SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

Opinion Analysis: Laffitte v. Robert Half International Inc.

Opinion Analysis: Laffitte v. Robert Half International Inc.

On August 11, 2016, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided Laffitte v. Robert Half International, Inc., and, as we predicted, held that when an attorney fee is awarded out of a common fund preserved or recovered by means of litigation, the fee award is not per se unreasonable merely because it is calculated as a percentage of the common fund. Facts The following facts are summarized from the opinion. For additional background, see our argument analysis posted on June 4, 2016. Three related wage-and-hour class-action lawsuits were filed against staffing firm Robert Half and related companies in Los Angeles County...

SCOCA Conference 2017: Save The Date

SCOCA Conference 2017: Save The Date

Mark your calendar! On Friday 13 Jan 2017 the California Constitution Center will present its conference on the California Supreme Court, in partnership with the center’s friends at Hastings Law Journal, the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Institute of Governmental Studies. This year the conference is at Hastings. Registration opens in October.

Postcard From The Ninth Circuit: “Please Help”

Postcard From The Ninth Circuit: “Please Help”

This week an LA Times article described a recurring problem in the relationship between SCOCA and the Ninth Circuit. The issue concerns the brevity of SCOCA orders denying state habeas petitions. When those cases reach the Ninth Circuit, that court must determine the basis for the SCOCA ruling: specifically, whether the petition was denied as untimely. According to the article, SCOCA decides most such petitions “with one-paragraph summary rulings that frustrate federal judges who later are asked to review them.” The issue stems from the SCOTUS decision in Harrington v. Richter (2011) 562 U.S. 86, holding that the prohibition in...

The California Supreme Court Should Consider Using Summary Reversal

The California Supreme Court Should Consider Using Summary Reversal

The California Supreme Court has a problem. There is tension between its mission to give each case due consideration, and the need to keep its docket under control. This piece proposes a possible solution: summary reversal.[1] On average, each year the court considers twenty capital cases, forty related habeas corpus petitions, 5200 petitions for review in civil and criminal matters, and 3400 writ petitions (primarily noncapital habeas corpus petitions). 2013 Court Statistics Report (2013) at 5. Except for oral argument weeks, the justices meet each week in conference to discuss and vote on between 150 and 300 petitions. Goodwin Liu,...

Argument Analysis: Laffitte v. Robert Half International Inc.

Argument Analysis: Laffitte v. Robert Half International Inc.

  Lafitte poses a deceptively simple question, which the California Supreme Court framed as: “Does Serrano v. Priest (1977) permit a trial court to anchor its calculation of a reasonable attorney’s fees award in a class action on a percentage of the common fund recovered?” After nearly forty years of judicial experience reviewing attorney’s fee award requests in light of Serrano, one might think that the question was settled and the answer is “yes.” The appellant, however, hopes to convince the court that the right answer is “no.” Having granted review, we will see if the court can be convinced....

Vergara: Teacher Tenure Is Not Necessarily an Equal Protection Issue

Vergara: Teacher Tenure Is Not Necessarily an Equal Protection Issue

This week a petition for review was filed in Vergara v. State of California (S234741), potentially setting the stage for SCOCA to settle the great matter pending in education law today. The issue in that case is framed as whether teacher tenure violates students’ right to an effective education. As we explain below, that is not the real question, and teacher tenure is only one factor in evaluating an education right claim based on equal protection. The California constitution protects an individual right to an education. As our colleague Anne Gordon explained in her article, California Constitutional Law: The Right...

Opinion Analysis: Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.

Opinion Analysis: Kilby v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.

In response to a request from the Ninth Circuit, the California Supreme Court provided definitive guidelines for interpretation of the “suitable seats” requirement of California’s wage orders. Although not as frequent a subject of litigation as overtime and misclassification, the provision is the subject of several pending class actions, which should benefit from the new decision. The “Suitable Seats” Requirement All but two of the seventeen California Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders contain the following requirement: “(A) All working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats. (B) When...

What if SCOCA Decided to Fund the State Bar with Judicial Branch Fees?

What if SCOCA Decided to Fund the State Bar with Judicial Branch Fees?

In this article we consider a simple separation of powers issue with serious implications: Can the California judicial branch fund the State Bar of California by imposing fees on practitioners?[1] We think this is a problem in two stages. The first question (whether the judiciary can impose such fees) raises one sort of separation of powers issue, and the second (the likely consequences) requires a different analysis. Background The state bar was created by statute in 1927. It received constitutional entity status in 1966, when article 6, section 9 of the California constitution was added: “The State Bar of California is...

Argument Analysis: People v. Franklin

Argument Analysis: People v. Franklin

On March 1, 2016, the California Supreme Court heard argument in People v. Franklin (S217699). Tyris Franklin was convicted of murder at the age of sixteen and sentenced to a mandatory fifty years to life in prison. The briefing in People v. Franklin sought a fundamental change in the sentencing of juveniles tried in adult courts to make parole dates turn on the individual characteristics of the defendant and not on the prison term set by the applicable statute. The March 1 oral argument, however, seemed to suggest that little will change. The issue stems from a 2005 decision by...

U.S. Senate: Be Afraid of State Supreme Courts

U.S. Senate: Be Afraid of State Supreme Courts

President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, for appointment as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Senators who are at all familiar with the system of dual sovereignty created by the U.S. Constitution will move quickly to act on that nomination, because without a full bench the nation’s high court is severely limited in its ability to prevent state supreme court decisions from being the final word. So to all the Federalists in the chamber: fear the state supreme courts. Because unless you act on this...