In a recent client advisory, we described how a federal district court recently ruled that in jurisdictions in California subject to Section 203 of the Federal Voting Rights Act, a citizen-sponsored initiative must be translated to accommodate non-English speakers within the jurisdiction. Section 203 claims have been asserted in a number of forums against initiative and referendum petitions that are not circulated in the required minority languages in certain California jurisdictions. These Section 203 claims and lower court rulings have relied on the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Padilla v. Lever, 429 F.3d 910 (9th Cir. 2005), which held that recall petitions for a school board member in Orange County must be printed in both English and Spanish.
The Ninth Circuit recently ordered Padilla to be reheard by the entire Ninth Circuit. Unless this en banc court adopts the original ruling of the three-judge panel in Padilla, the decision may not be cited as precedent by or to the Ninth Circuit or by or to any district court of the Ninth Circuit. Consequently, the state of the law regarding the applicability of Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to citizen-sponsored initiatives and referenda is uncertain. Morrison & Foerster will continue to monitor this issue and provide additional client advisories as warranted.
To read our prior legal update, please follow the link below: