At the Supreme Court’s first conference of the decade (it’s a new decade if you’re on Team Zero), actions of note included:

  • The court granted review in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc., a case involving wage claims by a private company’s employees who take federal prisoners and ICE detainees to medical appointments, court appearances, and the like.  The Second District, Division Four, Court of Appeal published opinion is a mixed bag for the employees on issues including premium wages for on-duty meal breaks, prejudgment interest, and attorney fees.
  • The court also agreed to hear Brown v. USA Taekwondo, where the issue as summarized by court staff is, “What is the appropriate test that minor plaintiffs must satisfy to establish a duty by defendants to protect them from sexual abuse by third parties?  (See Rowland v. Christian (1969) 69 Cal.2d 108; Nally v. Grace Community Church (1988) 47 Cal.3d 278; Regents of the University of California v. Superior Court (2018) 4 Cal.5th 607; Doe v. United States Youth Soccer Association (2017) 8 Cal.App.5th 1118; Conti v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc. (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 1214; Juarez v. Boy Scouts of America, Inc. (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 377.)”  The Second District, Division Seven, held in a published opinion that taekwondo youth athletes who were sexually abused by their coach can sue USA Taekwondo because it had a special relationship with the coach, but that they cannot proceed against the United States Olympic Committee because it didn’t have a special relationship with the athletes or the coach even though it had the ability to control USA Taekwondo.  It was the plaintiffs who petitioned for review.
  • The court granted a request to depublish the opinion of the First District, Division Four, in Maacama Watershed Alliance v. County of Sonoma, which affirmed the rejection of an argument that the County should have prepared an environmental impact report before approving the construction and operation of a winery.  However, the appellate court noted that affirmance was in large part because the appellants had already succeeded “in getting modifications to the project and the analysis of its environmental effects.”  There was no petition for review.
  • There were a dozen criminal case grant-and-holds, including in two high-profile murder matters:
  1. A 2-1 unpublished opinion by the Second District, Division One, upheld Governor Jerry Brown’s decision reversing a parole grant to Manson cult follower Leslie Van Houten.  The Supreme Court (with Justice Joshua Groban, a former Brown senior advisor, recused) granted review and deferred action pending the court’s decision in In re Palmer (see here; related:  here), where the issue is what standard the Board of Parole Hearings should apply in giving “great weight to the diminished culpability of youth as compared to adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity of the prisoner” as set forth in Penal Code section 4801, subdivision (c), in determining parole suitability for youth offenders.
  2. In People v. Laut, an unpublished Second District, Division Six, opinion mostly affirmed the conviction of Jane Laut who killed her husband, an Olympic medalist in the shot put.  Among other things, the appellate court agreed Laut was improperly restricted in presenting battered-woman-syndrome evidence, but found the error to be harmless.  The Supreme Court granted review and deferred action pending its decision in People v. Frahs (see here), in which the court will address these issues:  “Does Penal Code section 1001.36 apply retroactively to all cases in which the judgment is not yet final?  Did the court of appeal err by remanding for a determination under Penal Code section 1001.36?”  Section 1001.36 allows pretrial diversion for certain mentally disordered defendants.  The appellate court in Laut held the diversion law doesn’t apply to murders.
  3. Besides Laut, five other cases joined a long list of Frahs grant-and-holds.  (See here.)
  4. The court granted-and-held in two more cases concerning the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1391, a statute essentially barring the transfer to adult criminal court of defendants alleged to have committed crimes as 14- and 15-year-olds.  O.G. v. Superior Court is the lead case.  The new grant-and-holds — both with divided Court of Appeal opinions upholding SB 1391 — are B.M. v. Superior Court from the Fourth District, Division Two (2-1 published opinion here), and People v. Superior Court (A.I.) from the Fifth District (2-1 unpublished opinion here).
  • There were six grant-and-transfers, including one more to decide the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1437, the new felony-murder legislation (see here), and three more directing reevaluation of decisions in light of Senate Bill 136 (see here).
  • The court transferred People v. Barton back to the Court of Appeal even though the parties were in the middle of the briefing process.  (See here and here.)  The appellate court is to reconsider its decision in light of Assembly Bill 1618, which might answer the question the Supreme Court was going to address:  “Does a waiver of the right to appeal, included as part of a plea bargain for a stipulated sentence, bar an appeal of the sentence imposed if newly enacted legislation would otherwise be available to enable the appellant to obtain a remand for resentencing under In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740?”
  • Under the direction of Proposition 66, the court transferred to various superior courts five more death penalty habeas corpus petitions.  (See here.)  On the other hand, the court retained jurisdiction of In re Thompson and issued an order to show cause, returnable in the superior court, whether the condemned prisoner was entitled to habeas relief on her claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.  The court affirmed the prisoner’s death sentence in 2016.
  • The court denied review in People v. Caceres, but did so “without prejudice to any relief to which defendant might be entitled after this court decides People v. Kopp,” where the court will decide whether a court must consider a defendant’s ability to pay before imposing or executing fines, fees, and assessments.  (See here and here.)  Under a new policy adopted in 2015, the court would normally grant-and-hold in Caceres instead of denying review.
  • The court bailed out a pro per who was three weeks late in submitting a petition for review after the Court of Appeal’s summary denial of his habeas corpus petition.  In In re Nelson, the court relieved the pro per from default and yesterday granted review and transferred the case back to the Court of Appeal with directions to issue an order to show cause.  Practice note:  a summary denial of a habeas petition, like the summary denial of most writ petitions, is normally final immediately (see here and here) and gives you only 10 days to timely petition for review (see here).  As this case demonstrates, missing the deadline for filing a petition for review is not necessarily fatal (see here), but it’s best not to tempt fate.