Within minutes of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Prop 8, supporters of the initiative process expressed worry that the process had been weakened by the court’s decision that Prop 8’s sponsors lacked standing to bring a case.

I’ve just finished reading the ruling and dissents, and it’s clear that worry is overblown. The court’s message, if it could be distilled to a sentence is this: California, please keep your crazy initiative business out of the federal courts.

The ruling explicitly states that initiative sponsors retain the right to defend their initiatives – but they can do so only in the California courts. The court says that the state of California can’t decide for the federal courts who has standing, and that there is no precedent for allowing initiative official proponents to defend initiatives in the federal courts.

Here’s the key paragraph from the ruling:

The Court does not question California’s sovereign right to maintain an initiative process, or the right of initiative proponents to defend their initiatives in California courts. But standing in federal court is a question of federal law, not state law. No matter its rea­sons, the fact that a State thinks a private party should have stand­ing to seek relief for a generalized grievance cannot override this Court’s settled law to the contrary. Article III’s requirement that a party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court seek relief for a per­sonal, particularized injury serves vital interests going to the role of the Judiciary in the federal system of separated powers. States can­not alter that role simply by issuing to private parties who otherwise lack standing a ticket to the federal courthouse.

This is wise. As the court points out, initiative proponents are unaccountable and not elected by the public. By what right should they be able to represent the public? Initiative proponents often act like they own initiatives – but they don’t. And it should be plain that these are not franchises, but laws and constitutional amendments, that aren’t owned, for better and for worse, by us all. The people we elect should represent us on these questions – or not. And if they choose not to, they should have to explain themselves – and suffer the democratic consequences.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into the ruling, but I also detected the following attitude in the ruling. And that attitude is this: California, you’ve chosen to have an initiative process unlike any other. So why don’t you handle the consequences of that yourselves. Please keep your crazy mess in California, and keep it out of our federal courts.