Divided Supreme Court says law that limits trying juveniles’ crimes in adult court applies retroactively to LWOP sentence vacated on habeas and then reimposed

In its first 4-3 split in almost two years, the Supreme Court in People v. Padilla today holds that a 2016 law that requires enhanced hearings before crimes committed by minors can be prosecuted in adult criminal court applies to a defendant who was first sentenced over 20 years ago to life without parole for a murder he committed at age 16. His sentence was vacated more than a decade later on a habeas corpus petition based on U.S. Supreme Court LWOP-for-minors case law, but was then reimposed and his challenge to the reimposed LWOP sentence was still in the courts when voters approved Proposition 57, which adopted the new law. The defendant, now 40 years old, will get a new hearing to determine whether he should have been tried in juvenile court in the first place.

Four years ago, the court unanimously held in People v. Superior Court (Lara) (2018) 4 Cal.5th 299 that Proposition 57 applies retroactively “to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted.” Today’s majority opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu — and concurred in by Justices Leondra Kruger, Joshua Groban, and Martin Jenkins — says the defendant’s judgment “became nonfinal when his sentence was vacated on habeas corpus” and it doesn’t matter that “a case is nonfinal because the defendant’s sentence has been vacated rather than because the initial review of the sentence has not yet concluded.”

Justice Carol Corrigan dissents for herself and Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and pro tem Justice Steven Perren. She criticizes the majority’s “expanded and unsound rule” that “fails to honor the distinction between a judgment that has become final on appeal and a new remedy sought by collateral attack.” The dissent says “[t]he majority’s suggestion that a long-final case can subsequently become ‘nonfinal’ . . . essentially treats ‘finality’ like a switch that can be toggled on and off.”

The court affirms the published opinion of the Second District, Division Four, Court of Appeal.

Supreme Court extends provisional licenses

The Supreme Court today extended by seven months a temporary supervised provisional license program for persons who became eligible to take the bar exam between December 1, 2019 and December 31, 2020. The provisional licenses, which were to end this Wednesday, will now run until the end of the year. However, new applicants for the license must still meet program requirements by Wednesday.

A Judicial Council news release by Merrill Balassone reports there are “346 active participants who have not yet been admitted to the State Bar” and the extension “allows additional time for [them] to meet licensure requirements, such as passing the bar exam and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE), finishing the moral character determination process, and completing any supervised practice hours.”


Supreme Court approves provisional license program

Supreme Court again postpones bar exam, lowers passing score, and directs temporary provisional licensing for 2020 grads

Attorney fees allowed in consumer credit lawsuits

In Pulliam v. HNL Automotive Inc., the Supreme Court today holds that a Federal Trade Commission rule allowing a consumer to sue not only the seller of defective goods but also the third-party holder of a credit contract on the sale does not prevent the consumer from getting attorney fees from the creditor. This despite the so-called Holder Rule expressly providing that “[r]ecovery hereunder by the debtor shall not exceed amounts paid by the debtor hereunder.”

The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu concludes that the Holder Rule’s recovery limit does not preclude an attorney fee award under state law, “as long as the existence of such liability is not due to the Holder Rule extending the seller’s liability for attorney’s fees to the holder.” The Rule’s history, the court says, “indicates that the FTC intended the Rule to serve as a national floor, not to restrict the application of state laws authorizing additional awards of damages or attorney’s fees against a seller or holder.”

The court thus allows the plaintiff to collect almost $170,000 in attorneys fees after a jury awarded about $22,000 for a violation of California’s Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act (commonly known as the “lemon law”) in the sale of a used car, because Song-Beverly says prevailing consumers can recover attorney fees.

The court affirms the Second District, Division Five, Court of Appeal, published opinion. It disapproves a 2018 Third District decision and a 2020 decision by the First District, Division Five.

Justice Kruger to participate in (U.S.) Supreme Court Historical Society event

Justice Leondra Kruger and Jeffrey Sutton, Chief Judge of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, will deliver the annual (U.S.) Supreme Court Historical Society Annual Lecture.

During the virtual program, starting at 11:00 (California time) on June 6, Justice Kruger and Chief Judge Sutton will discuss Sutton’s recent book “Who Decides? States as Laboratories of Constitutional Experimentation,” which addresses the nature of federalism, comparing state governments with the federal government.

Consumer loan, juvenile LWOP opinions filing tomorrow

Tomorrow morning, the Supreme Court will file its opinions in Pulliam v. HNL Automotive Inc. and People v. Padilla. (Briefs here; oral argument videos here and here.)

These will be the last of four opinions for cases argued in March.

Court of Appeal justices have been sitting pro tem on the March cases in place of Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who left the court at the end of October and wasn’t replaced until the end of March.

