Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Who Would’ve Thunk It?

The Missouri Court of Appeals Western District just sent out their ruling regarding the proposed human cloning initiative petition. We expected this ruling…even along with the dissenting vote (it was a 2-1 decision—Judges Howard and Holliger with the majority). Judge Smart (what a name for someone who sides with you) wrote a great dissenting opinion that is worth reading. The entire ruling can be read here. Here’s his conclusion:

There is evidence that a significant number of people will be uncertain about what is meant by "human cloning" when they see the ballot title. Of course, newspaper articles and other information sources will help inform some. The Secretary's "fair ballot language summaries" prepared pursuant to section 116.025 (and posted in polling places) should also help,(FN3) but there is no evidence that very many people will see them. Although judicial intervention in the initiative process must be cautiously exercised, I cannot ignore an ambiguity that is easily curable, with minimal intervention, so that it will give voters a summary less likely to prejudice the vote.

The record shows that the ambiguity could be sufficiently cured for voting purposes simply by the addition of a word. I would suggest the word that usually comes up in this context -- the modifier "reproductive," a word used by the MCLC itself in its brochure. I believe the modifier "reproductive" would help alleviate the ambiguity because it would allow the inference that "stem cell research" would include the use of cloning to produce stem cells for research purposes, but not for purposes of trying to create a human version of Dolly, the sheep.

The use of the adjective "reproductive" would allow it to be said that all voters -- whether favoring the viewpoint of the MCLC or the MAHC or having some other viewpoint -- are more likely to cast a free, intelligent, and informed vote -- one not prejudiced by misunderstanding. In my view, the change would achieve a proper balance between constitutional objectives by protecting a citizen's valuable right to place initiatives on the ballot without undue interference, and the right of the voting citizens of this state to have a relatively clear idea as to what they are voting on. Accordingly, while I would not de-certify the summary for petition purposes, I would require the addition of a clarifying adjective to the ballot so that the vote on this important measure better captures the actual desires of the electorate.
So, it’s on to the Supreme Court where we’ll be asking yet once again for some common sense in judicial interpretations. Hopefully, the Supremes (leaning liberal) will surprise us with some good ole’ Missouri legal acumen. Better yet, maybe God will surprise us. We must have His intervention or all is lost.

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