May 10, 2011

e-Signatures Have Their Day in Court

SAN FRANCISCO'S 1st District Court of Appeal was the scene for today's important hearing on electronic signatures. The case, Ni vs Slocum, is about whether electronic signatures (done on a smartphone, for instance) can be considered valid on California initiative petitions.

The 30 minute hearing saw the three-judge panel ask the lawyers representing each side questions about their pleadings. The court did not deal with technical matters but rather focused their attention on the points law - as it should be.

Overall, it was a fascinating experience sitting in the gallery (as the defendant) listening to the arguments and the conflicting points of view.

Here are some of the questions asked of the petitioner's lawyer by the panel:

- what is the legislative history that supports the petitioner on this matter?

- shouldn't this matter go through the legislative process?

- the governor previously vetoed a bill related to this matter and the Secretary of State says that digital signatures on petitions are not permitted under California law. Are we suppose to disregard all of this?

- aren't you asking the court to legislate this matter? Sure, if this were allowed it might bring more younger people into the process but we aren't arguing that point. We are asking if this is permitted under law?

The court, I am told, normally takes about ninety days to give their opinion in appeal cases. If that's true, we should expect the 1st District's opinion around August 10th. This case might eventually find its way to the California Supreme Court.

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