At its weekly conference, atypically on a Tuesday, the Supreme Court’s actions of note included:

  • The granted review in People v. Moses.  As with some SB 1391 cases (see below, and here and here), Moses exposes a rift between a county District Attorney and the state’s Attorney General.  After the Fourth District, Division Three, Court of Appeal, in a published 2-1 opinion, reversed a conviction for human trafficking of a minor, the Attorney General (who handled the appeal) didn’t petition for review.  However, the Orange County District Attorney (who we assume obtained the conviction) asked the Supreme Court to grant review on its own motion, which the court did.  (Sua sponte review (see here, here, and here) is uncommon.)  The court limited the issue in the case to:  “Did the Court of Appeal err in reversing defendant’s conviction for human trafficking of a minor (Pen. Code, § 236.1, subd. (c)(1)) on the ground that defendant was communicating with an adult police officer posing as a minor rather than an actual minor?”  The appellate court followed a 2018 First District, Division Four case, in which the Attorney General also did not seek review, but which, in Moses, he argued was wrongly decided.
  • As noted yesterday, the court agreed to resolve a split in the Courts of Appeal — and between the Attorney General and some county district attorneys — about the validity of Senate Bill 1391, which essentially prevents prosecutions in adult court for crimes committed by those under 16 years old.  The five cases the court took are apparently all straight grants.  Unless the court later makes some of them grant-and-holds, it will be receiving a bunch of separate briefs on the same issue and will need to be creative in order to avoid a marathon SB 1391 oral argument session.
  • Also as noted, the court cleared the way for Governor Gavin Newsom to issue two more pardons.
  • The court granted review in Conservatorship of K.P., and it limited the issue to:  “Must the trier of fact find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the objector is unwilling or unable voluntarily to accept meaningful treatment before a conservator may be appointed, or reappointed, under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act?”  In a published opinion, the Second District, Division Two, answered the question in the negative.  That court also noted the case is moot because the conservatorship in issue has already ended.
  • The court granted review in In re Vaquera.  As summarized by court staff, the issues are:  “(1) Did the Court of Appeal err by disagreeing with People v Jimenez (2019) 35 Cal.App.5th 373 and endorsing as mandatory the sentencing practice prohibited in that case; (2) Is the Court of Appeal’s decision incorrect under People v. Mancebo (2002) 27 Cal.4th 735; (3) Did the Court of Appeal err by failing to address petitioner’s claims as to the issues of waiver and estoppel?”  The Fourth District, Division Three, in a published opinion, held the defendant had adequate notice of, and the superior court could impose nothing less than, a 25-year-to-life sentence under the so-called “One Strike” law for committing a lewd or lascivious act against two children under 14-years-old.  Jiminez is a Sixth District decision that found sentencing error.  The Attorney General didn’t seek review in Jiminez; the defendant did, but the court denied his petition.  In Mancebo, a 4-3 Supreme Court found error in imposing certain gun-use enhancements under the “One Strike” law.
  • The court granted-and-held 13 criminal cases, including People v. Hicks, which will wait for a decision in People v. Kopp.  The court granted review in Kopp two weeks ago to resolve another conflict in the Court of Appeal case law and it limited the issues there to, “Must a court consider a defendant’s ability to pay before imposing or executing fines, fees, and assessments?  If so, which party bears the burden of proof regarding defendant’s inability to pay?”  In Hicks, the Second District, Division Two, Court of Appeal’s partially published opinion answered “no” to the first Kopp question.  There were also four grant-and-holds for People v. Lopez concerning non-constitutional issues about Senate Bill 1437, the new felony-murder legislation (see here), and five more grant-and-holds for People v. Frahs (see here and here).
  • There were nine criminal case grant-and-transfers, including seven more for reconsideration in light of SB 136 (see here and here).