SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

Mustering the militia is not martial law

Mustering the militia is not martial law

Overview On March 17, Governor Newsom put the California National Guard on alert to assist the state’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This has raised questions about the Guard’s composition, the scope of its authority, and its role — along with concerns about whether the Guard’s activation shows that martial law has taken hold. To be clear: martial law has not been declared, and activating the Guard has little relation to suspending civil authority. Guard call-ups happen frequently in California, and martial law has never been declared in this state. The Guard is being called up to provide disaster...

The Chief Justice’s Order Suspending Jury Trials was Lawful and the Right Call

The Chief Justice’s Order Suspending Jury Trials was Lawful and the Right Call

Overview On March 23, Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye issued a statewide order suspending all civil and criminal jury trials for 60 days to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. That order was necessary and proper. As head of the state Judicial Council, the Chief Justice holds the ultimate power to suspend court operations during a crisis. That authority flows from the judiciary’s inherent power of self-preservation, the constitutional provisions governing court administration, and statutes giving the Chief Justice the power to suspend trials when an epidemic strikes. Suspending all jury trials for 60 days is a difficult decision in response...

The Governor’s Powers Under the Emergency Services Act

The Governor’s Powers Under the Emergency Services Act

Overview The Emergency Services Act gives California’s governor broad emergency authority. Typically, the state constitution requires policy decisions (what we should do going forward) to be made through the deliberative legislative process.[1] But in a crisis, that authority (what we should do right now) may be consolidated and exercised by one executive. After declaring an emergency, a governor may disregard statutory law to direct state resources in responding to the crisis. By granting the governor these powers, the state legislature delegated its power to fix public policy and deploy funds during emergencies. This raises some separation of powers concerns that,...

Parcel taxes are likely unconstitutional. The legislature should fix that.

Parcel taxes are likely unconstitutional. The legislature should fix that.

Overview Local governments have increasingly relied on parcel taxes — taxes on property that are assessed independent of a property’s value — to generate revenue and avoid longstanding tax reform measures like Proposition 13. The California Supreme Court’s recent decision in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland lowered the threshold for voters to pass such taxes, so they are likely to increase. Parcel taxes, however, are legally suspect and largely unregulated: statutes barely mention parcel taxes,[1] and almost no judicial decisions or legal scholarship discuss them.[2] The current unregulated parcel tax system is untenable and requires judicial and legislative...

SCOCA Symposium 2020: California’s Battle Over Housing

SCOCA Symposium 2020: California’s Battle Over Housing

Overview On January 30, Hastings Law Journal hosted a Supreme Court of California symposium at UC Hastings College of the Law on the topic of state and local control over housing in California. The symposium happened to fall the day after the vote on Senate Bill 50 vote (and the day of the vote on reconsideration). SB 50 would have effectively upzoned large swaths of land near transit, and increased density in residential neighborhoods, even when zoned for single family homes. The symposium included a practitioner panel and an academic panel, followed by a keynote address from State Senator Scott...

Justice Chin’s legacy

Justice Chin’s legacy

Overview On January 15, 2020, Justice Ming William Chin — the court’s longest-serving sitting member — announced that he will retire in August. His distinguished, 24-year tenure has spanned three chief justices and five governors. Former Governor Pete Wilson, who appointed Justice Chin to the state high court in 1996, praised him as “a model of judicial excellence.” Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye described Justice Chin as a “valuable mentor” and stated “his loss to this court will be incalculable.” In this article we analyze Justice Chin’s contributions to California law and reflect on his remarkable career. Justice Chin has been a...

SCOCA year in review 2019

SCOCA year in review 2019

Overview The effect a majority of four justices appointed by Governor Jerry Brown might have on the California Supreme Court has been a major question in the past few years. After all, the last time four Brown appointees controlled the court it endured its most chaotic period in the last century. With the fourth Brown appointee (Justice Groban) having completed his first year on the court, we examined the court’s opinions from February 2015 to December 2019 for evidence that such times are upon us again. We found little support for a conclusion that another ultra-partisan-liberal Rose Bird era is...

Event announcement: MLI Symposium 2020

Event announcement: MLI Symposium 2020

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER March 6, 2020 9:00 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. The Bar Association of San Francisco 301 Battery Street, San Francisco, CA 94111 8:30-9:00 Registration 9:00-9:15 Welcome/Opening Remarks 9:15-10:15  The Impact of California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland on Tax Initiatives In 2017, the California Supreme Court issued a 5-2 decision in City of Upland expressing a decision on a narrow issue, that local measures introduced by voter initiative were not required to be presented in a general election, but could be presented in a special election instead. This panel will discuss this decision which sparked a...

Recapping Diversity Summit 2020: The Issues, Solutions, and What’s Next

Recapping Diversity Summit 2020: The Issues, Solutions, and What’s Next

Overview On January 21, I attended “Diversity Summit 2020,” a program convened by the Bar Association of San Francisco, Berkeley Law’s California Constitution Center, and California ChangeLawyers. The conference explored two questions to address the state of diversity in the legal profession: Where are the leaks in the pipeline? And what can we do to fix them? As I recently wrote in the Daily Journal, legal profession surveys show that the profession has a persistent, systemic inclusivity problem. This conference brought together key stakeholders — including California’s Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, leaders from the Bar Association of San Francisco,...

Happy trails, Justice Chin

Happy trails, Justice Chin

Justice Ming W. Chin today announced he will retire from the Supreme Court of California on August 31, 2020 after 25 years on the state high court. He served California well and he will be missed. We wish him a happy retirement. The 2019 SCOCA year in review article currently in the works will feature a retrospective of Justice Chin’s contribution to the court, and some thoughts on what his departure might mean. At the very least it means all eyes in the profession will turn to Governor Gavin Newsom, who now has the first opportunity to appoint a justice in the...