Tagstate supreme court

Votes for Arkansas marijuana legalization initiative will be counted

Votes for Arkansas Issue 4, a marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot, will be counted after the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners’ decision to not certify the initiative’s ballot title.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the campaign behind the marijuana legalization initiative, submitted more than 190,000 signatures on July 8. The Arkansas secretary of state announced on July 29 that the campaign had submitted more than the required number of valid signatures (89,151) and qualified for the ballot.

On Aug. 3, 2022, the election commissioners declined to certify the ballot title and popular name for the initiative, stating that the language was misleading. The next day, Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court. The campaign said the board “[thwarted] the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.” The campaign requested an expedited review because the deadline for the secretary of state to certify measures for the 2022 ballot was August 25. On August 11, the state Supreme Court ordered the secretary of state to certify the measure for the ballot.

Under Issue 4, adults 21 years old and older would be authorized to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. By March 7, 2023, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell adult-use marijuana at their existing dispensaries and one additional location for adult-use marijuana sales only. By July 5, 2023, an additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery and would need to be located at least five miles away from a dispensary with an active license. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for licensing.

Responsible Growth Arkansas has raised $4.01 million according to campaign finance reports covering information through August 31. The campaign said Issue 4 would “[support] law enforcement salaries and bolster local police budgets so that our officers can go after serious crime,” “[improve] the Arkansas’ existing medical marijuana program by removing burdensome taxes that are currently being paid by qualified patients receiving medical treatment,” and “safely legalize the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older and create revenue that goes to more funding for local police departments.”

Safe and Secure Communities registered to oppose the initiative and has raised $2 million. Safe and Secure Communities said, “We’re on a mission to save Arkansas from the destructive effects of legalized drugs, and we need your support. Many cities around the nation are destroyed, and now Arkansas is at risk. Help keep Arkansas communities secure and our citizens safe. The pot industry is directly targeting kids, even though hundreds of scientific studies show that marijuana – especially today’s high-potency weed – permanently damages the teenage brain. Teens who smoke pot regularly drop out at twice the rate of non-users, and as adults they earn less and have a lower IQ. Marijuana-related policy changes, including legalization, have significant unintended consequences for children, adolescents, and cities large and small.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process. A marijuana legalization initiative targeting the 2022 ballot in Oklahoma was ordered to appear on the 2024 ballot after legal challenges were not resolved before state deadlines to print ballots.



Challenge period for Oklahoma marijuana initiative ends with four challenges filed; state supreme court to decide on whether the initiative will appear on the 2022 ballot

A 10-day challenge period for Oklahoma marijuana initiative State Question 820 ended on September 15 with four challenges filed with the state Supreme Court. In addition to resolving the challenges, the Supreme Court is also set to decide on whether the measure will be placed on the November 2022 ballot.

Once signatures for an initiative are submitted, the secretary of state’s office counts the signatures and submits a report to the court. On August 22, the secretary of state announced that proponents submitted 117,257 valid signatures and forwarded the signature count report to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. After the supreme court determines the sufficiency of signatures, the court orders the secretary of state to publish a notice of the signature submission, the ballot title, and notice that any citizen may file a petition challenging the sufficiency of the signatures or ballot title within 10 days.

The challenge period for State Question 820 began on September 1 and ended on September 15, 2022. Two challenges were filed related to the validity of signatures submitted for the initiative and two challenges were filed related to the initiative’s ballot language.

Former Oklahoma State Rep. Mike Reynolds (R) and former gubernatorial candidate Paul Tay (I) filed lawsuits with the Oklahoma Supreme Court challenging the validity of signatures submitted by proponents. Reynolds argued that the validity of signatures cannot be reviewed without taking legal action to review them and requested a signature review period. Tay argued that signatures collected on American Indian lands should be invalidated. Attorneys for initiative sponsors said, “As this Court is aware, ballot deadlines are looming, and time is of the essence here. Proponents thus respectfully request that the Court resolve the instant challenge quickly, to ensure that SQ820 may be submitted to a vote of the People at the upcoming November 2022 general election.”

A challenge to the initiative’s ballot language was filed by John Stotts, a former member of the Pottawatomie County Farm Bureau board of directors; Karma Robinson, president of public affairs and political communications firm GR Pro; and Mary Chris Barth, a current member of the Beaver County Farm Bureau’s board of directors. The challenge alleged that the ballot language is misleading because it fails to mention that “several laws protecting children from marijuana would be removed,” “possession of a firearm while under the influence of marijuana would be legalized,” and “more serious marijuana crimes would be legalized or decriminalized.”

