Saturday, June 12, 2010

Walgreen's States Equal Protection Claim

San Francisco prohibits pharmacies such as Walgreen's from selling cigarettes, but not grocery stores or big box stores even if they contain licensed pharmacies. Walgreen's sued contending that this distinction lacked a rational basis. The Superior Court agreed, but the Court of Appeal held that Walgreen's could state a cause of action (here). The court held that the City's rationale for the ordinance--that cigarettes should not be sold in retail establishments such as pharmacies that are identified in the public mind with health--did not apply to chain stores like Walgreen's, that typically sell products that are largely indistinguishable from those sold in grocery stores. The court also held that the city could not defend its disparate treatment of pharmacies and grocery stores by the need to keep supermarkets in San Francisco.

I think this case has a shot at Supreme Court review. The court's opinion is certainly less deferential to the city that courts usually are in evaluating legislation under the rational basis test.

Court Grants Review Of Line-Item Veto Case

The Supreme Court granted review Wednesday in St. John's Well Child and Family Center v. Schwarzenegger. which poses the question of whether the Governor has the power to veto a legislative reduction of a previously-enacted budget appropriation. The Court of Appeal opinion is here. Given the fact that all seven Justices voted to grant, my guess is that they took the case because it's important, not because they necessarily disagreed with the Court of Appeal's opinion. Stayed tuned.

Secret Ballot Not Required In Fee Elections Under Prop. 218

In Greene v. Marin County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (here), the Supreme Court held that a Article II, Section 7, which requires that Article II, Section 7, which provides that "voting shall be secret," does not require a totally secret ballot on fee elections under Prop. 218 (which requires an election on property-related fees except for water, sewer and garbage service). The Court relied on the provision in Article XIII D. Section 6(c), which provides that an agency may adopt procedures for fee elections that are similar to those compelled for assessment elections by Article XIII D, Section 4. Since that provision does not require secret ballots--indeed, it provides for weighted voting that requires that a voter's identity be known--neither does Article XIII D, Section 6(b). Because the agency in this case provided for a high degree of secrecy--ballots could only be inspected after the tabulation and then only by court order--the court found no constitutional violation. However, the court left open the possibility that lesser degree of secrecy might violate the constitution.

Congratulations to Mike Colantuono, who successfully represented the public agency defendant.