SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

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...

Opinion Analysis: People v. Seumanu

Opinion Analysis: People v. Seumanu

Last year a federal district court judge ruled in Jones v. Chappell that the long delays from conviction to execution render California’s death penalty cruel and unusual punishment. An appeal of that ruling is now pending before the Ninth Circuit, with oral arguments scheduled for this coming Monday, August 31. In People v. Seumanu, the California Supreme Court was presented with the first so-called “Jones claim” in a California court—that is, a claim that long delays result in unconstitutionally arbitrary enforcement of capital punishment. (Id. at pp. 91­-92.) In the 2001 case of People v. Anderson, the court had rejected...

Opinion Analysis: Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Company, LLC

Opinion Analysis: Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Company, LLC

The California Supreme Court has continued its dialogue with the U.S. Supreme Court about arbitration agreements in a recent ruling that affirmed the use of California unconscionability law to determine the validity of arbitration agreements, but declined to invalidate the agreement before it. In the course of this years-long dialogue, the California Supreme Court has tended to apply principles of California law to invalidate arbitration provisions, while the U.S. Supreme Court has tended to invoke the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) to uphold arbitration provisions. Prior Decisions Over thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on arbitration imposed...

SCOCA seeks comment

SCOCA seeks comment

The California Supreme Court has released a proposal seeking comment on whether to: (1) amend the rule on publication of appellate opinions to eliminate the automatic depublication of opinions when the Supreme Court grants review; and (2) amend the rule on citation of opinions to address the citation of published appellate opinions while they are under review and following decision on review. The proposal and detailed background materials are available here; click on “Supreme Court” on the Invitation to Comment website.

Opinion Analysis: People v. Banks

Opinion Analysis: People v. Banks

In the 1980s, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two important decisions about whether and when a defendant can get the death penalty for felony murder when the defendant did not personally kill or intend to kill. In Enmund v. Florida (1982), the Court held that a man who served as the getaway driver for a robbery, and who was not present when the unplanned killing occurred, was ineligible for the death penalty. Five years later in Tison v. Arizona (1987), the Court upheld a death sentence for two men who conducted an armed breakout of two convicted murderers after...

Is SB 277 a denial of the right to education?

Is SB 277 a denial of the right to education?

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 277, which requires all children (except for those exempt due to “medical reasons”) to get vaccinated against many common childhood illnesses, including measles, whooping cough, and chicken pox. Opponents of SB 277 were vocal, characterizing their crusade not as a fight against vaccines, but as a fight for parental rights. SB 277 mandates vaccines as a condition for attending school, public or private. Because children who are not vaccinated may not attend school, it raises the question of whether this bill infringes on those children’s right to education under the California Constitution. Education...

Governor Jerry Brown 2.0:  Judicial Appointments, Now New And Improved

Governor Jerry Brown 2.0:  Judicial Appointments, Now New And Improved

In this article we evaluate two points held by today’s conventional wisdom.  One posits that Jerry Brown has, in his second stint as governor, been slow to fill judicial vacancies, and that there is an unusually high number of open judicial seats.  The other is a suspicion that the judicial appointments by Governor Brown version 2.0 will be in the style of Governor Brown version 1.0.  Our evaluation is that both theories are empirically less than true. (Recognizing that the first Governor Brown was Jerry Brown’s father Pat Brown, for convenience we will ignore that fact.) To the first point about...

SCOCA grants review in pivotal anti-SLAPP case

SCOCA grants review in pivotal anti-SLAPP case

On May 13, 2015, the California Supreme Court granted review in Baral v. Schnitt to resolve the divide among lower courts regarding whether anti-SLAPP motions can strike so-called “mixed” causes of action. In 2003, Defendant David Schnitt formed a new business entity, IQ BackOffice (“IQ”). Schnitt operated the company as a single member single manager LLC from its inception until 2010, when the company was put up for sale. In 2005, Plaintiff Robert Baral made an investment in IQ and became an economic interest holder. At Baral’s request, his son was made a bookkeeper at IQ. In preparation for the...

Arbitrators may decide Pitchess motions

Arbitrators may decide Pitchess motions

A recent California Supreme Court decision raises questions about the extent to which nonjudicial officers should decide disclosure questions. In Riverside County Sheriff’s Department v. Stiglitz, the court ruled that an arbitrator deciding an appeal from disciplinary action against a peace officer could inspect confidential personnel records of other peace officers and determine whether they should be disclosed in the arbitration proceeding. The statutes in question establish a qualified privilege for peace officer personnel records and prescribe a procedure for determining whether they should be disclosed, commonly called Pitchess rights. Under the facts of Pitchess v. Superior Court, Peter Pitchess...

Opinion Analysis: Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire District

Opinion Analysis: Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire District

The California Supreme Court has overturned what many had thought was a well-settled rule, and determined that prevailing defendants in cases under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) are not automatically entitled to their costs of suit. Now, defendants must satisfy the Christiansburg standard, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, for recovery of attorney’s fees by prevailing defendants. That standard requires a showing that the action was objectively without foundation when brought, or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so. This has long been the accepted standard for an...