January 20, 2011

Supreme Court orders superior court judge to file an answer to a petition for review

Earlier this week, the California Supreme Court issued a rather unusual order in response to a petition for review. In a case called In re Pineda, the Court ordered the superior court to answer a pending petition for review. The text of the order appears on the court’s on-line docket.

For those of you who may be wondering what circumstances might prompt such an order, here’s the story:

The petitioner is an undocumented juvenile who fled to this country from El Salvador, to escape his abusive father. Under federal law, abused juveniles may request permission to remain in the country by applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). To apply for SIJS status, a juvenile must first obtain certain factual findings from a state “juvenile court.”

The petitioner in this case requested those findings from the family court division of the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The court ruled, however, that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because it was not a “juvenile court.” But no other California court could entertain the petitioner’s request; he has no avenue for appearing in probate court or dependency court (he lives with this mother and is not a ward of the state). So as a practical matter, he has no avenue for securing the factual findings he needs to obtain SIJS status. He petitioned the Court of Appeal for a writ of mandate, but his petition was summarily denied. He then petitioned the Supreme Court for relief. Ordinarily, when petitioners ask the Supreme Court to review a summary denial of a writ petition, they’re hoping for an order transferring the case back to the Court of Appeal for consideration on the merits. But in this case, the Supreme Court took the unusual step of ordering the trial court judge to file an answer to the petition for review. Such orders are not completely unheard of (we are aware of one other case in which the Court issued such an order) but they are rare.

Full disclosure: Horvitz & Levy LLP represents the petitioner in this case, in association with Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Center for Law & Justice.

4 Responses to “Supreme Court orders superior court judge to file an answer to a petition for review”

  1. Who will represent the superior court in this situation? County Counsel?

  2. It’s a good guess that County Counsel will be the one to file the response.

  3. On the docket, there’s an entry of “one doghouse.” what’s that?

    01/11/2011 Received Court of Appeal record   one doghouse

  4. A “doghouse” is a term that the California appellate courts use to refer to the folders containing the record on appeal. See this post for a photo of a doghouse:

    http://www.atthelectern.com/supreme-court-lingo-101-the-doghouse/

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