As Bob Egelko reports in the San Francisco Chronicle, it looks like the Supreme Court may decide the constitutionality of significant juvenile justice legislation after all.

Enacted one year ago, Senate Bill 1391 severely restricts prosecutions in adult criminal court for crimes committed by anyone under 16 years old.  Some district attorneys around the state have been claiming SB 1391 cannot stand because it conflicts with Proposition 57, the 2016 initiative sponsored by then-Governor Jerry Brown that, among other things, strictly limited — but did not entirely eliminate — circumstances in which prosecutors can charge 14- and 15-year-olds in criminal court with court permission.  But the California Attorney General has been defending the new law’s constitutionality and the Courts of Appeal had consistently, albeit with some dissents, rejected the district attorneys’ arguments.

The Supreme Court didn’t seem anxious to take up the issue.  When the court denied review in one SB 1391 case in June, we said, “As long as the Courts of Appeal and the Attorney General all agree that the law is valid, there is no particular urgency for high court review.  It would be another story if a Court of Appeal struck down the law.”

Well, the other story came yesterday from the Second District, Division Six, Court of Appeal.  Saying that “[t]he Legislature cannot overrule the electorate” and disagreeing with four other Court of Appeal opinions, the Division Six published opinion in O.G. v. Superior Court strikes down SB 1391 “insofar as it precludes the possibility of adult prosecution of an alleged 15-year-old murderer.”

Egelko’s article concludes, “The state Supreme Court has steered clear of the dispute so far, leaving the earlier appellate rulings intact and binding on trial courts.  But when appellate courts disagree, the high court is virtually required to step in and resolve the issue.”

Proposition 57 was approved by the voters only after the Supreme Court allowed it to appear on the ballot.