Patterico's Pontifications


Pregerson Slapped Down Again

Filed under: Court Decisions,Dog Trainer,Judiciary,Law — Patterico @ 6:49 am

A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit, featuring “judge of conscience” Harry Pregerson, issues a wacky liberal ruling relating to a recall election. The Ninth Circuit reverses en banc.

Where have we seen this before?

Rick Hasen summarizes the ruling:

The Ninth Circuit now joins two other circuits in hold[ing] 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.

So: while this ruling relates to a recall election, its logic should also put the kibosh on efforts by activists to invalidate initiatives because the petitions are written only in English. Which is good, because (as I previously discussed here) those are very silly efforts.

The L.A. Times seems to disagree, leading its article on the decision with this sentence:

Recall petitions need to be printed only in English, even when some voters are not proficient in the language, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The use of the phrase beginning with “even when” is your hint that H.G. Reza thinks the decision is wrong. But why? If someone can’t read the petition, the people circulating the petition are the ones who get hurt, because they get fewer signatures. So what’s the problem?

P.S. The sentence is wrong anyway. The petitions don’t “need to be printed only in English” — they “need only be printed in English.” There is certainly no requirement that petitions be printed in English only. As Mickey Kaus might say: a round of layoffs for the copy editors! (I’m just kidding; this is serious business nowadays.)

BONUS PREGERSON: Howard Bashman has a column about another interesting recent ruling in which Pregerson participated. In this one, a murderer sentenced to death says he wants to abandon his appeals and take his death sentence. Nothing doing, said Pregerson and Senior Circuit Judge Warren J. Ferguson. Why, to allow you to go to your death as you wish would be cruel and unusual punishment!

UPDATE: A commenter notes a typo in the original post, which has been corrected.  A round of layoffs for my copy editors!

16 Responses to “Pregerson Slapped Down Again”

  1. typo alert: “even when” morphed into “even then”

    delete this comment

    [No, I’m going to leave it up, as a reminder of why I should never criticize others’ proofreading. — P]

    quasimodo (edc74e)

  2. If someone can’t read the petition, the people circulating the petition are the ones who get hurt, because they get fewer signatures. So what’s the problem?

    According to the article, the suit alleged that Larry “Nativo” Lopez was recalled because some illegal aliens – um, I mean, U.S. citizens whose English is about as good as the average illegal alien – were too stupid not to sign a petition in a language they can’t read, but wouldn’t have been dumb enough to sign it if provided with a translation to a language they can read. And we all know that the VRA is about protecting the rights of stupid people.

    Xrlq (846121)

  3. the sentence is wrong anyway, and it’s still wrong. petitions are pieces of paper that don’t need much of anything except maybe signatures. this is one of my pet peeves in modern english usage. 90% of the time when somebody tells me i need to do something, it is actually the speaker who needs me to do something.
    i cannot comprehend how people who don’t speak english can make intelligent, informed electoral decisions in our english-speaking country. they have a much narrower information base. the friendly social worker and the local pastor are happy to help them vote. how can you tell when the “voter” has abdicated the decision to the social worker or the pastor?
    there’s an unspoken agenda behind this multilingual crap, and i’m opposed to this agenda.

    assistant devil's advocate (fa37d0)

  4. California used to be number one for the West Coast on my “no way, never, will I live there” list of states, but Washington bumped it, largely because of the “Republican” prosecutor of King County who let the Green River Killer get off with life for no good reason, and pushed for publically-funded housing for alcoholics.

    But California is still on the list. No way, no how, never, huh-uh. Give me a nice red state, thanks.

    rightwingprof (663991)

  5. ada,

    And just exactly how many English-speakers make intelligent, informed electoral decisions? How many are functionally literate, for that matter? I agree with this decision — it would be chaos to impose multilinguism (if that’s a word) on governmental documents — but any way people can find a way to understand each other and to function in society is fine with me otherwise. Social worker, pastor, relative, official interpreter, Braille, sign language ….

    nk (4d4a9d)

  6. @nk:
    i uphold the freedom of private individuals to speak any language they want in their offices, businesses, in the street or on the train…
    i want my government conducting its affairs in english only. multilingual petitions are the first step down the slippery slope to “english-optional” courtrooms and legislative chambers. i am a part owner of this government and when i go visit it i want to understand wtf it’s saying. i’m just a little prejudiced that way!

    assistant devil's advocate (fa37d0)

  7. The dissent writes that some non-English-speaking signers were told by petition gatherers that they were signing something innocuous (to receive information about a candidate), and not a petition. Whether this is true or not, the obvious counter-argument is that one shouldn’t sign something that one can’t read or understand. But the state does already recognize that not everyone will read – or understand – every word of a petition, and so tries to minimize fraud by requiring through its guidelines that the intent of a petition be clearly printed at the top of each page.

    A reasonable compromise might be to require that standardized language, such as “Petition to Recall: [official’s name]” be translated into all languages meeting the 5% provision, and placed at the top of a petition. The state or county could at little cost provide the translated text, as it would be much the same for all petitions of the same type.

    Nels Nelson (4a3ac4)

  8. Perhaps it could be a problem that trickery goes on by circulating a Spanish petition in Koreatown, a Vietnamese petition in Chinatown, etc with signature gatherers being good salesmen and looking very legit to the locals. Dunno – this is one of the silliest problems ever.

    Wesson (c20d28)

  9. In fact, isn’t there a compelling argument to be made that it is smart to only circulate petitions in one language? Imagine a scenario where you could tie up a ballot measure in court because the Vietnamese translation on the original petition differed slightly from the Spanish translation which maybe differed slightly from the English original. What a three-ring circus that would be!

    Of course, this brings into play the idea of unscrupulous signature-gatherers misrepresenting the language of the petition to someone who is not able to read English and telling him or her that the petition says one thing when it actually says the complete opposite. Caveat emptor, I guess.

    JVW (82344e)

  10. Perhaps it would be in order to suggest a law that would require monopoly big-city newspapers to publish every issue in all of the languages that are required by the Act… for the good of all, of course.

    ObeliskToucher (f988a5)

  11. Fortunately, all the Carter judges like Pregerson and Reinhardt are getting really old, and can’t hang on forever.

    Even the Clinton appointees generally weren’t nearly as nuts.

    Angry Clam (132353)

  12. I’m all in favor of requiring that ballot initiatives which have qualified for the ballot be translated. That seems like it’s providing a legitimate service to citizens with limited English skills.

    But requiring that petitions be translated before they can be circulated is absurd. It’s absurd because the wise thing to do is not sign a petition in a language you can’t speak; it’s absurd because the people hurt by not translating it are the people circulating the petition; and it’s absurd because the effect of requiring pre-circulation translation is to dramatically increase the cost of petitioning, thereby making the initiative/recall/referendum process less effective as a means of citizen activism.

    I want translated petitions to be considered legitimate, and that requires that a process be in place to get official translations pre-circulation, but use of that process should NOT be mandated; doing so reduces the usefulness of the entire system as a means of citizen feedback.

    aphrael (3bacf3)

  13. Nels: if the petition gatherers said they were signing something innocuous and not a petition, can we prosecute them? Please? That’s election fraud, and ought to be actionable.

    aphrael (3bacf3)

  14. Aphrael, of course. My point was just that the current guidelines already seek to prevent fraud, rather than just prosecute it after the fact, by requiring “Petition to Recall” to appear at the top of petitions. Requiring this also be written in qualifying languages doesn’t seem like a great burden.

    Nels Nelson (4a3ac4)

  15. My only real question is, why bother translating into any language other than English if the target audience is voters.

    I quote from the US Citizenship and Naturalization Services website. Pay particular attention to the 3rd requirement * (emphasis mine):

    The general requirements for administrative naturalization include:

    * a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
    * residence in a particular USCIS District prior to filing;
    * an ability to read, write, and speak English;
    * a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
    * good moral character;
    * attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and,
    * favorable disposition toward the United States.

    It appears to me that anyone who is not functional in English has no business voting and should be disregarded in this type of matter. What’s the deal?

    * Note that these are requirements, not recommendations.

    Dave in W-S (a7fb64)

  16. A theme song for the 9th circut court SEND IN THE CLOWNS

    krazy kagu (31c771)

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