The Corner

Law & the Courts

California Assisted-Suicide Law Unconstitutionally Enacted

A California judge has invalidated the state’s assisted-suicide law as unconstitutionally enacted.

Here’s the story. Opponents of assisted suicide had successfully blocked legislation in committee during the regular 2015 session. That was that for the year — until Jerry Brown called a special session to deal with Medicaid financing and related issues.

Sensing an opportunity to pull an end run, the speaker of the Assembly had a new bill introduced to legalize assisted suicide during the special session — which was not germane to the purpose for which the special session had been called.

To ensure it passed, he pulled the “no” votes out of the pertinent committee and stuffed it with known “yes” votes. The thing was then rushed through in two weeks — a dirty deal wholly lacking in honor and circumventing the usual democratic processes. Jerry Brown signed it anyway, saying he might want to to kill himself someday during a final illness.

Life Legal Defense Foundation and others filed suit, claiming that the subject of the special session had nothing to do with assisted suicide, and hence, was wrongfully enacted under the California Constitution. The trial judge agreed. From the L.A. Times story:

Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia said Tuesday that the California Legislature violated the law by passing the End of Life Option Act during a special session dedicated to healthcare issues, according to the plaintiffs in the case as well as advocates for the law . . .

“This ruling affirms that assisted suicide advocates circumvented the legislative process,” Matt Valliere, executive director of the New York-based Patients Rights Action Fund, which opposes legalizing physician-assisted suicide, said in a statement. “It represents a tremendous blow to the assisted suicide legalization movement and puts state legislatures on notice regarding the political trickery of groups like Compassion and Choices.”

Yes. An all too unusual affirmation that the rule of law still matters and that legislative procedures are not mere “technicalities” as Compassion and Choices (formerly, the Hemlock Society) groused  in their instant fund-raising letter after the ruling — but crucial to our system of ordered liberty.

What will happen now? I assume that the ever-more-radical legislature will try and pass a new law, if the current ruling stands on appeal. It would also not surprise me if an appeals court stays the ruling as many judges are results oriented.

But doctors should pause in their lethal prescription writing, at least for now. Moreover,  it allows opponents of assisted suicide the rare opportunity to present their arguments in a media that often ignores or misstates their views.

Finally, this stumble for the suicide forces illustrates that their death agenda isn’t inevitable. Opponents will never stop fighting through every possible peaceful, legal, and democratic process. Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’till it’s over.” As far as we are concerned, it will never be over.

The judge has not yet issued his written ruling. When he does, I will report on it here if there is any news to tell beyond what was reported above.

Me? I’m drinking a toast to Judge Ottolia!

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