the case, including Attorney General Jerry Brown, who has a constitutional duty "to see that the laws of the State are uniformly and adequately enforced," and Governor Arnold Schwarnegger, who has his own constitutional duty to see that the laws of the state, including initiatives adopted by the people of the state, are faithfully executed. While I believe that the Proponents have a very strong argument on why they have the legal ability to file the appeal themselves, if the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagrees, Judge Vaughn Walker's decision could be the final word on this monumentally important and highly controversial case. 
No matter what your position on the merits of Proposition 8 was, we should all be troubled by this attempt to manipulate the judicial process to prevent the kind of appellate court review that a case of this magnitude requires.  So here's the ACTION ITEM, and I hope all of you will join me in the effort.  I've written an Open Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger urging him to file a notice of appeal this week.  But I think we need to flood his office with calls urging him to do that. Attorney General Brown needs to hear from us, too. Phone numbers and fax numbers are available here. Please call today, and keep calling every hour, every day, until one of them files a notice of appeal!
BREAKING NEWS: The Ninth Circuit moments ago just granted a stay of Judge Walker's ruling until it could hear the case in December. It specifically called for briefing on whether the Proponents of the initiative can legally bring the appeal. That makes the above action item even more necessary than ever!  
And then, when you have a quick moment, please consider additional help with our debt retirement effort.
Many thanks to you all!

John Eastman

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