List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2011

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2011 measure lawsuits
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By lawsuit type
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See also: 2011 ballot measure litigation


  • The City of Beverly Hills filed a lawsuit on November 24, 2010 against the Beverly Hills Two Hours of Free Parking Initiative, Measure 2P, seeking to have the initiative removed from the March 8, 2011 ballot. A court hearing on the lawsuit took place on January 4, 2011. This resulted in Ann Jones, a judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County removing the initiative from the ballot. In her ruling, Judge Jones said that Measure 2P is "impermissibly vague and clearly invalid."[1][2][3] On January 6, 2011, the California Court of Appeal granted a stay to backers of the initiative. The stay order blocks the ruling of the trial court that removed the measure from the ballot. The stay is temporary ("pending further order of this court").[2]
  • Transport Workers Union Local 250-A, a union that represents about 2,000 muni operators, filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court the first week of March 2011 seeking to nullify parts of San Francisco Proposition G.[5]
  • In April, opponents of Measure BB, the Monterey Park Trash-Hauling Ordinance, filed a lawsuit seeking to have the ballot measure declared null-and-void, after the city's voters had approved it with 71.6% of the vote. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Torribio ruled against the plaintiffs.[6]
  • On May 3, the San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association (SLOPOA) filed a lawsuit against San Luis Obispo saying that when the city council voted to refer two ballot measures to the city's ballot, the council violated "meet and confer" laws. One proposed ballot measure would change the city's rules governing binding arbitration. The other would allow the City Council to reduce employee benefits. The SLOPOA hopes that a result of its lawsuit, a judge will prevent the ballot measures from going to a vote. Christina Dietrick, the city's attorney, said that she was confident that the city had in fact met all its legal obligations. SLOPOA President Matt Blackstone released a statement which said in part, "The conduct of the City of San Luis Obispo is not unlike the scenarios playing out in Wisconsin and many other areas of our country with regard to the collective bargaining process. The meet and confer obligation is at the very heart of this issue. The City Council and city staff cannot ignore this obligation simply because it does not fit within the timeline of the changes the city wishes to implement. The Police Officers Association hopes that the city will enter into constructive discussions on these issues and avoid forcing a premature and costly litigation process to both parties." {See San Luis Obispo County.)[7]
  • On May 6, Ed Hirshberg, George Borikas, Nelco Inc. and Santa Clara Investors II filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court seeking to overturn Alameda Unified School District parcel tax, Measure A (March 2011). Plaintiff Hirshberg said, "Measure A implements the same unfair tax structure as its predecessor. The reason the school district continues to choose this structure in violation of state law is to avoid taking steps toward school reform, pension reform and accountability...Measure A maintains the status quo, which we all know is unsustainable."[8]
  • On June 22, opponents of the San Francisco Circumcision Ban, slated to appear on the November 8, 2011 ballot, filed a lawsuit seeking to have the circumcision ban ballot measure removed from the ballot. Michael Jacobs, the attorney who is representing the plaintiffs, said that the technical basis for the lawsuit is that the State of California prohibits local governments from restricting medical procedures. This lawsuit was successful, and the Circumcision Ban was removed from the ballot.[9]
  • Ni v Slocum: After hearing arguments in May, the California First District Court of Appeals has issued a ruling in Ni v Slocum which prohibits electronic signature collection in California. Verafirma founder Michael Ni filed the suit, challenging San Mateo County's rejection of an electronic signature in favor of Proposition 19. However, in its June 30 decision, the court ruled that the term "affix," as used in California law, implies a physical signature.[10][11][12][13] The full opinion can be found here.
  • Chula Vista sponsor restrictions: Chula Vista Citizens for Jobs and Fair Competition has filed a motion in a federal court, seeking to have two state I&R regulations overturned as unconstitutional. The first, a natural person requirement, prohibits organizations from acting as initiative proponents. The second requires that individual proponents be identified on the petition forms. The group was forced to comply with these regulations when it promoted a measure allowing the city to contract with non-union construction firms. James Bopp, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, argues that these laws run contrary to Supreme Court decisions supporting corporate and anonymous speech.[14] Details and court documents for Chula Vista Citizens, et al. v. Norris, et al. can be found here. (dead link)
  • Removal of Measure J from the ballot in the City of Ventura. Ruling on a lawsuit filed by the City of Ventura, Judge Mark Borrell removed Measure J from the ballot, on the grounds that the veto referendum process should have been used to remove recently-installed parking meters, not the initiative process.[15]
  • Supporters of the San Clemente Playa Del Norte Development at North Beach, Measure A filed a lawsuit after the measure was defeated on March 8, 2011, seeking to have the results of the election thrown out on the grounds that the ballot materials didn't adequately explain what voters would be voting on. The attorney for the plaintiffs specifically argued that the voter information materials and the city attorney's analysis were inaccurate because they included and described the Playa del Norte development proposal. As well, they argued that part of Measure A's language called for voters to vote on specific use permits, and that specific use permits are an administrative decision, and that administrative decisions are prohibited under California law from being taken up in a ballot measure. On July 28, 2011, Judge James Di Cesare ruled against the plaintiffs, saying, "The petition ... is denied...After an election has already taken place, its results may only be challenged on the basis that (1) there has been a violation of California Elections Code ... or (2) if there has been a constitutional violation....Issues raised by petitioners do not amount to constitutional violations."[16]
  • Following through on a lawsuit originally filed in 2008, a San Francisco court in October 2011 invalidated nearly every provision of Proposition M, which voters approved on November 4, 2008.[9]


