Tedards v. Ducey, 022720 FED9, 19-16308
|Opinion Judge:||M. SMITH, CIRCUIT JUDGE|
|Party Name:||William Price Tedards, Jr.; Monica Wnuk; Barry Hess; Lawrence Lilien; Ross Trumble, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Doug Ducey, Governor of Arizona, in his official capacity; Martha McSally, Defendants-Appellees.|
|Attorney:||Michael P. Persoon (argued) and Thomas H. Geoghegan, Despres Schwartz and Geoghegan Ltd., Chicago, Illinois; Michael Kielsky, Udall Shumway, Mesa, Arizona; for Plaintiffs-Appellants. Dominic E. Draye (argued), Greenberg Traurig LLP, Phoenix, Arizona; Anni Lori Foster, General Counsel, Office of t...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: MILAN D. SMITH, JR., ERIC D. MILLER, and DANIEL P. COLLINS, Circuit Judges. COLLINS, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment:|
|Case Date:||February 27, 2020|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit|
Argued and Submitted November 13, 2019 Pasadena, California
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, No. 2:18-cv-04241-DJH Diane J. Humetewa, District Judge, Presiding
Michael P. Persoon (argued) and Thomas H. Geoghegan, Despres Schwartz and Geoghegan Ltd., Chicago, Illinois; Michael Kielsky, Udall Shumway, Mesa, Arizona; for Plaintiffs-Appellants.
Dominic E. Draye (argued), Greenberg Traurig LLP, Phoenix, Arizona; Anni Lori Foster, General Counsel, Office of the Governor, Phoenix, Arizona; Brett W. Johnson and Colin Ahler, Snell & Wilmer LLP, Phoenix, Arizona; James E. Tyrrell III, Venable LLP, Washington, D.C.; for Defendants-Appellees.
Spencer G. Scharff, Scharff PLLC, Phoenix, Arizona, for Amici Curiae Vox Populi Foundation and Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation.
Theresa Amato and Carlton Mosley, Shearman & Sterling LLP, Washington, D.C., for Amici Curiae Professors Erwin Chemerinsky, Helen Hershkoff, Alexander Keyssar, Lawrence Lessig, and Sanford Levinson.
Michael A. Curtis, Law Offices of Michael A. Curtis, Phoenix, Arizona; Robert S. Lynch and Caroline G. Lynch, Robert S. Lynch & Associates, Phoenix, Arizona; for Amici Curiae Irrigation and Electrical Districts' Association of Arizona (IEDA) and Arizona Municipal Power Users' Association (AMPUA).
Before: MILAN D. SMITH, JR., ERIC D. MILLER, and DANIEL P. COLLINS, Circuit Judges.
The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action, brought following the death of Arizona Senator John McCain in 2018, challenging the constitutionality of an Arizona statute that governs appointments and elections in the aftermath of a vacancy in the United States Senate.
Senator McCain died on August 25, 2018, three days before the primary election. Over four years remained in his Senate term. Consistent with the requirements of Arizona Revised Statute § 16-222(D), as amended, Governor Doug Ducey (Republican) issued a writ of election to fill Senator McCain's vacant seat in November 2020, and appointed a temporary Senator until the winner of the November 2020 election assumed office. The panel noted that by that time, Arizona will have had a temporary appointee, currently Senator Martha McSally, chosen by the Governor, for over two years. Plaintiffs, Arizona voters and a would-be Senate candidate, alleged that the November 2020 vacancy election date and the 27-month interim appointment duration violated the time constraints implicit in the Seventeenth Amendment and impermissibly burdened their right to vote, as protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs further challenged Arizona's statutory mandates that the Governor must make a temporary appointment and must choose a member of the same party as the Senator who vacated the office.
The panel noted that in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment fundamentally changed the structure of the national government by providing that United States Senators be "elected by the people." Prior to the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment, the Constitution gave the power of choosing Senators to the state legislatures. The original provision also empowered a State Governor, in the event of a vacancy arising during a legislative recess, to make a "temporary" appointment pending the next legislative session. The Seventeenth Amendment retained this vacancy and appointment provision in modified form, and it is that portion of the Amendment which the panel addressed.