A second challenge to the ballot language was filed by Oklahomans for Responsible Cannabis Action director Jed Green, sponsor of other proposed marijuana initiatives for which no signatures were submitted by the August deadline. Green alleged that State Question 820’s ballot language is misleading because it fails to mention that the initiative could be amended by the state legislature if approved by voters, public consumption fines would be limited to $25, and that medical marijuana dispensaries would need a second license to sell adult-use marijuana.

After an initiative petition is found to have sufficient signatures and all challenges have been resolved, the secretary of state notifies the governor, who issues an election proclamation. The governor’s election proclamation must be issued and certified to the State Election Board at least 70 days prior to an election in order for a state question to appear on a ballot. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said August 29 (70 days prior to the general election) was the deadline to formally certify measures for the ballot.

State Question 820 sponsors asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to expedite the ballot title verification process and include the measure on the November 2022 ballot, saying that “The new process took about 48 days from the time we turned in our signatures until the time they were verified. In the past, that was usually about two weeks or a little longer. It’s been a new process for them, which has caused a lot of missteps along the way. They have dropped the ball, which is why we have asked the Supreme Court to intervene.” The state argued for the measure to be placed on the ballot for a later election — either a special election if one is called or the 2024 ballot.

In a press release published on September 16, the State Question 820 campaign said proponents “remain optimistic that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will act swiftly to dismiss the seemingly politically motivated challenges, and let the people vote.”

Marijuana legalization measures are certified to appear on the 2022 ballot in Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Votes on the Arkansas initiative may not be counted pending a state Supreme Court ruling.



Ohio Supreme Court overturns state’s congressional district boundaries; map to still be used for 2022 elections

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on July 19, 2022, that the congressional district boundaries that the Ohio Redistricting Commission adopted on March 2 were unconstitutional. Since the state’s 2022 primary elections were held on May 3 using the overturned districts, this year’s congressional elections will take place using the existing boundaries.

The state supreme court directed the Ohio General Assembly to pass a compliant plan within 30 days. If the general assembly fails to do so, the court ordered the redistricting commission to then adopt a plan within 30 days. The state would use that map for its 2024 congressional elections.

Since the boundaries that the redistricting commission adopted in March 2022 did not receive support from any commission members of the minority party, it would have been in effect for only four years. Under the constitutional amendment establishing the redistricting commission that voters approved in 2018, the commission was required to enact a new map after the 2024 elections.

Justices Maureen O’Connor, Michael Donnelly, and Melody Stewart signed the state supreme court’s majority opinion with Justice Jennifer Brunner filing a concurring opinion. Justices Sharon Kennedy, Pat DeWine, and Pat Fischer wrote or joined dissenting opinions.

The court’s opinion said, “Petitioners have satisfied their burden by showing beyond a reasonable doubt that the March 2 plan unduly favors the Republican Party in violation of Article XIX, Section 1(C)(3)(a) of the Ohio Constitution. Comparative analyses and other metrics show that the March 2 plan allocates voters in ways that unnecessarily favor the Republican Party by packing Democratic voters into a few dense Democratic-leaning districts, thereby increasing the Republican vote share of the remaining districts. As a result, districts that would otherwise be strongly Democratic-leaning are now competitive or Republican-leaning districts.”

The dissenting opinion signed by Justices Kennedy and DeWine said, “We disagree, however, with the majority’s conclusion that the March 2 plan is invalid because it violates Article XIX, Section 1(C)(3)(a) of the Ohio constitution for ‘unduly favor[ing] or disfavor[ing] a political party or its incumbents.’…Therefore, we would hold that the March 2 plan is constitutional and order its use for the 2024 primary and general elections. Because the majority does otherwise, we dissent.”

Governor Mike DeWine (R) first signed a new congressional map into law on November 20, 2021, after the state Senate voted to approve it 24-7 and the state House approved it 55-36. On January 14, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s enacted congressional map and ordered the legislature to redraw it. The Ohio Redistricting Commission approved redrawn congressional boundaries in a 5-2 vote along party lines.

