Category: Uncategorized

Lowering the Voting Age in California: Possible, But Not Without Problems

Lowering the Voting Age in California: Possible, But Not Without Problems

A proposed legislatively-referred amendment to the California constitution (Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10) would lower the voting age from 18 to 17 in California, if it passes the state legislature and is adopted by the electorate. This article considers whether a state has the power to set voting age requirements for its electors, and the effect of federal law. It concludes that California has legal authority to make this change, but there are potential conflicts with federal election law. Steps to Reform Several things need to happen for this proposal to take effect. First, both houses of the state legislature must...

Happy Trails, Justice Werdegar

Happy Trails, Justice Werdegar

Yesterday Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar announced her intent to retire from the California Supreme Court, effective August 31, 2017. We wish her a happy retirement.   Bob Egelko at the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a good overview of Justice Werdegar’s major contributions to the law. So instead of focusing on her substantive legal work, we looked at the effect this retirement will have in the broader context of gubernatorial appointments.   Since 1934, the only way to become a SCOCA justice is to be appointed by a governor and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments; after appointment, justices stand...

Federalism Is Your Friend

Federalism Is Your Friend

Federalism allows state courts to disagree with their federal counterparts. Some say that this principle of state sovereignty is now more important than ever. We say that, as a design feature intended to protect individual liberty, federalism is always important. Today we consider this question: “What can a state high court do when it disagrees with federal precedent?” The answer is always the same: rely on the state constitution as may be appropriate. Overview The federalist design of this country’s system for integrating fifty-one governments is based on the theory that dual sovereignty will better protect individual liberty by empowering...

CalExit: Good Luck With That

CalExit: Good Luck With That

This week some notice has come to a fringe theory that California could and should secede from the United States. We reject both propositions. States Have No Power to Secede The first problem California secessionists face is the absence of any authority for secession. There is no legal basis for a state to secede from the Union. Article 4, section 3 of the U.S. constitution has a procedure for adding new states or subdividing existing states—both require Congress to consent.[1] But there is no procedure, at all, in the federal constitution for a state to secede. And Article 3, section...

What Does California’s Experience with Recall of Judges Teach Us?

What Does California’s Experience with Recall of Judges Teach Us?

Recently there has been much public discussion about whether Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky should be recalled. We thought it would be useful to provide an overview of the facts about judicial recalls in California, their history, and the issues involved. This article takes no position on the merits question of whether Judge Persky should be recalled. The Issues Involved In general, the design of California’s judiciary is influenced by some competing policy alternatives, known as “value sets.” In a value set, favoring one alternative over another reflects a decision to advance a particular policy goal, and one...

Event announcement: SCOCA Historical Society book launch

Event announcement: SCOCA Historical Society book launch

The California Supreme Court Historical Society is hosting an event to celebrate the publication of Constitutional Governance and Judicial Power: The History of the California Supreme Court. The event is Tuesday 15 November, 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. in the Milton Marks Auditorium at 455 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco. 5:00 – 6:00 panel discussion with Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and former Chief Justice George 6:00 – 7:30 reception with drinks and snacks Click here to register!

Why Summary Reversals Are Not The Answer

Why Summary Reversals Are Not The Answer

Several months ago, Brandon Stracener wrote a post suggesting that the California Supreme Court (the “Court”) should use summary reversals instead of granting and transferring or depublishing erroneous Court of Appeal decisions. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s summary reversal procedure and the Ninth Circuit’s use of memorandum dispositions, Mr. Stracener claims that the use of summary reversals will improve efficiency and eliminate miscarriages of justice. Mr. Stracener’s goal is certainly commendable. Procedures that help the Court manage its workload should always be welcome, and errors, as a general principle, should be corrected whenever possible. But the Court is not the...

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...

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...