The panel first considered plaintiffs' Seventeenth Amendment challenge to the November 2020 vacancy election date and the 21-month duration of appointed representation. The panel noted that the meaning of the Seventeenth Amendment has seldom been litigated, and no body of doctrine provided robust guidance as to its proper interpretation. The panel therefore used multiple modes of analysis and sources of authority to decipher the Amendment's meaning. The panel concluded that the text of the Seventeenth Amendment conferred some discretion upon the States as to both the timing of an election to fill a vacancy and the duration of an interim appointment, and that the text was ambiguous as to the outer bounds of this discretion. The panel did not find that related constitutional provisions placed any precise temporal limitations upon vacancy elections or appointments under the Seventeenth Amendment. The panel's review of the historical context led it to disfavor any interpretation that permitted excessively long vacancies, but the panel noted that the context did not reveal any precise constraints. The legislative history did not provide a clear view of the textual interpretation possessed by the members of Congress who voted in favor of the Seventeenth Amendment. The state statutes enacted after the Seventeenth Amendment's ratification favored, but did not compel, an interpretation of the Seventeenth Amendment that left States broad discretion to schedule a vacancy election up until the next general election preceded by some reasonable period of time in which to hold the election.
The panel next turned to the four prior cases that have interpreted the Seventeenth Amendment's Vacancy Clause at any length, and concluded that plaintiffs' challenge was foreclosed by binding precedents. Thus, the panel noted that the Supreme Court had spoken to the meaning of the relevant Seventeenth Amendment provisions in two cases. First, the panel noted that in Valenti v. Rockefeller, a three-judge district court, in considering a 29-month Senate seat vacancy following Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, had conducted a detailed analysis of the relevant Seventeenth Amendment provisions in both a majority and a dissenting opinion, and had dismissed plaintiffs' complaints. The Supreme Court then summarily affirmed the majority's dismissal. 292 F.Supp. 851 (W.D.N.Y. 1968), summarily aff'd, 393 U.S. 405 (1969) (per curiam). Second, in Rodriguez v. Popular Democratic Party, the Supreme Court opined on a related constitutional question in part based on a particular interpretation of the result it had summarily affirmed in Valenti, and also endorsed some of the reasoning of the Valenti three-judge district court majority. 457 U.S. 1, 10- 12 (1982). The panel concluded that it was bound by Rodriguez's 29-month interpretation of the binding result of Valenti. The panel further interpreted Rodriguez to endorse only a State's discretion to postpone a vacancy election until a general election.
Turning to the challenged Arizona law, the panel held that the timing provision of A.R.S. § 16-222(D) as applied to the McCain vacancy was a permissible exercise of the State's discretion under the Seventeenth Amendment. Accordingly, neither Governor Ducey's writ of election nor Senator McSally's appointment was a violation thereof. The panel therefore affirmed the district court's dismissal of Counts I and II of plaintiffs' amended complaint to the extent that those counts related to the timing of the vacancy election and the duration of appointed representation under the Seventeenth Amendment.
Addressing plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment challenges, the panel assumed, without deciding, that regulation of the timing of a vacancy election was at least a "burden" for purposes of review under Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428 (1992). However, because the panel held that the Seventeenth Amendment authorized at least as long of an interval before the vacancy election as was challenged here, it concluded that the burden thereby posed was necessarily a "reasonable" one. The panel held that plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege that the timing of the vacancy election was not justified by "important" state interests. Given that the burden of this timing on plaintiffs' right to vote was "reasonable" and "nondiscriminatory," the "important" state interests were sufficient to affirm the dismissal of plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment challenges.
The panel held that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the appointment mandate and same-party restrictions in A.R.S. § 16-222(D). The panel held that given that Arizona's legislature empowered the state governor to make temporary appointments, Governor Ducey unquestionably had the authority to appoint Martha McSally as a temporary replacement for Senator McCain. Plaintiffs alleged no facts rebutting Governor Ducey's statement on appeal that he would have appointed Senator McSally regardless of the requirement that he name an interim Senator and regardless of the requirement that the appointee share Senator McCain's political party. Accordingly, the panel held that plaintiffs suffered no injuries from the appointment of Senator McSally that were fairly traceable to § 16-222(C), and suffered no injury attributable to the mere existence of § 16-222(C) since it had not affected them. This lack of traceability was fatal to standing.
Concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, Judge Collins agreed with the majority that the district court properly dismissed plaintiffs' various constitutional challenges to the Arizona statute governing the filling of senatorial vacancies, but in Judge Collins's view the issues raised in this case could be readily resolved under existing precedent. Judge Collins therefore did not join the analysis as to the meaning of the Seventeenth Amendment in section I(A) of the "Analysis" section of the majority's opinion. Instead, he joined only Parts I(B), II,...
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