SCOTUS Gets Busy
Remember when you were in college and you’d pull all nighters to finish all your work just before the end of the semester? Seems like the U.S. Supreme Court works in a similar fashion. The court wraps things up in June (lifetime appointment and summers off – nice) so they crank out a lot of opinions this time of year. Check out this list of opinions. They’ve released more decisions in the last half of June then they did in the entire month of March. And when you’re looking at the list read Doe v. Reed –a case the court decided on June 24. At issue was whether the state of Washington’s public records law that mandated the release of the names of people who signed referendum petitions violated the First Amendment. The Court ruled that it did not. It’s a tough call. The particular referendum issue concerned the subject of same sex marriage. It sought to challenge a Washington law that expanded the rights and responsibilities of domestic partners. And folks that signed the petition feared that they would be subject to “threats, harassment and reprisals.” While noting the First Amendment issue – the right to express one’s self anonymously – the Court felt that the state’s interest in maintaining the integrity of elections justified the public disclosure. Putting aside the underlying politics (if that’s possible) from a public records perspective, it’s good to see the Supreme Court recognize that public disclosure of the names helps serve as a check on the integrity of the process. The Court noted that while the Secretary of State was responsible for verifying the signatures, public participation would enhance the effectiveness of the process. That’s a point that can’t be overemphasized. Public access to government records isn’t about idle curiosity. It’s about accountability. And it’s nice to see the Supreme Court recognize that. Even in the June rush!