Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The Court of Appeal held that Local Rule Seven of the McCourtney Courthouse Policies, effective August 13, 2019, is invalid; the rule was adopted in violation of state law; the local rule conflicts with California law; the goal of expediting proceedings cannot justify denying mother the opportunity to present relevant evidence; and the court may control courtroom proceedings through case-specific orders. In this case, the juvenile court refused to permit mother to testify or to call witnesses in a juvenile dependency matter set for a contested dispositional hearing, because her counsel had not filed a joint trial statement as required by the local rule. The court also held that, even had the local rules here been properly adopted and enforceable, the juvenile court's ruling barring mother from testifying and examining her daughter on the statements contained in a report to the court because she had failed to submit the joint trial statement would run afoul of Code of Civil Procedure section 575.2. Furthermore, the sanction imposed was disproportionate to the conduct it punished. Accordingly, the court reversed the dispositional orders and remanded to the juvenile court with instructions to conduct a new dispositional hearing without reference to the local rule. View "In re Harley C." on Justia Law

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Minor J.S. appealed a dispositional order adjudging him a ward of the court pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 and placing him on formal probation, subject to various terms and conditions. At the time of the incident that led to the charges against J.S., in October 2017, the victim, John Doe, was nine years old and lived with his grandmother in Contra Costa County, California. That month, a family friend and her son and two nephews, 12-year-old J.S. and his brother R.R., were temporarily staying at Doe's home. The family friend's nephews stayed in Doe's room with him. Doe woke up and turned on the light in his room. At that time, R.R. was still sleeping and J.S. was in the bathroom getting ready for school. When J.S. returned to the bedroom, he told Doe to suck his "private part," and said that if Doe did not do it, J.S. would hurt Doe. J.S. exposed his penis and "showed" Doe what he wanted Doe to do. Doe was afraid that J.S. would hurt him, so he got on the ground and began to orally copulate J.S. Doe's grandmother discovered the pair; police were ultimately called. J.S. denied the sequence of events. On appeal, J.S. argued that certain probation conditions that permitted searches of his electronic devices and imposed limitations on his use of computers, the Internet, and social networking Web sites were unconstitutionally overbroad and should be stricken in their entirety. In the alternative, J.S. contended that the conditions at issue should have been stricken and the case remanded to allow the trial court to determine whether the conditions can be narrowly tailored to serve the state's interest in rehabilitation. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re J.S." on Justia Law

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In May 2014, Contra Costa County Children & Family Services filed dependency petitions, seeking the detention of children born in 2008 and 2011. The maternal grandparents took the children. Mother was out of contact for a month. The whereabouts of both fathers, D.B. and M.C., were also unknown. Mother and M.C. were eventually located in San Mateo County and did not contest the petition. The matter was transferred to San Mateo County. The dispositional report detailed domestic violence, mental illness, drug use, and another pregnancy. In February 2015, the juvenile court removed the children from parental custody and declared them juvenile court dependents. Reunification services were ordered and the children were eventually returned to mother. The following years involved transfers between the counties, several incidents of violence, psychiatric hospitalization, the birth of a fourth child, drinking, and neglect. The children suffered many problems. The court terminated services, finding that the family had received more than 55 months of services since the initial detention, and set the matter for a section 366.26 hearing so that permanent out-of-home placements could be developed. The court of appeal upheld the orders, rejecting arguments that there were reasonable means short of removal to protect the minors and that the minors’ possible Indian heritage was not properly investigated or notice provided to relevant tribes as required under the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. 1901. View "M.L. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the juvenile court's decision sustaining a Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition and finding that A.C. violated his conditions of probation by making criminal threats. The court held that statements A.C. made to a counselor are admissible because they do not fall within the psychotherapist-patient privilege. The court also held that there was insufficient evidence to support the findings that A.C. violated his probation conditions. View "People v. A.C." on Justia Law

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J.M., a minor, was adjudged a ward of the court and placed on probation with various terms and conditions after he made a false report that a bomb or other explosive device would be placed in his school. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that J.M.'s words were not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Penal Code section 148.1, subdivision (c) is not unconstitutionally overbroad. The court held that subdivision (c) of section 148.1 criminalizes the malicious communication of knowingly false information about placement of a bomb or other explosive, and such utterances are not constitutionally protected speech. View "People v. J.M." on Justia Law

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This case presented a narrow question of whether Senate Bill No. 1391 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1012, section 1) (S.B. 1391) was void as an unconstitutional amendment to Welfare and Institutions Code section 707 as modified by the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 (Proposition 57). The State filed two petitions for a writ of mandate seeking relief from separate orders by respondent Superior Court of Sacramento County, which refused to transfer real parties in interest R.Z. and K.L. from juvenile to criminal court for purposes of criminal prosecution based on section 707 as modified by legislative enactment of S.B. 1391. The State charged K.L., 15 at the time of the alleged conduct, with felony murder, attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle, with additional allegations K.L. personally discharged a firearm causing death or great bodily injury, all in association with involvement with a street gang. R.Z. was also 15 at the time of the alleged conduct, arraigned on a juvenile petition because he committed murder and personally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury or death in the commission of the homicide. The trial court found R.Z. unfit for juvenile court and granted the State's motion transferring R.Z. to criminal court. However, the trial court stayed execution of that order until January 2019 so that it could determine the effect of S.B. 1391 on its order transferring the minor. Over the State's opposition, on January 10, 2019, the trial court dismissed the motion to transfer R.Z. to criminal court, vacated its prior order transferring the minor, and sent the matter to juvenile court. The State argued S.B. 1391’s bar on the transfer of minors under the age of 16 for criminal prosecution as adults was unconstitutional because it did not further the intent and purpose of Proposition 57. The Court of Appeal disagreed and denied the State's petitions for mandamus relief. View "California v. Superior Court (K.L.)" on Justia Law

