A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit against California Secretary of State Alex Padilla that was filed last year by the Citizens for Fair Representation, a group affiliated with the State of Jefferson separatist movement.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller issued an order on Nov. 28 dismissing the group’s civil complaint that alleges the population of the state’s legislative districts is too large and disenfranchises certain citizens, particularly ethnic minorities, poor people and those who live in rural areas.
“Institutional tyranny was declared lawful last week,” stated Mark Baird, spokesman of the Citizens for Fair Representation and one of the leaders of the modern State of Jefferson movement, in a press release on Dec. 5.
The lawsuit was born out of the desire by State of Jefferson supporters in 23 northern and central California counties to form a separate state, an idea that previously gained traction in the early 20th century before World War II.
Dave Titchenal, president of the Tuolumne County State of Jefferson chapter, said supporters were not surprised by Mueller’s ruling and plan to appeal the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Titchenal said supporters are energized by Republican President Donald Trump’s judicial appointments to the Ninth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court, whom they hope will rule in their favor.
“That could help us in getting a fair shake,” he said in an interview on Monday.
Mueller ruled that the alleged grievance brought by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit was “too generalized to establish standing to sue in federal court” and would require the court to take action on political questions that should be resolved through the state Legislature.
At the center of the lawsuit is a law passed by the Legislature in 1879 that capped the number of seats at 80 in the Assembly and 40 in the State Senate, when the state’s population was about 400,000.
With the number of people in the state expected to hit 40 million next year, the population is about 1 million in each State Senate district and 500,000 in each Assembly district.
Titchenal said the group has worked over the past year to identify certain classes of people they believe are harmed by the legislative cap, after Mueller dismissed its original complaint over the same issue
The second amended complaint filed in March added plaintiffs representing different racial minorities who alleged the legislative cap was intended to systematically promote the “white man’s interests” by diluting the political power of non-white people.
Other groups identified in the complaint as being harmed by the large legislative districts were “members of minority political parties, residents of rural areas with sparse populations, Native American tribes and their members, and rural municipalities, as well as Californians who are not wealthy and lack effective access to the political elites that dominate the legislature.”
While many of the counties that are part of the would-be State of Jefferson are predominantly white, which Titchenal attributed to minorities moving to rural areas in lesser numbers, he said they were equally disenfranchised.
“We’ve had a lot of people moving out of the urban areas and escaping, but we’re about as white as it gets,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re harmed any less than any other class by representation.”
Mueller, however, ruled that the group’s definition of harmed classes was too broad and applied to “virtually all Californians.”
“To establish standing to sue, plaintiffs must allege an injury particularized to each plaintiff or each group of plaintiffs; the injury cannot be a general grievance,” she wrote, citing U.S. case law to support her determination.
Citizens for Fair Representation argued early in the case that the lawsuit should be heard by a three-judge panel, which Mueller agreed to do last year before reversing her decision a short time later.
The group challenged Mueller’s reversal to the U.S. Supreme Court in July, which declined to hear the case on Oct. 1.
Titchenal said the group is planning to file an appeal to Mueller’s dismissal of the lawsuit sometime in the next month.
Meanwhile, they are going to continue as if they will ultimately prevail and be allowed to form their own state by holding conventions in the coming months to draft a constitution.
“We are undeterred,” he said.
The Supreme Court couldn’t grant them the right to form their own state, but could side with their argument over representation and order the state to work on a remedy for their grievance, one of which could be to split up the state.
Although the State of Jefferson supporters believe forming a new state is the best solution, Titchenal suggested that one alternative could be increasing the number of representatives in the Assembly and apportioning one state senator for each of the 58 counties.
“We need a federal model of government where the senators represent the counties and Assembly represents the population,” he said. “With 36 rural counties, we would have a good voice to stand up to what comes out of the Assembly.”
Contact Alex MacLean at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4530.