  • Kerr et al. v. State of Colorado: More than 30 Colorado officials from both political parties have filed suit in federal court, challenging the state's almost 20-year-old Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). The ballot measure, passed in 1992, requires voter approval for tax/revenue increases that exceed a certain limit. This limit is variable and calculated by considering increases in population and the rate of inflation. Opponents charge that the measure is unconstitutionally restrictive since it "deprives the state and its citizens of effective representative democracy." Proponents of the bill expressed strong skepticism about the lawsuit's prospects.[17][18]
    Mesa and El Paso Counties, home to Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, respectively, have officially denounced the lawsuit. While the Mesa County Resolution urges the court to uphold the amendment, the El Paso County Resolution additionally authorizes the County Attorney to intervene in the case. Other Colorado counties are reportedly considering similar resolutions.


  • Wheeling, Illinois library referendum: A hearing was held in May over a successful library funding referendum in Wheeling, IL, a Chicago suburb. Long-time activist Rob Sherman is suing the Indian Trails Public Library and several local officials in an effort to overturn the property tax increase. Sherman and the other four plaintiffs allege that the library spent thousands of public dollars promoting the measure, printing literature and hiring a consulting firm. The library contends that it only provided objective informational materials on the referendum.[19][20]


Mississippi Life Begins at the Moment of Fertilization Initiative (2011)

Two lawsuits were filed pertaining to this measure:

  • On July 15, 2010 Jackson Attorney Robert McDuff filed a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi on behalf of two Lafayette County residents (Deborah Hughes and Cristen Hemmins). In a statement, McDuff said, "This lawsuit is brought to preserve Mississippi's Bill of Rights. This Initiative specifically attempts to modify the Mississippi Bill of Rights by changing the word "person" to include a fertilized egg. Like the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution, the Mississippi constitution states that 'the initiative process shall not be used...for the proposal, modification or repeal of any portion of the bill of rights of this constitution.'" McDuff argued that the change could lead to government interference in the doctor-patient relationship and may lead to numerous lawsuits against physicians. Steve Crampton, an attorney for the Liberty Counsel who helped circulate petitions for the proposed measure, said the McDuffs arguments are "speculative." On October 26, 2010 a Hinds County judge cleared the measure for the 2011 ballot. Judge Malcolm Harrison ruled that the initiative should appear on the ballot because supporters collected the required signatures and the constitution recognizes the right of citizens to change the state constitution.[23][24][25][26][27]
Mississippi Eminent Domain Amendment (2011)
  • It was reported on June 5, 2011 that a lawsuit was filed in Hinds County Circuit Court challenging the ballot measure. The lawsuit was filed against the Mississippi Secretary of State's office by Leland Speed, a Mississippi businessman who is the leader of the Mississippi Development Authority. However, Speed stated that he filed the lawsuit as a private citizen. According to Speed: “This initiative will hurt opportunities for thousands of Mississippians for better jobs and for better lives."[28] Specifically, the lawsuit challenges that the measure is unconstitutional, as Speed argues that it attempts to amend the state's Bill of Rights, which he says cannot be changed by initiative.


