Here is what happened:
When Nebraskans for the Death Penalty submitted their signature petitions, they listed, per the statute, the following as “Sponsors”:
Nebraskans for the Death Penalty, Inc.
The lawsuit by the anti-Death Penalty peeps claims that they SHOULD have listed Governor Pete Ricketts as “Sponsor”, because he was an initial organizer and gave lots of money to it.
So why does it make a difference who is listed as a “Sponsor”, as long as people know what the petition does, and can read it, etc?
Well, in 2003 the Nebraska Supreme Court, in the case, Loontjer vs. Robinson, said it does.
In that case, Local Option Gaming (expanded gambling) was an initiative petition that was pursued. And they submitted their signatures.
But upon a challenge, the Nebraska Supreme Court eventually found that the Local Option Gaming Committee did not sufficiently identify the Sponsor of the petition to those who signed it, when they signed it, per the Nebraska statute. The Court said…
“…the provision allows the public and the media to scrutinize the validity and the completeness of any list of sponsors.
Knowing the petition’s sponsor could affect the public’s view about an initiative petition. For example, a petition sponsored by a large casino might have less appeal to some members of the public than a petition sponsored by local citizens.
A sworn list of the sponsors and their street addresses allows the public to make an informed judgment whether to sign the petition.”
In that case, the Court found that since the Local Option Gaming Committee didn’t provide the sworn names and address of anyone at all, the signature petitions were invalid.
However, the Court SPECIFICALLY said…
“(we do not) address whether Schumacher and Kurtenbach were sponsors of the petition.”
So even though the court talked about State Senator Paul Schumacher being the real funder and driver of the petition, they weren’t determining whether he was the true “Sponsor” — whose name should be on the petitions.
Which is the issue in the Death Penalty petition.
So where will the Court come down?
This is a crazy one. The Nebraska Supreme Court in the Loontjer case seemed to make a strong preference for the main funders of a petition — in that case, a large casino — to be listed as a Sponsor. That would seem to fit the facts of the Ricketts involvement.
But note that the court specifically did NOT decide that issue, and that particular case law probably won’t confine them for this matter.
The argument for the Pro-Death Penalty folks will likely be based on the fact that donations — as was the case here — are always coming in, and there is no way to update a potential signer — at the moment he or she is signing — just who has given money, and who hasn’t.
They will also likely note that, unlike a casino which may be backing a Keno petition and wants to stay in the background, Ricketts was always public about his support, and filed with the NADC when he was supposed to.
On the other hand, expect a brooooooooaaaaadddd fishing expedition in the discovery phase to find out just how far Ricketts was involved in the planning — especially vis-a-vis his special assistant who is quasi-public staff member, but has private clients.
Think the OWH will want more information on that angle?
[What I’m waiting for a Legal Eagle to explain to me is, why the anti-forces aren’t arguing that the petition is insufficient because they left off a sworn statement and address for the committee’s co-chairs, Don Stenberg and Beau McCoy. That would seem to be more on point to the Loontjer case. Maybe I’ve missed the data on that.]
From the legal beagles I’ve chatted with (and though a lawyer, I’m certainly no expert in this area of law) they find that this case could go either way.
Each side has a decent argument, though neither is a slam dunk.
While one would expect the court to side with the 166,000 Nebraska citizens who want to vote on the issue, that certainly wasn’t enough to put it on the ballot in the Loontjer case.
The argument that, “Ricketts isn’t doing his duty as Governor if he is a Sponsor” doesn’t seem to be an issue here. I would be surprised if the court even addressed it — except possibly to cite it as a reason why he wasn’t listed as a Sponsor.
But don’t discount the fishing-expedition aspect of all this.
And don’t discount the political considerations of the Supreme Court. They want to stay somewhat friendly with the Governor, and keep their funding levels.
This issue should keep the law schools — and hopefully those in the Legislature who could fix any confusion — talking for a while.
The OWH today talked to former Senator and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about who he likes for President.
For some reason.
Hagel hates nearly all of the GOP candidates — hey where was his opinion on the Democrats who he served with?? — because they don’t want to go along to get along.
Awesome. Thanks for the input.
And then there is this from the former SecDef on those who want full inspections in any deal with Iran:
“You can’t go into a sovereign nation, a sophisticated nation and a big nation like Iran and say, ‘Well, we’re going into all your facilities and your guys are going to have to stay in the parking lot. When we’re finished, we’ll let you know.’ There’s no country that would let you do that.”
Well, ain’t that a corker. (No pun intended.)
Because just a few months ago, he said the following:
“How are you gonna verify, how are you going to ensure that everything that you you’ve agreed to is going to be carried out the way the deal in the agreement was made? How do you do that? Unfettered inspections at all times. And you have access to those facilities. And there are ways to do this…and maybe they can’t get there.”
So which Chuck do we believe?
June 2015 Chuck Hagel who says that in order to verify, the U.S. needs “Unfettered inspections at all times“?
Or September 2015 Chuck Hagel who says that is impossible?
Because it sure seems like those two Chuck Hagels don’t agree with each other.