We realize we’re late on this, since the news broke on Friday. But at the time, we thought Purcell v. Gonzalez was just a run-of-the-mill Supreme Court ruling. We didn’t realize it featured delicious benchslaps of the Ninth Circuit, the lower court whose decision was vacated.
The state of Arizona adopted a rule for next month’s elections requiring most voters to show photo identification before casting their ballots. Such rules, adopted by other states as well, are generally supported by Republicans — who view them as helping to cut down on voter fraud — and opposed by Democrats — who believe they may deter poor, elderly, disabled or minority voters from voting.
A legal challenge to the picture ID rule was mounted in Arizona. Some background about the case, from the L.A. Times:
In May, the American Civil Liberties Union, the League of Women Voters and several other civil rights groups sued to block the voter identification rule from being enforced Nov. 7. They called the rule a “21st century poll tax” because it could force some poor voters to purchase photo ID cards….
A federal judge refused to block the law from taking effect, but on Oct. 5, a two-judge panel of the 9th Circuit issued an order saying the law could not be enforced for the upcoming election. The appeals court did not explain its ruling.
Arizona’s attorney general asked the Supreme Court to intervene. And on Friday afternoon, the high court issued a six-page opinion that set aside the 9th Circuit’s order. It noted that the 9th Circuit’s “bare order” did not give a good reason for blocking the law from taking effect.
That’s a charitable description of the Supreme Court’s treatment of the Ninth Circuit. Here’s an excerpt from the opinion itself:
On October 5, after receiving lengthy written responses from the State and the county officials but without oral argument, the panel issued a four-sentence order enjoining Arizona from enforcing Proposition 200’s provisions…. The Court of Appeals offered no explanation or justification for its order. Four days later, the court denied a motion for reconsideration. The order denying the motion likewise gave no rationale for the court’s decision.
Translation: “Despite receiving oodles and oodles of briefing from state and county officials, the Ninth Circuit stopped Arizona from enforcing its rule — without even bothering to give the state its day in court. Then, when asked to rethink their decision, those Ninth Circuit morons just said ‘NO’ — again without bothering to explain themselves.”
The discussion continues, after the jump.
And from later on in the Supreme Court’s opinion:
[B]y failing to provide any factual findings or indeed any reasoning of its own, the Court of Appeals left this Court in the position of evaluating the Court of Appeals’ bare order in light of the District Court’s ultimate findings. There has been no explanation given by the Court of Appeals showing the ruling and findings of the District Court to be incorrect… [W]e vacate the order of the Court of Appeals.
Translation: “Those lazy clowns on the Ninth Circuit left us, the gods (and goddess) of the High Court, in the highly unpleasant position of having to directly review a DISTRICT COURT RULING (we’re holding our noses). This is like forcing the guest in the Presidential Suite to scrub his own toilet — with a toothbrush. Never do this to us again, or we’ll slap you upside the heads with our gavels.”
And who were the Ninth Circuit judges on the receiving end of this benchslap? They were Judge A. Wallace Tashima — whom we find strangely fascinating, in the manner of a wind-up doll, because he’s a 70-something Asian man (older than our parents) who speaks perfect, unaccented English — and Judge William A. Fletcher. The liberal Willy Fletcher — known in conservative quarters as “Wily Fletcher,” because of his crafty left-wing genius — is a member of the Elect (OT 1976/Brennan), former law professor at Boalt Hall, and rising SCOTUS feeder judge. (Oh, and he’s the son of fellow Ninth Circuit liberal Betty B. Fletcher.)
One wouldn’t have expected such sloppiness from Judge Tashima — an experienced and generally well-regarded jurist, who served as a District Court judge for many years before being elevated to the appeals court — and the super-brilliant Judge Fletcher. It would be more in character for Judge Fletcher to construct a complex, heavily footnoted, highly analytical opinion to justify the liberal outcome.
Guess it just goes to show that, contrary to popular belief, the Elect ARE fallible (even if the mistakes they commit are few and far between).
Supreme Court Allows Arizona to Use New Voter-ID Procedure [New York Times]
High Court Allows Arizona to Enact New Voter ID Law [Los Angeles Times]
Breaking News: U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Ninth Circuit Order Barring Arizona Voter ID Law [Election Law]
Purcell v. Gonzalez [Supreme Court website (PDF) via SCOTUSBlog]