Chief Justice and may it please the Court:
With further apologies for the delay, I submit the following amicus brief for the Court’s consideration. After attempting and failing to draft a succinct general summary, I found it most efficient to simply address each question in turn.
- If the Council on Regional Security rescinds an emergency Prime Ministerial appointment to the Citizenship Committee pursuant to Citizenship Act. 1.(4), does the CRS’s decision apply retrospectively, such that legally it is as if the emergency Citizenship Committee member were never appointed, or does the CRS’s decision apply prospectively only, removing the emergency member from the Citizenship Committee as of the date of the CRS decision?
The CRS’s decision applies retrospectively, such that legally it is as if the emergency Citizenship Committee member was never appointed. Text, structure, and precedent all support this interpretation.
I begin with the text. The Citizenship Act provides that “[t]he Council on Regional Security may, on security grounds only, rescind the Prime Minister’s [emergency] appointment [to the Citizenship Committee].” Citizenship Act, 1(4) (emphasis added). The key word in this provision is “rescind.” That word was chosen carefully; indeed, this sub-section of the Citizenship Act is the only place it appears in our constitutional law. When a legal order is rescinded, it is rendered void ab initio, as if it were never made in the first place. Thus, the legal effect of a CRS decision to rescind the Prime Minister’s emergency appointment is to render that purported appointment void, meaning that the Citizenship Committee member was never lawfully appointed to the Committee.
This textual inference is bolstered when the CRS rescission clause is compared with the other sub-section of the Citizenship Act that provides for removal of Citizenship Committee members. That sub-section specifies that a “member of the Citizenship Committee is removed from the committee if the member” resigns, loses citizenship, or is recalled by the Assembly. Citizenship Act 1(3) (emphasis added). The differences in this provision’s language and focus are telling. First, it refers to a Citizenship Committee member being “removed” from office, suggesting that they actually took up that office; one cannot be removed from an office that one never held. Second, this sub-section is focused on a Citizenship Committee member’s status as a member of the Committee, whereas the CRS rescission provision targets the Prime Minister’s initial appointment of an emergency member. Taken together, these distinctions suggest that the removal sub-section is designed to enumerate the ways in which a Citizenship Committee member could be removed from an office in which they were lawfully serving, while the CRS rescission provision is designed to prevent them from taking office in the first place.
The structure of the overall emergency Citizenship Committee provision compels the same conclusion. An emergency Citizenship Committee member’s tenure in office is carefully delimited: it lasts only “until the Prime Minister rescinds the appointment or until one week after a regular committee member is available, whichever happens sooner.” Citizenship Act 1(4). Given that an emergency member is likely to serve only a short stint on the Committee, it would make little sense for the CRS to be limited to removing them prospectively. By the time the CRS identified the security threat posed by the emergency member, convened, and decided to rescind their appointment, it is likely that the emergency member would already be on their way out of office. And they almost certainly would have already undertaken whatever actions they planned to undermine regional security. Thus, reading the CRS rescission clause to authorize only prospective removal of an emergency Citizenship Committee member would render that provision ineffective.
Finally, a brief word on precedent. As discussed further below, this Court has been prudently cautious in its approach to citizenship matters, often preferring to read legislation as preserving individuals’ citizenship status. But where regional security is at stake, the Court has taken a more deferential approach, permitting government officials broader latitude in making citizenship decisions. See, e.g., In re Security Threat, 1511.HQ; In re Citizenship and the Bill of Rights, 1524.HQ. The same interpretive principle should apply here. Thus, should the Court harbor any doubts as to the correct reading of the CRS rsecission principle, it should err on the side of maximizing the government’s ability to respond to emerging security threats.
- If the CRS’s decision applies retrospectively, are all official actions taken by the emergency Citizenship Committee member while in office rendered null and void as of the date of the CRS decision to rescind their appointment?
Yes. If the Court accepts my argument with respect to the first question, then the answer to this question should be clear and requires little elaboration. When the CRS rescinds the Prime Minister’s appointment of an emergency Citizenship Committee member, it means that individual never actually became a member of the Citizenship Committee. Thus, they were never lawfully authorized to exercise the powers vested in Citizenship Committee members. Any purported attempts to do so would be purely ultra vires and of no legal effect.
