Category: Analysis

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...

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...

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...

The California Supreme Court’s Decision In City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey Will Not End City Planning

The California Supreme Court’s Decision In City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey Will Not End City Planning

Overview In City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey, the California Supreme Court granted citizens the right to challenge zoning ordinances by referendum — even though a successful referendum would reject zoning that conformed with an amended general plan and leave inconsistent zoning in place.[1] Bushey resolved a tension between honoring the electorate’s constitutional referendum power and state land use law requiring zoning be consistent with the general plan.[2] The decision held that the referendum power prevails when a government has some other means to achieve consistency between the zoning and the general plan.[3] This changes the law from previous Court...

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 can restrict, but not close its borders.

California can restrict, but not close its borders.

Overview In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, several states have taken steps to limit travel into their states. Governors in Rhode Island, Florida, and Texas implemented interstate travel restrictions. In one instance, a state’s governor considered stopping cars with license plates from a specific state suffering more acutely from COVID-19 than others. Going forward, other states may consider similar measures, especially as some states that have benefited from taking strong measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 face the prospect of exposing their citizens to sources from outside their state. In light of recent discussion about the balance of power...