SCOTUS hearing scheduled for R-71 signature privacy case

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February 17, 2010

Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State's office

OLYMPIA, Washington: The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments for the Referendum 71 signature privacy case on Wednesday, April 28, 2010. The case questions whether public release of initiative and referendum petitions should be allowed under the state's Public Records Act.

Protect Marriage Washington, a group in favor of placing the referendum on the ballot, won a ban on the disclosure of the petitions in September but lost the ban in an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, days following the Court of Appeals ruling to release the names, SCOTUS voted 8 to 1 to uphold the ban. In January 2010 the high court agreed to hear the case. According to reports, a ruling by the United States Supreme Court is expected by summertime 2010.[1][2][3]

According to the high court, arguments should revolve around:[4]

  1. Whether the First Amendment right to privacy in political speech, association, and belief requires strict scrutiny when a state compels public release of identifying information about petition signers.
  2. Whether compelled public disclosure of identifying information about petition signers is narrowly tailored to a compelling interest, and whether Petitioners met all the elements required for a preliminary injunction.


  • July 29, 2009: Temporary restraining order issued by Federal Judge Benjamin Settle to halt the public release of a list of those who signed the R-71 petition.
  • September 10, 2009: Federal Judge Benjamin Settle maintained the restraining order on the signatures.
  • September 18, 2009: The state appealed the judge's ruling.
  • January 15, 2010: SCOTUS agrees to hear case

See also

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