SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

In Which We Profile and Analyze the Current SCOCA Justices

In Which We Profile and Analyze the Current SCOCA Justices

Overview Joshua Groban, Governor Jerry Brown’s final appointment to the California Supreme Court, was confirmed today by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. Court watchers will be very curious to see how the new justice develops as an individual and how he interacts with the existing members. To establish a baseline for answering those questions, and to see if a larger dataset changed the results, we decided to expand on our recent analysis. Previously, we tabulated the court’s opinion and vote records during the thirteen months pro tem justices filled the vacant seat. We evaluated the impact those temporary justices had...

Governor Brown Nominates Joshua Groban to SCOCA Seat

Governor Brown Nominates Joshua Groban to SCOCA Seat

The Recorder reports that (after a head-fake to the Court of Appeal) in a surprise announcement Governor Brown has nominated the man in charge of searching for someone to fill Justice Werdegar’s empty seat to himself be that replacement: judicial appointments adviser Joshua Groban. Accordingly, our “days since Justice Werdegar’s retirement” countup clock has stopped at eighteen months.

SCOCA Year in Review 2018: Still Not the Brown Court

SCOCA Year in Review 2018: Still Not the Brown Court

OVERVIEW Ordinarily a court year-in-review article overviews significant cases and any changes in the court’s personnel. Because the California Supreme Court is currently enduring its longest-ever seat vacancy — over thirteen months and counting — we evaluated the impact pro tem justices are having on the court’s voting record. We draw several conclusions: There is a voting record distinction between the senior justices and the justices appointed by Governor Brown; The pro tem justices do not vote in lockstep with the Chief Justice or the majority; Which governor appointed a pro tem justice does not correlate with pro tem voting;...

Proposition 9 and pre-election challenges to ballot initiatives

Proposition 9 and pre-election challenges to ballot initiatives

Overview Proposition 9 (commonly referred to as Three Californias) was a proposed initiative to divide California into three smaller states.[1] The initiative received enough signatures to go on the ballot in November 2018. But in a ruling on a pre-election challenge the California Supreme Court ordered the Secretary of State to remove Proposition 9 from the ballot.[2] Proposition 9 had several flaws that likely would have doomed it in a post-election challenge.[3] But this was a pre-election attack, and courts ordinarily are reluctant to prevent measures from going on the ballot. The court’s order removing Proposition 9 from the ballot...

Opinion Analysis: People v. Buza

Opinion Analysis: People v. Buza

Overview The California Supreme Court’s recent opinion in People v. Buza (S223698) decided the constitutionality of Proposition 69 (the 2004 “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act”) which requires law enforcement officials to collect DNA samples from all persons arrested for a felony offense.[1] The case is significant for both privacy rights and the law of search and seizure. In a sharply divided 4–3 decision the court upheld the act under both the federal and state constitutions. In its decision the California Supreme Court missed a rare opportunity to reassert the independence of the California constitution’s search and seizure...

Announcement: The Concurrence Matrix

Announcement: The Concurrence Matrix

Announcing a new data analytics tool for SCOCA watchers: a justices voting relationship matrix, available here: SCOCA Justices Concurrence Matrix Similar to the SCOTUSblog voting relationships chart on its statistics page (scroll to the bottom), this tool tracks the agreement rate of the justices relative to each other as a percentage value. The methodology is simple: any justice who concurs in the judgment counts as an “agree” in a given case even if that justice writes separately. SCOTUSblog does the same, counting agreement “in full, in part, or in judgment.” You will note that the “KW” values are grayed out....

Balancing Judicial Independence Against Public Confidence

Balancing Judicial Independence Against Public Confidence

Overview The voters delivered a mixed message regarding judicial independence in the June 2018 primary election. The phalanx of coordinated challengers to four sitting San Francisco Superior Court judges were soundly defeated, but Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky was recalled by a large margin. Those ballot box contests were examples of the conflicting public policy values of judicial independence and public confidence. Today we examine that conflict in the judicial discipline context. The competing policy concerns The value-set tradeoff in the judicial discipline context is between judicial independence and public confidence. “An impartial and independent judiciary is indispensable...

Public Officials Do Not Automatically Forfeit Their Offices Under Article XII, Section 7

Public Officials Do Not Automatically Forfeit Their Offices Under Article XII, Section 7

Introduction Article XII, section 7 of California’s constitution provides: “A transportation company may not grant free passes or discounts to anyone holding an office in this State; and the acceptance of a pass or discount by a public officer, other than a Public Utilities Commissioner, shall work a forfeiture of that office.”[1] We conclude that this section should not be taken literally: Article XII, section 7 does not mean that a public official who accepts free or discounted transportation automatically forfeits their office. The section’s history suggests that it was never so intended, and forfeiture of office is a disfavored...

Constitutionally Suspect Special Property Tax Exemptions

Constitutionally Suspect Special Property Tax Exemptions

Constitutionally Suspect Special Property Tax Exemptions by David and Michael Belcher Overview This article outlines the history of specific property tax exemptions in the California constitution, explores the unconstitutionality of such provisions, and considers why these provisions remain in the state constitution. Non-profit colleges in California have been exempt from paying property taxes since Proposition 4 passed in 1914. Previously four institutions—Stanford University, the California School of Mechanical Arts, the California Academy of Sciences, and Cogswell Polytechnical College—were covered by specific constitutional amendments that exempted them from paying property taxes.[1] Although those provisions granted the institutions “special privileges” contrary to...

Opinion Analysis: Briggs v. Brown (2017) Part 3

Opinion Analysis: Briggs v. Brown (2017) Part 3

Overview California is the land of the big issue ballot initiative. But with the attempt to solve big issues through the ballot initiative process come big constitutional problems. Justice Cuéllar’s dissent in Briggs v. Brown addresses a specific problem with Proposition 66: the unconstitutionality of its provision requiring courts to resolve both the direct appeal and habeas corpus petition of a capital case within five years. That dissent raises an important issue concerning big issue ballot initiatives in general: What happens when the central animating provision of a ballot initiative is unconstitutional? What can (or should) the reviewing court do...