Finally, the courts give some victories to the people

December 10, 2006

Phil Strickland, The Californian

These last few weeks have been good ones for we the people. One can but hope it stays that way.

In two instances, courts decided that voters can determine the law of the land without interference from the sometimes less-than-judicious judicial system.

First, a week ago Thursday, California's 4th District Court of Appeal essentially ruled that San Diego County Superior Court Judge Patricia Yim Cowett was clueless when she took it upon herself to overturn the will of the more than three-quarters of San Diego voters who approved a proposition designed to keep the Mount Soledad cross standing in the place it has occupied since 1954.

It was Cowett who decided last year that San Diegans should be allowed to vote on Proposition A, but that it must be approved by at least 67 percent of the voters.

Apparently, the judge felt the large majority she required would doom the cross as requested by the atheist who had pursued its destruction since 1989.

Ha! Was she surprised. Surprised, but not undeterred in her attempt to deny the will of the people.

In setting the errant judge straight, the appeals court said "we should proceed with caution when invited to determine the motives of the electors whose votes are cast in the privacy of the ballot boxes. If on review this court ... were to assess and then interpret voters' motives, we seriously risk supplanting our personal views for those of the voting public."

Note to Cowett: That means the people spoke and as much as you may find it distasteful, that's the way it goes.

The second victory for the people came Wednesday when Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt ruled that the challenge led by San Diego County to the state's Compassionate Use Act is baseless.

It was 10 years ago that 55 percent of the voters decided that allowing patients with prescriptions to use medical marijuana was a good thing. Since then, 10 other states have followed California's lead.

Of course, people with apparently nothing better to do than to see to it that suffering people continue to suffer have thrown up every roadblock they could imagine.

In this case, San Diego County argued that a state requirement that counties issue ID cards to medical marijuana users and maintain a registry of applicants would force the county to violate federal law.

In ruling against the county, which was joined in the suit by San Bernardino and Merced counties and supported by Riverside County, the judge wrote: "Requiring the counties to issue identification cards for the purpose of identifying those whom California chooses not to arrest and prosecute for certain activities involving marijuana use does not create a 'positive conflict'" with federal law.

It should be noted that the Riverside County Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal in July passed unanimously by the Planning Commission that would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in certain unincorporated areas of the county.

These cases are not resolved, but these latest developments bode well for supporters of Mount Soledad and medical marijuana. And, more important, the voters.

Now, perhaps, these counties will quit wasting taxpayer money and start putting it to good use.

There must be some issue in which San Diego County can sink its teeth.

Hey, how about illegal immigration? The will of the people, remember?

-- Phil Strickland of Temecula is a regular columnist for The Californian. E-mail:

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