U.S. District Judge Puts Oklahoma’s Question 755 on HoldMelancton Smith • Tuesday November 30, 2010 8:51 AM PDT •
Yesterday, Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange issued a preliminary injunction stopping the Oklahoma State Board of Elections from certifying the election results for State Question 755, which prohibits the state courts from “look[ing] to the legal precepts of other nations and cultures” when deciding a case. Question 755 specifically states that courts “shall not consider international law or Sharia Law.” The relevant case filings can be found here.
The Plaintiff, a Muslim, claims injury because upon certification “Plaintiff is certain that having he knowledge that Oklahoma condemns his faith will cause offense and injury. He anticipates that such official disapproval of his faith will result in a stigma attaching to his person.”
While there will be much debate about whether the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits Question 755, the State characterizes this as simply a choice of law measure that applies to a variety of foreign laws.
Before we get geared up about the First Amendment debate, my bet is that the case will be decided on procedural grounds. Whether one approves or disapproves of Question 755, the Plaintiff must show an actual or imminent injury to have standing to bring the legal action. Courts typically hold that abstract or stigmatic injury does not get a plaintiff across the standing hurdle. Judge Miles-LaGrange’s finding of standing is “aggressive” to say the least. I doubt a court of appeals will ever reach the merits of this case given the standing infirmity.