- If so, do all citizens whose citizenship applications were approved as a result of the emergency Citizenship Committee member’s membership on the Committee automatically lose citizenship status?
Not quite, although the ultimate result will be the same. This somewhat confusing conclusion is the result of the inarticulate way in which this question was drafted, for which the petitioner apologizes. To be very precise, individuals whose citizenship applications were approved by the emergency Citizenship Committee member do not lose citizenship when the CRS rescinds the Prime Minister’s appointment of the emergency member. Instead, the CRS decision means that, as a legal matter, such individuals never became citizens in the first place. Obviously, there is no way for them to “lose” citizenship that they never had, hence why this question was poorly worded.
This conclusion follows from the answers to the first two questions. When the CRS rescinds the Prime Minister’s appointment, it is legally as if the emergency member was never appointed to the Citizenship Committee. Any actions they took in execution of that office were therefore without legal effect, including approving citizenship applications. Thus, anyone whose citizenship applications they purported to approve never lawfully became a citizen at all.
- If so, does that invalidate the results of any election in which such citizens cast decisive votes?
Possibly—it depends on the timing of the CRS action in relation to the election. As this Court has repeatedly recognized, it would be neither wise nor desirable to allow elections or Assembly votes to be regularly overturned or called into question because of subsequent changes to voters’ eligibility. See, e.g., In re Retroactive Vote Changes on Legislator Removals, 1715.HQ; In re Who Determines Citizenship, 1517.HQ; In re When is Citizenship Lost, 1515.HQ. Indeed, our “government was established in such a way that its operation is logical and practicable,” and a “system in which votes are routinely removed from the record would . . . be contrary to the logical goal of predictable and understandable government.” In re Retroactive Vote Changes on Legislator Removals, 1715.HQ.
Thankfully, our constitutional law provides a mechanism by which these concerns with finality and predictability can be reconciled with the important security interests underlying the CRS’s authority to rescind emergency Citizenship Committee appointments. The Elections Act contemplates that “election-related disputes” may arise in the course of an election, and it authorizes the Election Commissioner to “arbitrate” those disputes. Elections Act 1(5). The Act prohibits the Commissioner from “finaliz[ing] any election until all disputes have been settled.” Id. But it also requires the Commissioner to act with dispatch—“any and all election-related disputes must be settled” by the first of the month in which the Prime Minister elect is to take office. Elections Act. 4(2). Once any outstanding disputes are settled, the election is finalized and beyond further question, even if irregularities are subsequently discovered.
A claim that certain voters were ineligible is an “election-related dispute.” Thus, if the CRS rescinds the Prime Minister’s emergency appointment to the Citizenship Committee either during the election or during the period in which election-related disputes can be raised, then the votes of individuals whose citizenship applications were approved by the emergency member should be invalidated. But if the CRS acts after the dispute period has ended, then the finalized election results will not be affected. Should the Assembly wish to remove the newly installed Prime Minister for their having appointed a security threat to the Citizenship Committee at that point, then it must resort to a recall or vote of no confidence.
This conclusion is not inconsistent with this Court’s “automatic removal” precedents. In those cases, this Court held that votes must be counted where they were cast in good faith by citizens or legislators who were in full possession of the necessary status at the time they voted, even if those voters were no longer technically eligible and could have had their status removed by a relevant official. See In re Retroactive Vote Changes on Legislator Removals, 1715.HQ; In re Who Determines Citizenship, 1517.HQ; In re When is Citizenship Lost, 1515.HQ. Importantly, in each of these cases, the voter had lawfully obtained the relevant status to vote, and the question presented was when they lost that status, either automatically upon their no longer meeting the applicable requirements or only upon manual removal by a responsible official. As the Court made pellucid, “a vote that has been validly cast cannot be retroactively invalidated, unless the individual was never a legislator in the first place, and therefore ineligible to cast any votes whatsoever.” In re Retroactive Vote Changes on Legislator Removals, 1715.HQ (emphasis added). Replace the word “legislator” with “citizen,” and that situation is precisely the one presented here. Individuals granted citizenship by an emergency Citizenship Committee member whose appointment was rescinded never became citizens in the first place and were ineligible to cast any votes whatsoever.