SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

Event announcement: State v. Local Control at Hastings

Event announcement: State v. Local Control at Hastings

SCOCA Symposium 2020 State and Local Control: California’s Battle Over Housing Thursday January 30, 2020 Hastings Alumni Reception Center Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/scoca-symposium-2020-state-local-control-cas-battle-over-housing-tickets-87740432997 Join Hastings Law Journal for our annual California Supreme Court symposium at UC Hastings College of the Law. Our theme this year is California’s state and local control battle over housing, including bills like SB 35, (proposed) SB 50, and related litigation. The symposium will feature a practitioner panel of attorneys discussing the background and impact of these legislative efforts today, and an academic panel covering the different dimensions of growth and housing in the state. Topics of...

The Attorney General’s Supervisory Power: Theory and Reality

The Attorney General’s Supervisory Power: Theory and Reality

Overview This article explains the legal principles involved in the debate about how much responsibility Senator Kamala Harris deserves for criminal convictions that occurred during her tenure as California’s attorney general. The basic answer is: very little.[1] She and her office were uninvolved in the overwhelming majority of individual trial court convictions that occurred during her tenure, because the attorney general has very little practical or legal responsibility for criminal trial matters. And that office has a statutory duty to defend those convictions on appeal, which may sometimes require taking positions that conflict with an attorney general’s personal policy preferences....

Proposition 13 is broken. Annually reassessing commercial properties will fix it.

Proposition 13 is broken. Annually reassessing commercial properties will fix it.

[Editor’s note: this is part one of a two-part series debating Proposition 13 in light of a possible ballot measure in 2020 to “split the tax roll” by changing the commercial property tax provisions and leaving residential tax assessments as is.] Overview Proposition 13’s promise of helping residential property owners remains unfulfilled 41 years after its passage. By freezing property tax rates on commercial properties, Proposition 13 shifted California’s property tax burden from commercial to residential properties. This has harmed consumers and contributed to tax inequality, while delivering windfalls to corporations. By reinstating annual reassessments on commercial properties, voters could...

Article I, Section 12 — Not Section 28 — Governs Bail in California.

Article I, Section 12 — Not Section 28 — Governs Bail in California.

Overview The California Supreme Court is currently considering how to reconcile the apparent conflict between the California constitution’s two bail provisions: Article I, section 12 and Article I, section 28. Under section 12, bail is an “absolute right” granted to criminal defendants with three narrow exceptions; under section 28, bail is discretionary and public safety is the primary consideration. Because constitutional provisions must be reconciled, the apparent conflict is a false choice: rather than choosing between them, the court is likely to harmonize these sections. When a defendant falls within one of section 12’s narrow exceptions (and so would be...

Municipal taxation is now interesting

Municipal taxation is now interesting

Overview Last week the California Supreme Court decided City and County of San Francisco v. UC Regents (S242835 docket and opinion), and in unanimously ruling for the city the court reshaped the local finance landscape and employed a clear new vision for resolving state–local conflicts. The case involved a mundane matter of whether a city can tax private users of parking lots owned by state universities. The universities argued that, as sovereign state entities, their real property operations could not be taxed by local governments.[1] The city argued that the core municipal taxation power was paramount here, and taxing private...

A Coming Executive Branch Civil War Over the Death Penalty?

A Coming Executive Branch Civil War Over the Death Penalty?

Conflict over the death penalty has driven California politics and law since the 1976 reinstatement of capital punishment by the United States Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia, and reached a peak moment with the 1986 ouster of Chief Justice Rose Bird and two associate justices of the California Supreme Court. In the last decade or so, it appeared that the conflict between pro- and anti-death penalty advocates had settled into a de facto detente. For the pro-death penalty faction, the death penalty remained on the books, with a declining number of death penalty prosecutions emerging from a small number...

A Governor Probably Can Stop Capital Cases by Executive Order

A Governor Probably Can Stop Capital Cases by Executive Order

Overview The New York Times recently reported that Governor Gavin Newsom is “considering several new steps to dismantle the state’s capital punishment system” and “discussing with the attorney general’s office what role the state could play in blocking prosecutions of new death sentences.” The Times quoted experts who argued that a governor lacks authority to order an attorney general or local prosecutors to stop pursuing capital judgments, and that taking cases from local prosecutors would be “unprecedented.”   No California governor has ever tried to direct state prosecutors to this degree. But that does not mean a governor lacks such...

Liberate the capital docket by sending it to the Court of Appeal

Liberate the capital docket by sending it to the Court of Appeal

Overview California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin H. Liu recently wrote that “the promise of justice in our death penalty system is a promise that California has been unable to keep.”[1] He’s right. The state has struggled for decades to resolve the policy debate over capital punishment after the California Supreme Court banned it in 1972.[2] The electorate reinstated capital punishment by passing Proposition 17 in 1972;[3] the legislature re-enacted the death penalty statute in 1977; the electorate expanded its application with Proposition 7 in 1978; and the voters attempted to accelerate executions by enacting Proposition 66 in 2016.[4] After forty...

Cities Can Stem the Tide of Short-Term Coastal Rental Homes

Cities Can Stem the Tide of Short-Term Coastal Rental Homes

Overview The growing popularity of online rental platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway has increased short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods in California, especially along the coast.[1] Short-term rentals can lead to increased noise, trash, disorderly conduct, traffic congestion, and can deplete long-term rental housing in neighborhoods where they exist.[2] The city of Del Mar recently acted on this issue by passing an ordinance restricting short-term rentals in residential areas.[3] The Coastal Commission rejected the ordinance, contending that it impermissibly restricted public access to the coast.[4] Del Mar filed a writ petition to clarify the Coastal Commission’s authority to reject the proposed...

Opinion Analysis: Sierra Club v. City of Fresno S219783

Opinion Analysis: Sierra Club v. City of Fresno S219783

In this recent unanimous opinion (authored by Justice Chin) the California Supreme Court clarified the standard of review for a claim that an Environment Impact Report (EIR) inadequately discusses an issue required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Although this issue and its discussion were framed within the specialized area of CEQA law, the court’s opinion is significant to the appellate standard of review and a court’s role in reviewing expert scientific findings. I had the opportunity to be one of the mock justices in a moot court oral argument presented by the plaintiffs, as part of the California...