Missouri Voter ID Amendment (2012)
  • On July 6, 2011 opponents filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court arguing that the wording of the ballot summary may be misleading. The measure was certified for the ballot on May 9, 2011. According to reports, eight plaintiffs are listed on the lawsuit which include elderly, disabled, immigrant and student voters. Denise Lieberman, a senior attorney for the Advancement Project voting rights group is also involved in the suit, along with attorneys from American Civil Liberties Union chapters in St. Louis and Kansas City and the Washington-based Fair Elections Legal Network.[29]



Ohio Healthcare Amendment, Issue 3 (2011)
  • The group ProgressOhio challenged the petition signatures collected for the Ohio health care measure with the Ohio Supreme Court in hopes of taking the measure off of the ballot. However, on August 12, 2011, the high court ruled that the measure did indeed collect enough valid signatures, and it should stay on the ballot. According to the ruling, ProgressOhio did not provide proof that supporters of the measure failed to collect the required 385,245 signatures needed to make the ballot.


  • Houston charter amendment: On June 17, the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas struck down a Houston referendum banning traffic cameras in the city. The case, City of Houston v American Traffic Solutions, Inc., featured the same camera company involved in Washington's camera referendum lawsuits. However, unlike the Washington lawsuits, the case did not hinge on the ability of voters, via referendum, to cancel the city's contract with ATS, Inc. Instead, the court found that although initiative proponents had crafted the measure as a charter amendment to sidestep the expired deadline for an ordinary referendum, the measure was in reality a referendum and thus was subject to the deadline. An appeal is expected.[31] The full opinion can be found here.


  • I-1183: Two labor unions, the United Food and Commercial Workers and the Teamsters, challenged Washington's 2011 voter-approved liquor privatization initiative. Beside privatizing liquor sales, the unions note that the measure also changed regulations on wine distribution, liquor franchises, and alcohol advertising. This, they argued, violates the state's single-subject rule. They also argued that the changes were designed to benefit the chief backer of the measure, Costco. About 1,000 union workers are expected to lose their current jobs under the plan.[32]
  • In Seattle, the group Let's Move Forward in conjunction with the city attorney, filed a lawsuit to seek to block the Seattle Viaduct Tunnel question from being on the August 16 ballot. The issue went to a King County judge which ruled that a portion of the proposed ordinance could be voted on in a referendum. Those who filed the lawsuit stated that they will likely not seek an appeal of the ruling.

Traffic camera lawsuits

  • Longview referendum: In late May, proponents of a ban on traffic cameras in Longview, WA filed suit against the city for refusing to verify their signature filing. Arguing that the ban was outside the scope of the initiative and referendum process, the city refused to submit the signatures to the county auditor for verification. A few weeks later, the city reversed its decision, allowing the signatures to be tallied. However, initial reports reveal that over half the signatures checked so far are invalid. Although proponents initially filed 3,628 signatures, this figure could drop well below the 2,830 needed to place the referendum on the ballot. Once the final count is published, proponents have a 10-day window to collect additional signatures. Sponsors expressed surprise at the results and plan to collect more signatures. The city maintains that its decision to count the signatures concedes "absolutely nothing" on the legality of the initiative. A hearing will be held on June 27, 2011 in Superior Court to consider the city's request for the measure to be declared invalid.[33][34][35]
  • Wenatchee referendum: On May 20, a Superior Court ruling rejected a local Wenatchee camera referendum, siding with plaintiffs, the City of Wenatchee and American Traffic Solutions Inc. The plaintiffs contended that the city's contract with ATS Inc. could not be voided via referendum (See decision).[36]
  • Mukilteo referendum: Prior to the November election, the City of Mukilteo also attempted to have a similar ban removed from the ballot. The State Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case, and the law remained on the ballot (See decision).[37] Following the court's ruling and the overwhelming passage of the measure, city officials determined that traffic camera laws were not subject to referendum and decided to treat the vote as advisory. Currently, the Mukilteo case is again before the State Supreme Court. Initial reports suggest that the court is sympathetic to the initiative's proponents.[38][39]
  • Potential lawsuits: Proponents of a similar ban in Monroe, WA have had their signatures verified by the local county auditor. The ban now moves to the Monroe City Council which can either adopt the ban or place it on the ballot. It is unclear whether the city will attempt to challenge the validity of the measure. Residents of Bellingham, WA also submitted signatures on a similar measure this week, collecting almost double the required number.[40][41]

