Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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In 1988, when he was 17 years old, Palmer pled guilty to kidnapping for robbery. Sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, Palmer has appeared before the Board of Parole Hearings 10 times, without success. In 2015, the Board deferred Palmer’s next hearing for five years. Palmer requested reconsideration, arguing that the Board had wrongfully refused to set his base term and an adjusted base term and failed to give “great weight” to the statutory youth offender factors: “the diminished culpability of youth as compared to that of adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity,” Pen. Code 3051(f)(1), 4801(c). The Board denied Palmer’s request, stating that appropriate weight had been given to the youth offender factors and that it would address the base term issue. No response was forthcoming. The court of appeal issued an order; the Board calculated Palmer’s base and adjusted base terms. In the meantime, the California Supreme Court relieved the Board of its obligations to calculate base terms and adjusted base terms and vacated the court of appeal’s determination with respect to Palmer. The court of appeal then held that Palmer is entitled to a new hearing due to the Board's failure to comply with a statutory mandate to give “great weight” to factors related to Palmer having been a minor when he committed his crime. View "In re Palmer" on Justia Law

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The subject of four 2014 juvenile petitions, G.C., claimed that the juvenile court erroneously failed to expressly declare her three 2014 Vehicle Code section 10851 violations for driving or taking a vehicle to be either felonies or misdemeanors. The dispositional order for the three 2014 section 10851 offenses was entered on November 19, 2015. G.C.’s notice of appeal was filed on February 1, 2016. The court of appeal dismissed that notice of appeal as untimely. G.C. raised no issues as to any other orders. The court published its opinion to express disagreement with the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s decision in In re Ramon M. which held that a failure to make an express declaration may be challenged in an appeal from a subsequent dispositional order. “The California Supreme Court has “steadfastly adhered to the fundamental precept that the timely filing of an appropriate notice of appeal or its legal equivalent is an absolute prerequisite to the exercise of appellate jurisdiction.” View "In re G.C." on Justia Law

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In 2017, the Public Guardian sought to establish a conservatorship of the person for Minor, age 16, who was admitted to John Muir Behavioral Health Center. Minor had been placed in the care of Alameda County’s Child Protective Services (CPS) over a year earlier and suffered multiple involuntary hospitalizations. She presented at John Muir “with suicidal ideation and poor impulse control.” The court appointed the Public Guardian as Minor’s temporary conservator. Trial testimony indicated that Minor suffered from PTSD, heard voices telling her she had no reason to live, had threatened to smother her roommate, engaged in “superficial self-injury,” and missed a lot of school. The court of appeal affirmed the order appointing the Public Guardian as the conservator of her person under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, Welf. & Inst. Code, 5000, rejecting arguments that the conservatorship investigator failed to conduct an investigation of all available alternatives to conservatorship; that the Public Guardian failed to prove she was gravely disabled; and that there was insufficient evidence to support her placement. There was sufficient evidence to support a finding of “grave disability” and that the placement was not more restrictive than necessary. View "Conservatorship of M.B." on Justia Law

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Defendant Richard Carter claimed cruel and unusual punishment in his sentence of 55 years to life in prison for a second-degree murder he committed at age 17, with personal use and discharge of a firearm causing death, possession of a firearm by a felon, and a prior strike conviction for robbery. The Attorney General acknowledged this sentence was the functional equivalent of a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole (LWOP). To address defendant’s cruel and unusual punishment claim in the trial court, the trial court considered defendant’s youth in the context of considering whether to strike the prior conviction for purposes of three-strikes sentencing in furtherance of the interests of justice under Penal Code section 1385 and California v. Superior Court, 13 Cal.4th 497 (1996). This would have reduced the sentence to 40 years to life in prison. The trial court considered defendant’s youth but declined to strike the prior conviction, finding that although defendant was able to change, he was unwilling to do so. While this case was pending on appeal, the California Supreme Court held that a statute giving trial courts discretion to impose a sentence less than LWOP on a juvenile who commits special circumstance murder (Penal Code section 190.5) must be construed without a presumption in favor of LWOP (as previously construed by case law), in order that the statute not violate the Eighth Amendment. Other recent changes in law demand that the Court of Appeal not only vacate the sentence, but also conditionally reverse the conviction and remand to the trial court with directions to transfer the case to the juvenile court for a transfer hearing to determine the propriety of prosecution in adult criminal court had the case originally been filed in juvenile court. The Court so vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Carter" on Justia Law

