April 21, 2000

The League of Women Voters of California File Lawsuit Challenging Prop 21

On Thursday, April 20th, the League of Women Voters, children's Advocacy Institute, Coleman Advocates for Youth, and Peter Bull, taxpayer and private citizen, filed a lawsuit in the California Supreme Court stating that Proposition 21 —the so called Juvenile Justice Initiative— violates the single-subject rule of the California Constitution. The petitioners are asking the Court to issue an immediate stay to prevent Proposition 21 from being implemented. The Juvenile Crime Initiative was passed by voters on March 7, 2000.

"Proposition 21 violates a core provision of the California Constitution, the single-subject rule, designed to ensure the integrity of the electoral process," said Robert Kim, attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. "Instead of embracing one issue, Proposition 21 makes far-reaching changes in three separate areas of law: juveniles, gangs, and changes to other laws that do not relate to either juveniles or gangs. That is too many subjects to fit under one initiative."

"We believe the initiative process has gone far beyond what the reformers who developed it intended," said Anne Henderson, Legislative director of the League of Women Voters of California. "It is being used not as a check on the deliberative legislative process which representative government requires, but as an alternative where the public is asked to vote yes or no with little input into and limited understanding of what they are being asked to decide." The League of Women Voters of California is a nonpartisan political organization with over 11,000 members.

The petitioners are asking the Court to issue an immediate stay and to issue a writ of mandate, permanently restraining enforcement of Proposition 21 in violation of the rights of voters to consider and vote on clear, specific, and discrete changes to California law.

"When we were campaigning against Proposition 21, we encountered a great deal of confusion by voters who did not understand the complexity of the initiative," said Kathryn Dresslar, Senior Policy Advocate for the Children's Advocacy Institute (CAI.) "Proposition 21 violates the rights of voters to consider and vote on clear, specific, and discrete changes to California law. Instead, the forth-three page initiative had buried within it significant changes to other voter-enacted initiatives." CAI is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health, safety, and welfare of children. CAI works in the Legislature, with California agencies, and in California courts to promote the well-being of children.

"As I speak, youth are being prosecuted under the Juvenile Crime Initiative and I think it is critical that the California Supreme Court halt the enforcement of this dangerous initiative that harms so many young people," said Taj Rashard James, Director of Youth Policy and Development at Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth. Coleman Advocates is a nonprofit organization that works to reform the juvenile justice system in California.

Peter Bull, formerly the Executive Director of the Youth Law Center, is also a petitioner in the lawsuit. Mr. Bull has worked for many years to improve the juvenile justice system. He is a citizen and resident of San Francisco.

The respondents in the case are Governor Gray Davis; Bill Lockyer, Attorney General of the State of California; Bill Jones, Secretary of State of the State of California; the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Sacramento; and Jan Scully, District Attorney of the County of Sacramento.

The lawsuit is brought by all three California ACLU affiliates, the ACLUs of Northern and Southern California and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.

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