SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

Emergency diploma privileges are not the solution to coronavirus-caused bar exam delays

Emergency diploma privileges are not the solution to coronavirus-caused bar exam delays

As the number of states electing to delay the July bar exam in response to the coronavirus pandemic increases, so too have the calls for state bar associations to waive the exam requirement altogether.[1] Such an “emergency diploma privilege” would allow new graduates to practice law without first passing a state-administered bar examination. As the explanation goes, allowing a law degree to substitute for a bar exam this year would not only resolve current uncertainty over when bar exams can be safely administered (especially in harder-hit states like California and New York), but also allow these new attorneys to offer...

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...

Mustering the militia is not martial law

Mustering the militia is not martial law

Overview On March 17, Governor Newsom put the California National Guard on alert to assist the state’s efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This has raised questions about the Guard’s composition, the scope of its authority, and its role — along with concerns about whether the Guard’s activation shows that martial law has taken hold. To be clear: martial law has not been declared, and activating the Guard has little relation to suspending civil authority. Guard call-ups happen frequently in California, and martial law has never been declared in this state. The Guard is being called up to provide disaster...

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...

The Governor’s Powers Under the Emergency Services Act

The Governor’s Powers Under the Emergency Services Act

Overview The Emergency Services Act gives California’s governor broad emergency authority. Typically, the state constitution requires policy decisions (what we should do going forward) to be made through the deliberative legislative process.[1] But in a crisis, that authority (what we should do right now) may be consolidated and exercised by one executive. After declaring an emergency, a governor may disregard statutory law to direct state resources in responding to the crisis. By granting the governor these powers, the state legislature delegated its power to fix public policy and deploy funds during emergencies. This raises some separation of powers concerns that,...

Parcel taxes are likely unconstitutional. The legislature should fix that.

Parcel taxes are likely unconstitutional. The legislature should fix that.

Overview Local governments have increasingly relied on parcel taxes — taxes on property that are assessed independent of a property’s value — to generate revenue and avoid longstanding tax reform measures like Proposition 13. The California Supreme Court’s recent decision in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland lowered the threshold for voters to pass such taxes, so they are likely to increase. Parcel taxes, however, are legally suspect and largely unregulated: statutes barely mention parcel taxes,[1] and almost no judicial decisions or legal scholarship discuss them.[2] The current unregulated parcel tax system is untenable and requires judicial and legislative...

SCOCA Symposium 2020: California’s Battle Over Housing

SCOCA Symposium 2020: California’s Battle Over Housing

Overview On January 30, Hastings Law Journal hosted a Supreme Court of California symposium at UC Hastings College of the Law on the topic of state and local control over housing in California. The symposium happened to fall the day after the vote on Senate Bill 50 vote (and the day of the vote on reconsideration). SB 50 would have effectively upzoned large swaths of land near transit, and increased density in residential neighborhoods, even when zoned for single family homes. The symposium included a practitioner panel and an academic panel, followed by a keynote address from State Senator Scott...

Justice Chin’s legacy

Justice Chin’s legacy

Overview On January 15, 2020, Justice Ming William Chin — the court’s longest-serving sitting member — announced that he will retire in August. His distinguished, 24-year tenure has spanned three chief justices and five governors. Former Governor Pete Wilson, who appointed Justice Chin to the state high court in 1996, praised him as “a model of judicial excellence.” Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye described Justice Chin as a “valuable mentor” and stated “his loss to this court will be incalculable.” In this article we analyze Justice Chin’s contributions to California law and reflect on his remarkable career. Justice Chin has been a...

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...