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Ohio Supreme Court

Mike DeWine

Redistricting in Ohio



Massachusetts Supreme Court disqualifies app-based drivers initiative from November ballot

On June 14, the Massachusetts Supreme Court issued a ruling disqualifying the app-based drivers initiative backed by Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and Uber, from the November ballot. 

A lawsuit was filed in January against Secretary of State William Galvin (D) and Attorney General Maura Healey (D) by several app-based drivers and voters arguing that the initiative ​​should not have been approved for circulation because the petition violates the state’s constitutional requirement that subjects of an initiative are related or mutually dependent.

The court agreed with the plaintiffs. Justice Scott Kafker, who wrote the opinion for the court, said, “The petitions thus violate the related subjects requirement because they present voters with two substantively distinct policy decisions: one confined for the most part to the contract-based and voluntary relationship between app-based drivers and network companies; the other — couched in confusingly vague and open-ended provisions — apparently seeking to limit the network companies’ liability to third parties injured by app-based drivers’ tortious conduct.”

Conor Yunits, a spokesperson for Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers, the campaign behind the initiative, said, “A clear majority of Massachusetts voters and rideshare and delivery drivers both supported and would have passed this ballot question into law. That’s exactly why opponents resorted to litigation to subvert the democratic process and deny voters the right to make their own decision. The future of these services and the drivers who earn on them is now in jeopardy, and we hope the legislature will stand with the 80% of drivers who want flexibility and to remain independent contractors while having access to new benefits.”

Sponsors filed two versions of the initiative. Both versions of the initiative would have classified app-based drivers as independent contractors and enacted several labor policies. The versions are identical except Version A would have required paid occupational safety training before accessing a company’s platform or mobile application. The initiative was modeled after a 2020 California initiative that was approved by a margin of 58.6% to 41.4% but was later ruled unconstitutional by a county superior court. This ruling is being appealed.

Flexibility & Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers reported $17.8 million in contributions. The top donors to the committee were Lyft ($14.4 million), Instacart ($1.2 million), DoorDash ($1.2 million), and Uber ($1.1 million). The opposition campaign, Coalition to Protect Workers’ Rights, reported $1 million in contributions.

There are two other ballot initiatives related to alcohol retail licensing and medical loss ratios for dental insurance plans that are collecting the second round of signatures needed to earn a spot on the November ballot. The second round of 13,374 signatures is due July 6. 

Between 2010 and 2020, an average of 29 ballot initiatives were filed for even-numbered year ballots in Massachusetts, and an average of three ballot initiatives made the ballot.

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Missouri Supreme Court issues one decision and hears arguments in four cases

The Missouri Supreme Court has made one decision, heard arguments in four cases, and has four more cases on the docket for May.

State of Missouri v. Joshua Steven Collins was argued on Dec. 8, 2021, and the opinion was issued on May 17. The circuit court’s decision was unanimously affirmed. The case summary can be found here.

The Court heard arguments in the following cases on May 11:

  • Bruce S. Schlafly v. Anne S. Cori
  • Carfax Inc. v. Director of Revenue
  • Robert March v. Treasurer of the State of Missouri – Custodian of the Second Injury Fund
  • Travis Poke v. Independence School District

In 2022, the Missouri Supreme Court has heard arguments in 29 cases and issued 26 decisions. The Court has eight cases on the docket for May. The final four hearings for the month will be held on May 24. 

Founded in 1820, the Missouri Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven justices. Justices are are appointed to 12-year terms by the governor from a list provided by the Missouri Appellete Judicial Comission. As of Sept. 2021, three judges were appointed by a Democratic governor and four by a Republican governor. 

The jurisdiction of the Missouri Supreme Court includes appeals concerning the validity of federal statutes and treaties in addition to state statues, state revenue laws, the right of a state elected official to hold office, and the imposition of the death penalty. The Missouri Supreme Court also has the discretion to hear appeals on questions of general interest and if a lower court’s decision is in conflict with a previous appellate decision. 



Kansas enacts legislative district boundaries after state supreme court approves them

Kansas enacted new legislative district boundaries on May 18 when the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously upheld the maps that Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed into law on April 15. As specified in the state constitution, the state supreme court had to approve or reject the new boundaries within 10 days of Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) filing them with the court. The maps will take effect for Kansas’ 2022 state legislative elections.

