SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

SCOCA year in review 2020

SCOCA year in review 2020

Overview Let’s first agree that 2020 was terrible: a calamitous presidency, raging wildfires, civil unrest, and a once-in-a-century pandemic. Those combined disasters forced California courts into improvise-and-adapt mode, with the Chief Justice and the Judicial Council exercising emergency powers to keep the courts running. Court appearances shifted to video, trial judges conducted spaced-out-and-masked trials, electronic filings and service became standard procedure, and the California Supreme Court itself held remote argument. The business of the courts and the administration of justice continued. And that difficult evolution mostly happened as things usually do in our state courts: quietly, and with minimal drama....

The Blattner doctrine: resolving nested initiative purposes

The Blattner doctrine: resolving nested initiative purposes

Overview California courts have clarified what subjects the electorate can legislate on, how they may do so, and under what circumstances the legislature can amend initiative statutes. But the courts lack an analysis for divining the electorate’s purpose when an initiative makes changes to an earlier initiative act. This nested initiatives issue recurs frequently, because initiative statutes often amend earlier initiatives, and because most California ballot measures are challenged in court.[1] This article explains how nested initiatives occur, shows why their frequency is likely to increase, and analyzes how one Court of Appeal decision approached nested purposes in Howard Jarvis...

Stop hunting snarks and win elections

Stop hunting snarks and win elections

In the wake of President Trump’s capture of the federal judiciary, and the prospect of an enduring 6–3 conservative majority at the U.S. Supreme Court, liberal voices have proposed several plans to radically revise our system of government. Among these ideas are abolishing the Electoral College, expanding the nation’s high court, and calling a convention to rewrite the federal constitution. All of those options are impractical or undesirable, and creative solutions like this are snark hunts that distract from winning elections. The political process, not judicial intervention, should be the primary means of enacting a policy agenda, because political policy-making...

Opinion Analysis: People v. Liggins (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 55

Opinion Analysis: People v. Liggins (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 55

Overview In August 2020, the Court of Appeal decided People v. Liggins, a criminal case involving a denial of confrontation rights to a defendant in a probation hearing. In ruling that admitting a hearsay statement — under an exception, but without a showing of unavailability or other good cause — violated the probationer’s confrontation right, the opinion departed from the decade-old Court of Appeal precedent established in People v. Stanphill, which held that due process rights are necessarily satisfied if hearsay is admitted under an established exception. And the Stanphill decision appears to conflict with the standard established by the...

Sheriff removal procedures

Sheriff removal procedures

Overview Reforming oversight of California’s sheriffs recently made the news as part of a broader conversation about rethinking law enforcement. In particular, the Los Angeles board of supervisors is considering options to remove Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva. As a charter county, Los Angeles has express constitutional power to amend its charter to provide removal procedures for elected county officers like its sheriff. Charter counties have two primary options for removing their sheriffs: recall by the voters and removal by the county governing body. But because the state constitution requires all sheriffs to be elected, a charter county’s board of...

California and Local Measures on the November Ballot

California and Local Measures on the November Ballot

While the focus in November is on the top of the ticket, Californians will confront a formidable ballot on November 3, 2020. Propositions 15, 19, and 21 will impact California real estate and we include an overview of these propositions below. San Francisco voters have 13 San Francisco propositions to consider in addition to state and federal offices and measures. The local propositions address an array of topics, including governance, affordable housing, taxes, and permits. Some of the key measures impacting San Francisco businesses are summarized below. Except where indicated, the measures require a simple majority vote to pass. California...

Farewell (for now) to the SAT and ACT in UC admissions

Farewell (for now) to the SAT and ACT in UC admissions

Overview In September 2020, an Alameda County judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting University of California undergraduate campuses from accepting SAT or ACT test scores for admissions or financial aid purposes.[1] In a seventeen-page order, Judge Brad Seligman found that the UC’s current “test-optional” policy constituted unlawful discrimination toward persons with disabilities under California’s Education Code and Unruh Civil Rights Act. This article discusses the unique constitutional deference and autonomy the UC system receives, explains why it is still subject to certain legislative regulation, and outlines both the case and possible future developments. Analysis Didn’t the UC system already plan...

State-mandated COVID-19 vaccination is constitutional

State-mandated COVID-19 vaccination is constitutional

Overview Public health experts are concerned that the nation will fail to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 — even after a vaccine becomes available. This is not borrowing trouble: there are already signs that some citizens will refuse inoculations, and states have struggled for years against a public misinformation cabal on vaccines, which has caused resurgent outbreaks of measles and other diseases that only occur when parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Many citizens currently reject even non-invasive disease-fighting techniques like wearing masks in public. Accordingly, it appears certain that at least some will refuse to be inoculated against COVID-19...

How California lives with two legislatures

How California lives with two legislatures

Overview California has two legislative bodies: the electorate and the legislature. Practical experience and separation-of-powers theory teach that two political actors simultaneously wielding the same governmental power is a recipe for disaster. Conflict is inevitable, and the greatest risk is a problem known as cycling: when two actors share a power, policy issues can cycle repeatedly between the actors and never be resolved. In this article we examine how the legislative powers of the California electorate and the legislature interact, and use a current initiative proposal as a practical example to show how the restrictions on the legislature’s ability to...

The proposed Palo Alto wealth tax has many defects

The proposed Palo Alto wealth tax has many defects

Overview In Palo Alto, a man named Kevin Creaven recently published a notice of intent to begin gathering signatures to qualify a local ballot measure titled “The Wealth Tax Initiative.” The proposed measure would “levy a 2% wealth tax on net worth above $50 million, and a 3% wealth tax on net worth above $1 billion dollars; the revenue will be used to provide every permanent resident of [Palo Alto] a one-time payment of $2,500.” This article details the legal issues a court would likely address when reviewing this ballot proposal. We conclude that the measure is vulnerable to multiple...