Utah Court Grants Motion To Intervene In Challenge To Official English Referendum
December 28, 2000Washington, DC - December 28, 2000 - The Chairman of U.S. English, the nation's largest non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the unifying and empowering roles of the English language throughout America, praised last week's ruling by a trial judge in Salt Lake City, who has granted intervenor status to Utahns for Official English and two of its individual members, Representative Jordan Tanner and Mr. Frank O. Nishiguchi. In a four page Order, District Court Judge Ronald E. Nehring also granted U.S. English "friend of the court" status: "I am satisfied that this action raises legal issues concerning mattersof considerable public interest. In this setting, the participation of U.S. English is likely to be useful and, accordingly, their appearance as a amicus curiae is appropriate."
The case in Salt Lake City, Anderson v. State of Utah, will decide whether Initiative A on the November 7, 2000, Utah ballot, entitled "English as the Official Language of Utah," will become law. Utahns voted 67% in favor of Initiative A. The same judge who granted intervenor status to Utahns for Official English had issued a temporary restraining order on December 4, 2000, pending a trial that has now been set for January 30, 2001.
As grounds for elevating Utahns for Official English to party status in the ongoing litigation, Judge Nehring cited the fact that Utah Attorney General Jan C. Graham, whose term expires on December 31, 2000, "has filed papers with the court questioning the constitutionality of the initiative." Judge Nehring also cited a statement made by Governor Michael Leavitt's counsel at a recent hearing, that he intends "to take a backseat to the defense of the initiative mounted by the proposed intervenors… I interpret this statement as an expression of less than enthusiastic support for the initiative."
Mauro E. Mujica, Chairman and CEO of U.S. English stated, "It is a constitutional shame that neither the Governor nor the Attorney General of Utah will defend an initiative that the people of Utah have overwhelming enacted, an initiative that is similar to existing laws in more than half of the 50 States." The U.S. Supreme Court may rule on the legality of such laws in an Alabama case to be heard by the high court on January 16, 2001. That case, Alexanderv. Sandoval, involves a 1990 Alabama constitutional amendment, enacted overwhelmingly by popular referendum, requiring state officials "to take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common language of the state of Alabama is preserved and enhanced." U.S. English Chairman Mujica continued, "most, if not all, federal and state agencies customarily communicate only in English; and private employers all across America impose English-Only rules in their workplaces. The only way for an immigrant to profit from everything America has to offer is to learn our common language. The sooner the assimilation, the faster immigrants can empower themselves to function as members of our society. How do I know this? I am also an immigrant. My 'mother tongue' is Spanish. I now speak, think, and live American English."
"Although the question presented to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Alabama case is a narrow issue of statutory interpretation, involving congressional intent behind Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that case could affect the outcome of the trial in Salt Lake City, and otherwise could have far-reaching implications," states Joseph E. Schmitz, Patton Boggs partner and counsel of record for U.S. English. "When the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on January 16, 2001," says Schmitz, "the Justices will know that their ruling may well affect the future of the great American 'melting pot,' the Utah ingredients of which will be on trial two weeks later in Salt Lake City."