Author: David Aram Kaiser

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...

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...

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

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

Introduction In the November 2016 elections, the California electorate narrowly approved Proposition 66: The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act. Proposition 66 enacted a series of statutory reforms that can be grouped under three general categories: (1) provisions to expedite review in capital appeals and habeas corpus proceedings; (2) provisions governing the confinement of prisoners sentenced to death and the administration of the death penalty; and (3) provisions pertaining to the California Habeas Corpus Resource Center.[1] It was promptly challenged in court, and on August 24, 2017, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion on the challenge in Briggs v....

Opinion Analysis:  People v. Gutierrez (S224724)

Opinion Analysis: People v. Gutierrez (S224724)

The California Supreme Court’s opinion People v. Gutierrez, People v. Ramos, People v. Enriquez (S224724, hereinafter Gutierrez) issued on June 1, 2017,[1] has gained more than the usual media coverage for a criminal case.[2] Long-time SCOCA commentator Gerald Uelman was reported as calling the decision “dynamite” and “a profound change.”[3] In Gutierrez, the Court reversed a criminal conviction because it concluded that the prosecutor had excluded a prospective Hispanic juror because of her ethnicity, in violation of People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258 (Wheeler)[4] and Batson v. Kentucky (1986) 476 U.S. 79 (Batson).[5] In reviewing a Batson/Wheeler issue, appellate...