See also


  1. Beverly Hills Courier, "City To Sue Itself Over Two Hour Parking," November 27, 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 Beverly Hills Courier, "Two Hour Free Parking Ordered Back On Ballot By Appellate Court," January 7, 2011
  3. Los Angeles Business Journal, "Parking Measure May Return to Ballot," January 7, 2011
  4. San Francisco Chronicle, "Court slaps lawmakers for one-sided measure titles," January 28, 2011
  5. San Francisco Chronicle, "Unions sue over Prop. G," March 9, 2011
  6. Yucca Valley Real Estate, "Judge rejects lawsuit to repeal Monterey Park trash ballot measure," April 28, 2011
  7. San Luis Obispo New Times, "SLO police file suit against SLO City," May 4, 2011
  8. Mercury News, "Alameda: School parcel tax opponents file lawsuit," May 6, 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 Los Angeles Times, "Opponents of proposed circumcision ban file lawsuit to block November initiative," June 22, 2011
  10. Metropolitan News-Enterprise, "C.A. Rejects Bid to Count Online Signature on Initiative Petition," July 5, 2011
  11. Ballot Access News, "California State Court of Appeals Construes Election Code to Bar Electronic Signatures on Petitions," July 1, 2011
  12. Ballot Access News, "Electronic Signatures on Petitions Case Argued in California State Court of Appeals," May 10, 2011
  13. Mercury News, "Attention, voters. You better start practicing your e-signature," May 7, 2010
  14. Bopp, Coleson & Bostrom, "California Group Asks Court to Declare California Ballot Initiative Laws Unconstitutional," Press Release, June 3, 2011
  15. Ventura County Star, "Judge orders parking meters initiative removed from ballot," August 22, 2011
  16. San Clemente Patch, "Judge Denies Effort to Scrap Measure A Results," July 28, 2011
  17. Miami Herald, "Colorado tax-and-spending limits come under fire," May 23, 2011 (dead link)
  18. KWGN, "Kill TABOR, lawmakers say," May 23, 2011 (dead link)
  19. Chicago Tribune, "Activist Rob Sherman sues Indian Trails Public Library over referendum campaign," May 18, 2011
  20. Buffalo Grove Patch, "Sherman Files Library Lawsuit," May 23, 2011
  21. Associated Press, "Mississippi anti-abortion initiative could go to federal court today," February 2, 2010
  22. Personhood Mississippi, "Personhood Mississippi Files Lawsuit for Historic Ballot Access Initiative," February 2, 2010
  23. WJTV, "Controversial Anti-Abortion Initiative On Next Year’s Ballot," October 26, 2010
  24. Clarion Ledger, "Judge OKs Mississippi anti-abortion initiative for '11 ballots," October 26, 2010
  25. Associated Press, "Suit seeks to block Miss. ‘personhood’ initiative," July 16, 2010
  26. One News Now, "Vote on 'personhood' faces challenge," June 19, 2010
  27. WLBT, "Lawsuit filed against state targets "Personhood" initiative," July 15, 2010
  28. Lauren Leader-Call, "Eminent domain amendment attacked in lawsuit," June 5, 2011
  29. Associated Press, "Lawsuit challenges voter ID measure," July 7, 2011
  30., "Trial to begin over changes to Neb. petition rule," Apr 20, 2011 (dead link)
  31. Ballot Access News, "Federal Judge in Texas Invalidates Houston’s Popular Vote to Eliminate Red-Light Cameras," June 23rd, 2011
  32. The Seattle Times, "Unions sue to block liquor initiative from taking effect," December 6, 2011
  33. The Newspaper, "Washington: City Sued for Blocking Anti-Camera Referendum," May 30, 2011
  34. The Daily News, "County auditor to verify signatures on traffic camera petition," June 16, 2011
  35. The Daily News, "Hundreds of traffic camera initiative signatures deemed invalid," June 20, 2011
  36. The Wenatchee World, "Red-light cameras will stand," May 21, 2011
  37. The Newspaper, "Washington Supreme Court: Anti-Traffic Camera Vote Will Happen," September 13, 2010
  38. Seattle Times, "Mukilteo group goes to court over vote on traffic cameras," May 25, 2011
  39. The Newspaper, "Washington Supreme Court Considers Anti-Camera Referendum Battle," May 25, 2011
  40. The Daily Herald, "Monroe traffic-camera initiative gets enough signatures," June 17, 2011
  41. The News Tribune, "Bellingham anti-camera initiative backers submit nearly 7,000 signatures," June 20, 2011