Election 2024: Spring Training

As a lifelong baseball fan, when I hear the phrase “Florida and Arizona” my thoughts naturally turn to baseball’s spring training season, where all 30 MLB clubs spend several weeks in one of those two states preparing for the season, in either Florida’s so-called “Grapefruit League” or Arizona’s “Cactus League”.

While spring training is over by April, recent news has linked these two states in a different manner that could have a significant impact on the 2024 election.

In my last post I mentioned two recent SCOFL decisions, one reversing previous precedent to rule that laws banning abortion do not violate the Florida Constitution’s explicit right to privacy, and another allowing a proposed abortion rights amendment to the Florida Constitution to be on the ballot in Florida. This week, it was SCOAZ who joined the fray with its ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Mayes, the upshot of which is that an 1864 territorial statute criminalizing the performance of abortions remains valid law in Arizona.

Reading the opinion, I was struck by the following phrase: “When this litigation was initiated in 1971…” How many lawsuits span over a half-century?!? Forgive me while I go on a tangent to try and explain what happened here…

Way back in 1971, Planned Parenthood had sued the Arizona Attorney General, arguing that the 1864 statute violated both the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions. Planned Parenthood won at the trial court level, but in 1973 lost at the appellate court level. However at that point, SCOTUS issued its decision in Roe v. Wade, which then led the Arizona appellate court to reverse itself, holding the 1864 statute unconstitutional and enjoining its enforcement against healthcare providers.

The 1864 statute remained on the books, however. As a result, after Roe was overturned in 2022 by Dobbs the then-AG of Arizona, a Republican named Brnovich, sought to set aside the injunction against enforcing the 1864 statute. This was successful at the trial court level.

However to complicate matters somewhat, shortly before the 2022 election Arizona had adopted another statute, creating a ban on abortions after 15 weeks (now that Roe was no longer an impediment to such a law). As such at the appellate court level, the question turned to whether/how to harmonize the 2022 statute with the 1864 statute. And to that end, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that a provider performing services that were permissible under the 2022 statute was not in violation of the 1864 statute.

What SCOAZ did this week, on a 4-2 vote, was overturn that appellate court decision, ruling that a service that is not illegal under the 2022 statute viewed in isolation could nonetheless be illegal under the 1864 statute. As such, although SCOAZ has stayed its decision for 14 days, we are currently on a glidepath for Arizona to become a state where the only permissible abortions are those necessary to save the life of the mother (an exception provided in the 1864 statute).

At least, on paper. The “Mayes” in Planned Parenthood v. Mayes is current Arizona AG Kristin Mayes, a Democrat who won an open seat (Brnovich having been term-limited out) in 2022 by the incredibly narrow margin of 49.94%-49.93%, or 280 votes out of 2.5 million. She told NPR that her office will not be enforcing this law, drawing analogies to other ancient laws on the books banning adultery and bigamy that are not being enforced.

Additionally, there was already a group called Arizona for Abortion Access that was organizing to get an abortion rights amendment to the Arizona Constitution on the ballot for this November. Days before the SCOAZ decision came out, the group had announced that they had obtained the requisite number of signatures to get the measure on the ballot.

So, to sum up: It is now looking like the November ballot in both Florida and Arizona will contain abortion rights amendments, in the wake of recent State Supreme Court decisions that restricted abortion rights in those states. Given that Arizona was one of the most closely fought states in the 2020 election, this appears to be good news for not only President Biden but also for the Democrats’ chances to retain Senator Sinema’s seat. The Republican candidate in that election, Kari Lake, is now trying to get Arizona Republicans to repeal the 1864 statute even though in her 2022 gubernatorial race she had expressed support for that statute.

In other news, DJT stock continues to slide, briefly dropping below $30 today before recovering to close around $32.50. That means the price has now halved since it closed above $66 sixteen days ago, on March 27th.

Former Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg pled guilty this week to having committed perjury in the New York v. Trump et al civil trial, and will spend another five months in jail for his troubles.

And, despite multiple unsuccessful legal actions filed by his attorneys this week, Trump’s criminal trial in New York remains on schedule to commence on Monday. Today Judge Merchan denied Trump’s motion to indefinitely adjourn proceedings on the grounds that Trump is prejudiced by the volume of pre-trial publicity, noting that “the situation Defendant finds himself in is not new to him and at least in part of his own doing.” Big trial in N.Y.C. on April 15th. Be there, will be wild!