December 23, 2013

Some Supreme Court opinions you might not want to be relying on too heavily right now

The Supreme Court last week issued supplemental briefing orders in two pending criminal matters that throw into doubt some of the court’s existing case law.

In People v. Diaz, the court ordered the parties to answer this question (and several subsidiary questions):  “Are there grounds for this court to reconsider precedent holding that a cautionary instruction concerning a defendant’s extra-judicial statements must be given sua sponte, even in the absence of a statute mandating that the instruction be given? (See, e.g., People v. Beagle (1972) 6 Cal.3d 441, 455-456 and fn. 4; People v. Carpenter (1997) 15 Cal.4th 312, 392.)”

“[R]econsider[ing] precedent” is a nice euphemism for dumping a prior decision.  In a second order the same day, however, the court was not as subtle.  In Johnson v. California Department of Justice, the court asked for briefing on the question, “Should the court overrule People v. Hofsheier (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1185?”  In Hofsheier, the court held it was an equal protection violation for the Legislature to require mandatory lifetime sex offender registration for oral copulation with a minor when someone convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor is not subject to mandatory registration.  Courthouse News Service gives some details on the Johnson case.


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