April 15, 2011

Another Ninth Circuit question to the California Supreme Court

As we’ve noted, rule 8.548 of the California Rules of Court allows the United States Supreme Court, a United States Court of Appeals, or a state, territory, or commonwealth court of last resort to ask the California Supreme Court to answer California legal questions, and the California high court more often than not agrees to answer the questions. In a much publicized recent example, the Supreme Court agreed to answer a question posed by the Ninth Circuit that the Ninth Circuit believes is relevant to its decision of a federal constitutional attack on Proposition 8, the ballot proposition that bars same-sex marriages in California.

Recently, the Ninth Circuit sent another question to the state Supreme Court. In Doe v. Harris, the Court of Appeals says it wants to know “Whether, under California law, the default rule of contract interpretation is (a) that the law in effect at the time of a plea agreement binds the parties, or (b) that the terms of a plea agreement may be affected by changes in law.” The Supreme Court has filed the Ninth Circuit’s request. There is no deadline for the Supreme Court to accept or reject the question, but it is likely to make that decision by early June.

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