The Supreme Court today said it would decide the validity of Senate Bill 1391, which essentially prevents prosecutions in adult criminal court for crimes committed by anyone under 16 years old. The court granted review in O.G. v. Superior Court, where the Second District, Division Six, Court of Appeal disagreed with other Courts of Appeal and held in a published opinion that the 2018 statute impermissibly amended an initiative, Proposition 57. The Supreme Court also granted review in People v. Superior Court (T.D.) and People v. Superior Court (I.R.), cases from the Fifth District that, before O.G., upheld SB 1391 in 2-1 published opinions (here and here), and granted review in People v. Superior Court (S.L.), where a Sixth District 2-1 published opinion likewise found the statute to be valid.
Proposition 57 is the 2016 initiative sponsored by then-Governor Jerry Brown that, among other things, added a requirement that prosecutors get court permission before charging 14- and 15-year-olds in criminal court. The appellate court in O.G. applied what it called “the well settled rule that the Legislature may not enact a law that thwarts the initiative process without the consent of the people.” The T.D., I.R., and S.L. courts, on the other hand, held SB 1391 properly amended Proposition 57.
Not only are the Courts of Appeal split about SB 1391’s validity, so is law enforcement. In O.G., T.D., and S.L., county district attorneys attacked the statute while the state’s Attorney General defended it.
The Supreme Court had denied review in cases upholding SB 1391. It is not surprising that the court wants to address the issue now that an appellate court has struck down the law.