Author: California Constitution Center

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...

California’s quarantine orders need not exempt churches

California’s quarantine orders need not exempt churches

Overview Some churches have resisted California’s quarantine orders, even suing the state for exemptions. These churches argue that the religious liberty guarantees in the federal and state constitutions require California to accommodate them by allowing in-person religious services during the COVID-19 pandemic. That argument lacks merit. The state can limit otherwise sacrosanct constitutional rights when necessary to defend public health. In a pandemic, the federal constitution does not require the government to treat churches differently from other places where people might gather and spread contagion. The California constitution is even more restrictive, and generally prohibits the state from preferring churches...

California’s legislature can — and should — meet remotely

California’s legislature can — and should — meet remotely

Overview On March 16, California’s Senate adopted SR-86 (Atkins), which amends that chamber of the state legislature’s standing rules to permit Senate and committee meetings in an emergency where “one or more Senators participate in the meeting remotely by telephone, teleconference, or other electronic means.” It also permits Senators to participate remotely by electronic means to vote during a rollcall vote. While the federal constitution might bar Congress from adopting remote meeting-and-voting rules, no comparable impediments apply to California’s legislature. The state constitution broadly empowers the legislature to adopt rules for its proceedings. And nothing in California law prohibits the...

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...

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...

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...

Event announcement: Diversity Summit 2020

Event announcement: Diversity Summit 2020

WHEN: Tuesday, January 21, 2020 LOCATION: 301 Battery Street Click here to register! 1:00 — Keynote Speaker Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye 2:00 — Current state of the profession Executive Director Yolanda Jackson (BASF) and Donna Hershkowiz (State Bar of California) will analyze recent data on the profession’s diversity and pipeline programs. 3:00 — Evaluating pipeline programs Executive Director Chris Punongbayan (Changelawyers) and Director of Programs for Academic and Bar Success Sara Berman (AccessLex) will will analyze issues across the legal education continuum from admission to licensure, and make recommendations to increase diverse law school matriculants, graduates, and...

Municipal taxes are (almost) always municipal affairs

Municipal taxes are (almost) always municipal affairs

Overview The California Supreme Court has avoided bright-line rules when analyzing local ordinances under the Article XI, section 5 municipal affairs doctrine.[1] For example, the most recent state high court case on municipal affairs endorsed an interest-balancing approach to determine whether an activity is a matter of local or statewide concern.[2] But while the court disavows a categorical approach, one factor reliably predicts results in municipal affairs decisions: the court rules for the city in nearly every case that concerns local finance, especially taxes. Analysis For this article we reviewed every California Supreme Court municipal affairs case from 1896 to...