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As for Judge Reinhardt, “I think he’s the most frequently reversed judge in the country, so I was actually pretty happy to see him on the panel,” said Mr. Eastman.

Cases in which state officials refuse to defend ballot initiatives approved by the voters are rare. In what may be the most recent example, Wisconsin state Attorney General J.B. Hollen refused to represent the state in defending a voter-approved domestic-partners law in 2009. The governor hired outside counsel to defend the law in his place.