Both chambers of the legislature passed the redistricting legislation on March 30 after a joint House-Senate conference committee had developed it. The Kansas House of Representatives approved the legislative boundaries 83-40 and the state Senate approved them 29-11.

After Kelly signed the maps, Andrew Bahl and Rafael Garcia of the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote, “The state Senate and House maps were mildly contested in the Legislature, particularly in the Senate where the map will create a fourth, Democrat-leaning district in Topeka and Lawrence.”

As of May 19, 46 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers. The Ohio Supreme Court has overturned that state’s previously enacted maps, courts in two states have overturned a map for one chamber, and Montana has not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census. As of May 19, 2012, 46 states had enacted legislative redistricting plans after the 2010 census.

Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,807 of 1,973 state Senate seats (91.6%) and 5,214 of 5,413 state House seats (96.3%).

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Kansas Supreme Court overturns district court ruling, upholds state’s congressional district map

On May 18, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned a district court’s ruling that found that the state’s enacted congressional district boundaries were unconstitutional. In a two-page order, Justice Caleb Stegall wrote for the court, “A majority of the court holds that, on the record before us, plaintiffs have not prevailed on their claims that Substitute for Senate Bill 355 violates the Kansas Constitution.”

Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper had struck down Kansas’ enacted congressional map on April 25. Klapper’s ruling stated, “The Court has no difficulty finding, as a factual matter, that Ad Astra 2 is an intentional, effective pro-Republican gerrymander that systemically dilutes the votes of Democratic Kansans.” His opinion also said that the state’s new district boundaries “intentionally and effectively dilutes minority votes in violation of the Kansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.”

Kansas was apportioned four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census, the same number it received after the 2010 census.

Kansas enacted congressional district boundaries on Feb. 9 when both the state House and Senate overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of a redistricting plan that the legislature passed. The House of Representatives overrode Kelly’s veto 85-37, with all votes in favor by Republicans, and 36 Democrats and one Republican voting to sustain the veto. The Senate overrode Kelly’s veto 27-11 strictly along party lines on Feb. 8 with all votes in favor by Republicans and all votes opposed by Democrats.

Andrew Bahl of the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote in February 2022 that the “maps were hotly contested, largely for the decision to split Wyandotte County and put part of the Kansas City, Kan., area in the 2nd Congressional District, a move that endangers the state’s lone Democrat in Congress, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, and, Democrats argue, unfairly divides minority communities.”

Stegall was first appointed to the Kansas Supreme Court by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in 2014. He won a full six-year term in a retention election in 2016, receiving 71% support.

Klapper was first appointed to the Wyandotte County District Court by Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in 2013. He ran unopposed in both the Democratic primary and general elections in both 2014 and 2018.

The filing deadline for ballot-qualified parties in Kansas is June 1 and primaries are scheduled for Aug. 2.

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Missouri Supreme Court issues 10 decisions

The Missouri Supreme Court issued 10 decisions on April 26, 2022. This is the most decisions issued on a single day by the Missouri Supreme Court in 2022. 

Car Credit, Inc vs. Cathy L. Pitts was argued on March 22, 2022, and the circuit court’s decision was unanimously affirmed. 

State of Missouri vs. Eric G. Hollowell was argued on Feb. 7, 2022, and the circuit court’s decision was unanimously vacated and remanded.

John Doe vs. Kurt Frisz, Chief Law Enforcement Officer, St. Charles County, Missouri was argued on Feb. 23, 2022, and the circuit court’s decision was unanimously affirmed. 

City of St. Louis; St. Louis County; and Jackson County vs. State of Missouri; and Eric Schmitt, Attorney General of Missouri was argued on Feb. 7, 2022, and the circuit court’s decison was reversed and remanded with one justice dissenting. 

Christopher Klecka vs. Treasurer of Missouri as Custodian of the Second Injury Fund was ​​argued on Feb. 23, 2022, and the circuit court’s decision was affirmed with one justice dissenting. 

Clifton Jameson vs. Alexis Still was argued on Feb. 1, 2022, and the circuit court’s decision was unanimously vacated and remanded.

State of Missouri vs. Andrea Shaunte Straughter was argued on Dec. 14, 2021, and the circuit court’s decision was vacated and remanded with one justice dissenting.

State of Missouri vs. Timothy A. Shepherd was argued on Dec. 14, 2021, and the circuit court’s decision was vacated and remanded with two justices dissenting. 

