In compliance with very tight deadlines set by the Supreme Court, preliminary briefing is now complete on the writ petition filed just one week ago attacking Proposition 9, the initiative seeking to split California into three states.  The initiative qualified for this November’s ballot, but the writ petition seeks to block a vote.

The writ petition in Planning and Conservation League v. Padilla is here.  The initiative proponent’s preliminary opposition is here.  The California Secretary of State’s preliminary response (by the Attorney General) is here.  The petitioner’s reply is here.  [July 18 update:  An amici letter by Public Counsel and Western Center on Law and Poverty, supporting the petition, is here.]

The Secretary of State takes no position on the petition’s merits, but he does seek fast action:  “If the Court decides that pre-election review of Proposition 9 is appropriate, Respondent requests that this proceeding be resolved by July 23, 2018 (the day before the general election statewide voter information guide goes on public display) or, if that is not possible, by 5:00 p.m. on August 13, 2018 (the day the Secretary of State transmits the final voter information guide to the State Printer).”

A ruling on the merits within the Secretary’s time frame seems very unlikely, because that would require further briefing, an oral argument, and a written opinion in less than a month.  The court can act relatively quickly, but a merits decision that fast would probably be unprecedented . . . and unnecessary, because the court has action options that would defer ruling on the merits and still make the Secretary happy.

First, the court could summarily deny the writ petition without prejudice to filing a new petition if the initiative passes.  Second, as mentioned, although the proceeding would not be “resolved” in less than a month, as the Secretary asks, the court could agree to decide the merits at a more leisurely pace by taking the initiative off this year’s ballot while leaving open the possibility of having the initiative appear on the 2020 ballot if the court ultimately denies the petition.

Whatever the court decides to do, an order stating the court’s choice of action options seems probable quite soon, possibly as early as this week’s Wednesday conference.

[July 18 updateSupreme Court removes split-California initiative from November ballot, with possibility of a vote at a future election.]