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Nineteen-year-old M.W. was a nonminor dependent of the court until it terminated dependency jurisdiction over him in August 2017. One of the acceptable living arrangements for nonminor dependents was a “‘[s]upervised independent living placement’” (SILP). The court terminated dependency jurisdiction over M.W. because he had moved in with a former foster mother, and the court believed a former caregiver’s home could not qualify as a SILP. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court erred: "Nothing in the law disqualifies a former caregiver’s home as a SILP. Even the document on which plaintiff and respondent, San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS), relied for its argument—a form developed by the California Department of Social Services—does not disqualify a former caregiver’s home." The Court determined the error was prejudicial to M.W. and therefore reversed and remanded for the trial court to consider whether to retain or terminate dependency jurisdiction. View "In re M.W." on Justia Law

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Defendant Tom Phung was 17 years old when he and fellow Tiny Rascal Gang (TRG) members, riding in about five cars, chased a fleeing vehicle containing eight rival gang members. A TRG member two cars ahead shot and killed one rival and seriously wounded a second. A jury convicted defendant, as an aider and abettor, of the lesser included crime of second degree murder (count 1), attempted murder (count 2), shooting at an occupied motor vehicle (count 3), and street terrorism (count 4). With respect to the first three crimes, the jury found true the allegations that defendant committed them for the benefit of a criminal street gang, and vicariously discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury and death. Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate state prison term of 40 years to life. While defendant's appeal was pending, the electorate passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, which went into effect in November 2016. In March 2017, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion affirming the judgment against defendant. Defendant petitioned for review before the California Supreme Court. While that petition was pending, another panel of the Court of Appeal issued an opinion holding Proposition 57 operated retroactively under the rule announced in In re Estrada, 63 Cal.2d 740 (1965). Defendant’s counsel, however, was unaware of the filing of the concurrent appellate opinion, and did not raise the issue before the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied review, following which the Court of Appeal issued a remittitur. Defendant moved to recall the remittitur on the ground that his counsel had provided ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to raise the retroactivity of Proposition 57 to his own case. Defendant’s counsel admitted the error. The motion was granted, the remittitur recalled, and supplemental briefing was ordered. The Court of Appeal ultimately affirmed defendant's conviction, but concluded Proposition 57 applied retroactively to defendant. Therefore, the Court reversed and remanded this case for a transfer hearing and resentencing. View "California v. Phung" on Justia Law

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Minor A.R. (the Minor) challenged a dispositional order committing him to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (hereafter, DJJ). At the time of the disposition hearing, the Minor was 18 years old. His history with the juvenile justice system began when he was 13 years old, and a petition was first filed against him. In 2012, he admitted two counts of residential burglary. and was declared a ward. Since then, he would be charged with various property crimes, culminating with burglary, robbery and use of a deadly weapon. He admitted to several probation violations, leading to the commitment order at issue here. The Minor argued the juvenile court abused its discretion in committing him to DJJ, on the grounds there was no substantial evidence that a less restrictive placement would be inappropriate or ineffective. He also argued the court erred by applying his custody credits to the overall maximum term of confinement, instead of the lower maximum term set by the court. In a supplemental brief, Minor argued there was no substantial evidence of probable benefit from the DJJ commitment, citing a recently decided case, In re Carlos J., 22 Cal.App.5th 1 (2018). The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "In re A.R." on Justia Law

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A juvenile court has the authority to require restitution for losses beyond those that resulted from the criminal conduct with which the minor is charged, if that restitution is a properly imposed condition of probation. The Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's restitution order in this case, because the minor was placed on probation and because substantial evidence supported the juvenile court's findings that the minor was involved in the uncharged conduct and that holding him responsible for the full amount of loss to the victim furthered the purposes of probation. View "In re S.O." on Justia Law

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A wardship petition (Welfare and Institutions Code section 602) alleged four counts of attempted murder and firearm, gang, and great bodily injury enhancements against K.C. The prosecution moved to transfer K.C. to a court of criminal jurisdiction (section 707(a)(1)). That motion remains pending. In August 2017, K.C. turned 18 years of age. About a month later, the probation department filed a request to remand K.C. to county jail pursuant to section 208.5. After hearing testimony about K.C.’s conduct in juvenile detention, the juvenile court granted the request, finding it had transfer authority under sections 207.6 and 208.5. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting K.C.’s argument that section 208.5 does not grant the juvenile court authority to transfer an 18-year-old to county jail prior to the juvenile being found unfit for juvenile court jurisdiction. View "K.C. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal granted habeas relief and ordered the release of petitioner on parole. After petitioner was found suitable for parole under the youth offender provisions of Penal Code sections 3051 and 4801, he was not released but required to serve an additional consecutive, eight-year term for a conviction he sustained while in prison when he was 26 years old. In re Trejo (2017) 10 Cal.App.5th 972, 980, a youth offender found suitable for release on parole pursuant to section 3051, was not required, before being released, to serve a consecutive sentence imposed for a crime he committed in prison at age 20. The court held that In re Trejo compelled the conclusion that petitioner be released, petitioner was suitable for release on parole, and his period of parole must be reduced by the amount of time he has served since being found suitable for release. View "In re Williams" on Justia Law