Grant Seeks Reversal on Amendment 22 Signatures

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Grant Seeks Reversal on Amendment 22 Signatures

Attorney Paul Grant filed an October petition with the Colorado Supreme Court seeking a reversal of the Court's decision to allow premature signatures collected for what has become Amendment 22, the initiative to expand background checks to private sales at gun shows. The group backing the initiative, Sane Alternatives to the Firearms Epidemic, began collecting signatures for the ballot proposal in May of 2000, even thought the Supreme Court did not render a final ruling on the language of the initiative until July 3, 2000. As of November 2, 2000, Court has made no statement regarding Grant's case, and the Court is not bound to make a decision before the November 7 elections. Below is a statement by Grant followed by the text of Grand's petition.

The Colorado Supreme Court made hash out of existing statutory requirements for initiative petitions in reaching their decision to leave SAFE on the ballot. I don't know whether they realized what they did. I filed a Petition for Rehearing to see if they will restore the law as it has existed for many years.

The statutes they reinterpreted in a manner never before even suggested have been previously interpreted by federal courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court, which interpreted one of those provisions in a decision just last year, in the case of Buckley v. American Constitutional Law Foundation. The Colorado Supreme Court decision effectively ends a decades-long requirement limiting the petition circulation period to six months or less, where no petitioning was allowed until all ballot title challenges were finished. Because SAFE started late, they only had from July 3, 2000 to August 7, 2000 to collect their signatures. The Court decision retroactively wiped out the statutory starting deadline, allowing SAFE to turn in signatures collected in May and June.

Had this been a Douglas Bruce tax-cutting petition, I wonder if it would still be on the ballot. I hope the subject matter of the petition does not affect court rulings, but this ruling worries me.

SUPREME COURT, STATE OF COLORADO

Protestor-Appellant: ARI ARMSTRONG,

v.

Respondent-Appellee: DONETTA DAVIDSON, In Her Official capacity as Secretary of State, and

Intervenors-Respondents-Appellees JOHN F. HEAD and ARNOLD GROSSMAN.

PETITION FOR REHEARING

OPINION BY HOBBS, J.

JUDGMENT AFFIRMED EN BANC

Pursuant to C.A.R. 40(a), Mr. Armstrong hereby submits his Petition for Rehearing. On October 10, 2000 this Court affirmed the district court judgment. Mr. Armstrong submits that the Court overlooked and misapprehended certain points of law.

1. The Court's decision radically transforms initiative law as it will result in the elimination of the six month limitation on gathering petition signatures for citizen initiatives. The sixth month limitation has been part of Colorado law for many years and has even been upheld by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals against a First Amendment challenge. Mr. Armstrong believes the Court may not have noticed that the effect of its reading of the statute is to eliminate from the law this long-observed petition requirement.

2. The Court's opinion did not answer the questions raised by Mr. Armstrong, specifically his question whether the six month circulation period is established in the statute and, if so, when the period begins.

3. The October 10, 2000, decision seems to contradict implications in the unanimous September 11, 2000 decision referred to by Mr. Armstrong in his brief.

4. The Court's decision does not address the statutory construction advanced by Mr. Armstrong, which shows that the Court itself is involved in "fixing and determining" ballot titles. Mr. Armstrong showed that SAFE's proposed interpretation that only the title board fixes and determines titles, which this Court adopted, requires ignoring [certain conflicting] portions of the statute, contrary to the accepted rules of statutory construction. Mr. Armstrong also showed that the statute had been changed after a prior supreme court decision, and that the statutory change in language supported Mr. Armstrong's interpretation of the current statute. The Court may have overlooked that argument.

5. The Court may well have overlooked the confusion and problems which will result if the October 10, 2000 decision stands.

ARGUMENT

C.R.S. 1-40-108 sets out a six month period for filing a petition. This has always been interpreted as also setting out a six month period for collecting signatures. If this statutory provision does not establish a time frame for collecting signatures, then none exists.

C.R.S. 1-40-107(5) says that the time limit for filing a petition described in 1-40-108 (which mentions "fixing and determining titles") does not begin until a final decision concerning the motion is rendered by the title board or the supreme court.

C.R.S. 1-40-107(4) says that any signature collected before a title is finally fixed and determined, as provided for in 1-40-106 and 1-40-107, is of no effect.

The Court's decision states that proponents may begin circulation after the title board's action and before a final decision is rendered by this Court. This will lead to strange results. For instance, had the title board's final action on the petition for rehearing occurred on January 1, 1999, but this Court's decision on the appeal not issued until July 3, 2000 - applying the October 10 decision of this Court - proponents would have had from January 1, 1999 through August 7, 2000 (90 days before the election) to collect their signatures and file their petition. The Court's interpretation would have allowed a 19 month petition circulation period. So why do the statutes place stringent time limits on appeals and urge prompt disposition?

In 1993, the American Constitutional Law Foundation challenged the six month limitation as violating First Amendment protections for political speech, arguing that limiting the time for collecting signatures to six months impermissibly interfered with petition proponents' free speech rights. Colorado defended the six month limitation as a reasonable regulation and the United States District Court and the Tenth Circuit both upheld the six month limitation. The six month window for collecting signatures is "a reasonable window in which proponents must demonstrate support for their causes." ACLF v. Meyer, 120 F.3d 1092, 1098 (10th Cir. 1997).

The United States Supreme Court read C.R.S.  1-40-108 to establish a six month petition circulation period. Buckley v. ACLF, 119 S.Ct. 636, 640 (1999).

This Court's decision throws out the limitation by throwing out the window. The Court's decision also nullifies a portion of C.R.S.  1-40-107(5). That portion of the statute which provides that the period for filing a petition (as described in 1-40-108) shall not begin until a final decision is rendered by the title board or the supreme court now has no meaning and no application. What is the purpose or meaning of a six month filing period if it does not also define the petition circulation period?

The Statutes Are Clear And Don't Support The Court's Reading

1-40-108 makes clear that the six month period for filing a petition begins when a title is fixed and determined.

1-40-107(5) makes clear that the "fixing and determining" of a ballot title includes the decision of the supreme court on appeal of denial of a petition for rehearing. In fact, in limiting the filing period, 1-40-107(5) expressly mentions a final decision on rehearing by the title board or the supreme court, and it simultaneously refers to 1-40-108 - which uses the language "fixed and determined pursuant to the provisions of 1-40-106 and 1-40-107." The limitations in 1-40- 107(5) make unmistakably clear that supreme court review is part of the process of fixing and determining a ballot title.

1-40-107(4) makes clear that signatures collected before a title is finally fixed and determined are null and void.

These three provisions are all consistent with each other when read as Mr. Armstrong reads them. The Court's decision puts them in conflict and requires ignoring portions of them. There is no logic to support the interpretation adopted by the Court. The Court's decision in effect:

eliminates the six month circulation period,

nullifies the language in 1-40-107(5) referring to limitation on the filing period,

renders meaningless the six month limitation on filing petitions,

reads out of the statutes the clear legislative intent that no signatures shall be collected before a ballot title is finally fixed and determined, which time limitation includes the supreme court's decision on appeals of ballot titles.

CONCLUSION

The Court has erred; the petition is insufficient. The district court must be reversed.

Respectfully submitted,

Paul Grant

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