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J.M. (aged 14) and another female minor attacked minor Jane at a cemetery. They took turns slapping, punching and kicking Jane and pulling her hair. Jane estimated that the attack lasted 10 minutes; her injuries included a fractured skull and broken nose. S.S. and J.M. recorded cell phone videos of the attack and shared them with friends. J.M. told a sheriff’s deputy that she wanted to take responsibility. J.M. entered into a plea agreement, admitting a felony charge of torture (Pen. Code, 206). The juvenile court declared J.M. a ward of the court (Welfare and Institutions Code section 6021) and committed her to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for a maximum term of seven years. The court of appeal denied a habeas corpus petition, in which J.M. asserted ineffective assistance and that her admission was involuntary because it was based on counsel's advice that there was no minimum amount of time she would need to serve, that she could be released whenever her counselor determined she was ready for release, and that she would likely serve only about half of her term. The court held that mental health diversion under Penal Code sections 1001.35 and 1001.36 does not apply to juveniles in delinquency proceedings. The court ordered that the prohibition against J.M. possessing a “weapon” until age 30 be amended to substitute “firearm” for “weapon.” View "In re J.M." on Justia Law

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The juvenile court found E.P. committed second degree burglary, possessed graffiti tools, received stolen property, and illegally possessed an alcoholic beverage. The Court of Appeal initially concluded that the evidence was insufficient to show that E.P. committed burglary when he stole items from locker rooms in a public ice hockey facility because the prosecution failed to prove that E.P. did not commit the new crime of shoplifting, as defined in Proposition 47. Because E.P. was not charged with shoplifting, the Court also concluded there was no bar to charging him with receiving stolen property. After the Court of Appeal issued its opinion, the California Supreme Court in California v. Colbert, 6 Cal.5th 596 (2019), held that “entering an interior room that is objectively identifiable as off-limits to the public with intent to steal therefrom is not shoplifting, but instead remains punishable as burglary.” The Supreme Court transferred the matter to the Court of Appeal with directions to vacate its decision and reconsider the case in light of Colbert. After review, the appellate court found Colbert did not change its conclusion that the prosecution failed to prove E.P. committed burglary. The evidence showed the locker rooms of the public ice hockey facility were not “objectively identifiable as off-limits to the public.” Accordingly, the Court reversed the finding E.P. committed burglary, but affirmed the findings he received stolen property and illegally possessed an alcoholic beverage. View "In re E.P." on Justia Law

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Penal Code section 1170.95's petitioning procedure applies to a juvenile, like the one in this case, whose murder allegation was sustained by the juvenile court on a natural and probable consequences theory prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 1437, which amended the natural and probable consequences doctrine as it relates to murder. Because R.G. has not petitioned the court to have the conviction vacated and the corresponding commitment recalled, the Court of Appeal held that Senate Bill 1437 relief was premature. Accordingly, the court affirmed the juvenile court's order sustaining the allegation that R.G. committed second degree murder. View "People v. R.G." on Justia Law

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A jury found defendants Luis Alberto Ramirez and Jose Roberto Armendariz committed two gang-related murders when they were juveniles. The trial court originally sentenced Ramirez to life without the possibility of parole, plus 65 years to life, and it sentenced Armendariz to 90 years to life. Eventually, the Court of Appeal reversed the sentences and remanded the matter to the trial court for resentencing. Following remand, Proposition 57 was enacted. The California Supreme Court held Proposition 57 applied retroactively to all cases not yet final at the time it was enacted. Thereafter, defendants filed a motion requesting the superior court remand their case to the juvenile court per Proposition 57. Over the prosecutor’s objections, the court granted the motion and ordered the matter transferred to the juvenile court. The District Attorney sought review of the trial court’s transfer order via writ and direct appeal. The Court of Appeal summarily denied the District Attorney’s petition for a writ of mandate or prohibition, leaving only this appeal. Defendants moved to dismiss the instant appeal, contending the trial court’s transfer order was not appealable. The Court of Appeal denied: "Notwithstanding the fact this court reversed defendants’ sentences, the transfer order is appealable under Penal Code section 1238 (a)(5), as an 'order made after judgment, affecting the substantial rights of the people.'” Judgments were entered when the initial sentences were imposed. While the sentences were reversed and resentencing ordered, the resentencing would result in modified judgments, not new judgments. Because the transfer order affects the State's ability to enforce the modified judgements, it was appealable under Penal Code section 1238 (a)(5). On the merits, the District Attorney contended the trial court lacked authority to order the matter transferred to the juvenile court because the transfer order exceeded the scope of the remittitur; District Attorney conceded defendants were entitled to the benefit of Proposition 57. In light of Proposition 57 and California v. Superior Court (Lara), 4 Cal.5th 299 (2018), the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly transferred the matter to the juvenile court to hold a transfer hearing. View "California v. Ramirez" on Justia Law