Ballot Initiative Faces Hurdles
The California District Attorney’s Association (CDAA) is trying to run out the clock to prevent a state initiative from qualifying for the November ballot. The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 was initially drafted by a team of advocates, including NCYL staff attorney Frankie Guzman, to eliminate the discretion of DA’s to direct file juvenile cases in adult court. The Initiative gives that authority to the judiciary and moves the burden of proof so, instead of a juvenile having to prove they should be tried in a juvenile court, the DA must now prove that the juvenile should be tried as an adult.
Following negotiations with Governor Jerry Brown, the advocates agreed to amend provisions in the measure to incentivize rehabilitation for all adults in prison and reduce prison overcrowding by making a small number of people serving time for non-violent offenses eligible for parole consideration after completing the full sentence for the first offense.
The CDAA seized on these additions to file a legal challenge asserting that the State Attorney General’s acceptance of the Governor’s amendments was in violation of a requirement that amendments to an initiative be germane to the theme, purpose, or subject of the original measure. Since the measure was originally drafted to promote rehabilitation and public safety, proponents are confident they will prevail in arguments now before the state Supreme Court.
However, a favorable court ruling may not be necessary for the CDAA to block the initiative. Their legal case has already narrowed the window for the proponents to gather the necessary half million signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot. A Sacramento superior court judge, who initially heard this matter, sided with CDAA, though the Supreme Court stayed that ruling. The lower court ruling, however, cost proponents ten crucial days of signature gathering. That leaves the campaign with less than nine weeks to gather the signatures, a timeframe that is historically unprecedented.
Volunteers from the California Alliance for Youth and Community Justice have been gathering signatures across the state to supplement a paid signature gathering effort funded by Governor Brown. The deadline for signatures is April 28th.