SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

Opinion Analysis: Monterey Peninsula Water Management District v. California Public Utilities Commission

Opinion Analysis: Monterey Peninsula Water Management District v. California Public Utilities Commission

On January 25, 2016, in Monterey Peninsula Water Management District v. California Public Utilities Commission, the California Supreme Court issued its first opinion in over twenty years reviewing a California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) decision. The last time the court spoke on the scope of the CPUC’s jurisdiction—in 1995—it ruled that the CPUC’s otherwise broad authority does not allow it to ignore express statutory directives or other clear restrictions on its authority. Assembly v. Public Utilities Commission (1995) at 103–104. After a long hiatus, the court has again clarified the limitations of the CPUC’s jurisdiction: the CPUC does not have...

Advisory Measures and the Legislature’s Power to Investigate

Advisory Measures and the Legislature’s Power to Investigate

In a recent decision, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. v. Padilla, the California Supreme Court considered the validity of Proposition 49, which would have asked the electorate whether Congress should propose, and the legislature ratify, a federal constitutional amendment overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm. (2010). The court held that the legislature’s investigative power permits it to place advisory measures on the ballot for the electorate’s consideration. For what it’s worth, we concur. The court’s order that the measure be taken off the ballot seemed dramatic enough, as the general rule is that the...

Do felony disenfranchisement laws in California violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Do felony disenfranchisement laws in California violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

I.  Introduction Equal protection is once again the doctrine of the day. It figured prominently in the same-sex marriage cases: a losing argument in SCOCA, and the dispositive principle in SCOTUS. As Anne Gordon noted in her recent post entitled “Is SB 277 a denial of the right to education?,” the pending litigation over school funding (which will be heard before the California Court of Appeal on January 27 and is likely to reach SCOCA) also largely turns on equal protection. And there is another issue on the horizon that might ultimately call for SCOCA resolution: felon disenfranchisement. This post...

California Gets an “F” Grade in Judicial Accountability, and We Have Questions

California Gets an “F” Grade in Judicial Accountability, and We Have Questions

The Center for Public Integrity (“CPI”) conducts periodic evaluations of all three branches of government in each state.[1] In the CPI’s just-published report on California, the state judiciary received an F grade. This is a significant drop from the C-minus California received in 2012, the last time the CPI evaluated the state. But the last three years have seen significant advancements in judicial transparency, as the state judiciary has broadened public access to the branch’s records and the state’s counties have continued to expand online access to court records.[2] So how have things gone from “not great” to “failing” in...

Examining the Ninth Circuit’s View on Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC: An Update on California’s Enforcement of Arbitration Clauses

Examining the Ninth Circuit’s View on Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC: An Update on California’s Enforcement of Arbitration Clauses

In Sakkab v. Luxottica Retail North America, Inc., No. 3:12-cv-00436-GPC-KSC, 2015 WL 5667912 (9th Cir. 2015), the Ninth Circuit held last month in a 2–1 decision that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) does not preempt the California Supreme Court’s decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348, 359 (2014), which held, among other things, that an employer’s arbitration agreement cannot require employees to waive representative claims under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), Cal. Labor Code §§ 2698–2699.5 (2004), as a condition of employment. Because both opinions are extensive and complex—Iskanian’s three opinions total...

Oral Arguments Preview: People v. Safety National Casualty Insurance Co.

Oral Arguments Preview: People v. Safety National Casualty Insurance Co.

Today, the Supreme Court of California will hear oral arguments in People v. Safety National Casualty Insurance Co.  That case involves the interplay between California Penal Code (the “Code”) sections 977 and 1305, and whether a defendant’s failure to appear at a scheduled court proceeding can be the basis for an order of bail forfeiture.  Ultimately, the court’s decision will likely hinge on exactly what constitutes a required hearing, while balancing statutory requirements against criminal defendant’s due process and fair trial rights. Section 977 requires a felony defendant to appear at certain court proceedings unless he or she signs a waiver...

Upcoming Oral Argument:  Can the California Public Utilities Commission Regulate Local Government User Fees through Utility Bills?

Upcoming Oral Argument: Can the California Public Utilities Commission Regulate Local Government User Fees through Utility Bills?

On November 3, 2015, the Supreme Court of California will hear arguments in Monterey Peninsula Water Management District v. CPUC. The case will address whether the California Public Utilities Commission (“CPUC”) has the authority to review and regulate a user fee imposed by a local government entity that is collected through a public utility’s bills to ratepayers. The court’s decision in this case will affect government entities’ autonomy in assessing taxes and fees through utility bills and the CPUC’s power to review and determine whether such taxes are reasonable to ratepayers. The CPUC has the authority to regulate public utility...

Petitions for Review: A Long-Odds Gambit

Petitions for Review: A Long-Odds Gambit

Here we review and analyze the grant rate data for SCOCA review petitions. Our conclusion is that, on average, any given petition has a 4% chance of being granted. The Court’s Role in the California Judiciary We begin with context. The Supreme Court of California is the state’s highest court, and its primary role is to resolve the big questions, settle appellate court splits, and ensure uniformity in the law. California Rules of Court, Rule 8.500(b)(1). Granted, capital cases (discussed below) are an exception to this, but the fact remains that in the majority of the cases SCOCA hears, the...

Stephen Johnson Field: Near-Great Justice, or Near-Greatest Justice?

Stephen Johnson Field: Near-Great Justice, or Near-Greatest Justice?

Let us set the playing field. Stephen Johnson Field is no John Marshall. Nor is he Holmes, nor Brandeis, nor Story. He lacks the weight of Warren, the influence of Black, the force of Rehnquist. We do not argue otherwise. This is our modest proposal: When considering the vast tier of second-rate justices, Justice Field deserves to be at the top.[1] Field set the pace for the also-rans; of those justices whose ideas were discarded, Field’s had the most force. He is the most distinguished of the indistinguishable, as measured by numbers, substance, or more subjective qualifications. David S. Terry,...

A Brief Look at SCOCA’s October Oral Arguments

A Brief Look at SCOCA’s October Oral Arguments

On the calendar for hearing on October 6, 2015: Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association et al. v. Padilla The California legislature passed a bill that would have placed an advisory question, in the form of Proposition 49, on the November 2014 ballot for voters to determine whether to call upon the U.S. Congress to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010). The issue is whether the California legislature had the authority to place a nonbinding measure on the ballot seeking the views of the electorate. The court issued an order to show cause for why the relief prayed for in...