City of Normandy, et al. vs. Michael L. Parson in his Official Capacity as Governor of Missouri, et al. was argued on Oct. 6, 2021, and the circuit court’s decision was unanimously vacated and remanded. 

Jefferson County 9-1-1 Dispatch vs. Joseph G. Plaggenberg, Acting Director of the Missouri Department of Revenue was argued on Sept. 15, 2021, and the appeal was dismissed with two justices dissenting. 

The Missouri Supreme Court has heard arguments in 25 cases in 2022 and issued 25 decisions. The Court has eight cases on the docket for May. Hearings will be held on May 11 and May 24. 

Founded in 1820, the Missouri Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven justices. Justices are are appointed to 12-year terms by the governor from a list provided by the Missouri Appellete Judicial Comission. As of Sept. 2021, three judges were appointed by a Democratic governor and four by a Republican governor. 

The jurisdiction of the Missouri Supreme Court includes appeals concerning the validity of federal statutes and treaties in addition to state statues, state revenue laws, the right of a state elected official to hold office, and the imposition of the death penalty. The Missouri Supreme Court also has the discretion to hear appeals on questions of general interest and if a lower court’s decision is in conflict with a previous appellate decision.



The Missouri Supreme Court issued two decisions

The Missouri Supreme Court has issued two decisions in April 2022 so far. 

State of Missouri vs. Shawn W. Yount was argued on Feb. 1, 2022, and the opinion was issued on April 5. In this case, the defendant appealed the decision of the circuit court that he was a dangerous offender, which increased the severity of his sentence. The Supreme Court ruled that the defendent’s case should be sent back to the circuit court for resetencing as it did not find that the defendent met the requirements to be considered a dangerous offender. It was a 6-1 decision written by Justice Robin Ransom with Justice George W. Draper III dissenting. 

All Star Awards & Ad Specialties, Inc. vs. HALO Branded Solutions, Inc. was argued on Dec. 8, 2021, and the opinion was issued on April 5, 2022. In this case, an employee from All Star began working for HALO (a direct competitor) simultaneously and providing client information to HALO. All Star fired the employee and sued HALO for tortious interference with a business and conspiracy to breach the duty of loyalty. A jury awarded All Star $5.5 million in punitive damages which the circuit court then reduced to $2.6 million after a motion from HALO. The Supreme Court of Missouri upheld the circuit court ruling in a 6-1 decision. The opion was written by Justice W. Brent Powell with Justice George W. Draper III dissenting. 

The Missouri Supreme Court has heard arguments in 17 cases so far in 2022. The Court does not have any cases on the docket for April.

Founded in 1820, the Missouri Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven justices. Justices are are appointed to 12-year terms by the governor from a list provided by the Missouri Appellete Judicial Comission. As of Sept. 2021, three judges were appointed by a Democratic governor and four by a Republican governor. 

The jurisdiction of the Missouri Supreme Court includes appeals concerning the validity of federal statutes and treaties in addition to state statues, state revenue laws, the right of a state elected official to hold office, and the imposition of the death penalty. The Missouri Supreme Court also has the discretion to hear appeals on questions of general interest and if a lower court’s decision is in conflict with a previous appellate decision. 



Patricia Guerrero joins California Supreme Court

Patricia Guerrero was sworn in to the California Supreme Court on March 28, 2022. Founded in 1849, the California Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. Of the seven current justices, five were appointed by Democratic governors and two by a Republican governor. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Guerrero on Feb. 15, 2022, to a seat on the California Supreme Court to replace Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2021, to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed Guerrero’s appointment on March 22, 2022, and she was sworn in on March 28. Prior to joining the court, Guerrero was a judge of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One from 2017 to 2022.

The seven justices of the California Supreme Court are selected by gubernatorial appointment. The state bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominee Evaluation recommends candidates to the governor after examining their qualifications and fitness. If they wish to retain their seat for the remainder of the unexpired term, newly-appointed judges are required to participate in yes-no retention elections occurring at the time of the next gubernatorial race, which is held every four years. After the first election, subsequent retention elections are for full 12-year terms.

California is one of 46 states to fill supreme court vacancies via a form of gubernatorial appointment. Illinois fills vacancies via the state supreme court, while Louisiana uses the special election method. Virginia and South Carolina fill vacancies through legislative elections. 

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