Pulliam will address whether the word “recovery” as used in the Holder Rule (16 C.F.R. § 433.2) includes attorney fees. The Rule gives consumers relief from loans used to purchase what turn out to be defective goods, but also limits consumers’ recoveries. The court granted review in April 2021. (Horvitz & Levy submitted a letter requesting depublication of the appellate court’s opinion, whether or not the court granted review.  The court denied depublication.) Third District Justice Ronald Robie is the pro tem.

Padilla should answer the question, When a judgment becomes final, but is later vacated, altered, or amended and a new sentence imposed, is the case no longer final for the purpose of applying an intervening ameliorative change in the law? The change in the law at issue is Proposition 57, a 2016 initiative that limits prosecuting crimes by minors in adult criminal court. The defendant in the case was first sentenced over 20 years ago to life without parole for a murder he committed at age 16. Based on U.S. Supreme Court LWOP-for-minors case law, his sentence was vacated twice and he received the same sentence at both subsequent resentencings, the last in 2019. The court granted review in August 2020. Second District, Division Six, Justice Steven Perren is the pro tem.

The opinions can be viewed tomorrow starting at 10:00 a.m.

ASL at the Supreme Court [Updated]

The last of this morning’s three remote oral arguments, in Brennon B. v. Superior Court, featured an American Sign Language interpreter appearing on the screen along with the justices and counsel.

Judicial Council spokesperson Cathal Conneely said the interpreter was present at the request of counsel. He believes it’s the first time an ASL interpreter has provided voice-to-sign services for a Supreme Court argument.

The court’s streaming of its arguments has for a while included real-time captioning in English and Spanish.

[Update: Conneely has clarified that the request did not come from counsel, but was an accommodation request filed with the court.]

Payments for meal and rest break violations must satisfy “wages” requirements

In Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc., the Supreme Court today holds that the extra-hour’s pay an employer owes for improperly making an employee work during all or part of a meal or rest break period constitutes statutory “wages” that must be reported on required wage statements and be paid by specified deadlines when an employee leaves the job. Violations of the wage-statement and pay-deadline mandates can trigger penalties.

The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Leondra Kruger finds, “Although the extra pay is designed to compensate for the unlawful deprivation of a guaranteed break, it also compensates for the work the employee performed during the break period.”

The court also concludes that the state Constitution’s seven percent default rate — not a statutory 10 percent rate in actions for the nonpayment of wages — is the appropriate measure of prejudgment interest on amounts due for failure to provide breaks.

The court reverses in part the Second District, Division Four, Court of Appeal published opinion. The two courts are in sync on the prejudgment interest issue. The Supreme Court also disapproves a 2016 Sixth District decision, Ling v. P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Inc. (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 1242, regarding the applicability of the pay-deadline requirement. The Supreme Court denied review in Ling.

Justice Guerrero to address Latinas in the Legal Academy Workshop at Stanford

Stanford Law School is hosting the Inaugural Graciela Olivárez Latinas in the Legal Academy Workshop next month. Supreme Court Justice Patricia Guerrero, a 1997 alum of the school, will participate in the Workshop’s second day opening and Q&A plenary session.

The Workshop, planned to be an annual event, says it “is dedicated to supporting  and mentoring Latinas in and aspiring to enter, succeed, and lead in the legal academy.”

Oral arguments, no conference, this week

Tomorrow and Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear its seven-case late-May calendar.

Aside from the merits, one argument might be particularly interesting. In another case, the court denied a post-calendaring request for a two-week continuance, saying the request was “not supported by [the] exceptional cause” needed to change an argument date that has already been set.

As usual, the arguments will be live streamed.

Because of the oral arguments, the court will not be conferencing this week and there will be a double conference next week.

Employment opinion filing Monday in case against contractor providing prisoner and immigration detainee security services

On Monday morning, the Supreme Court will file its opinion in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc.. (Briefs here; oral argument video here.)

This will be the second of four opinions for cases argued in March. The other two opinions should file on Thursday.

Court of Appeal justices are sitting pro tem on the March cases in place of Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who left the court at the end of October and wasn’t replaced until the end of March.

Naranjo is expected to answer these questions: (1) Does a violation of Labor Code section 226.7, which requires payment of premium wages for meal and rest period violations, give rise to claims under Labor Code sections 203 and 226 when the employer does not include the premium wages in the employee’s wage statements but does include the wages earned for meal breaks? (2) What is the applicable prejudgment interest rate for unpaid premium wages owed under Labor Code section 226.7? The court granted review in January 2020. Fourth District, Division Three, Presiding Justice Kathleen O’Leary is the pro tem.

The case involves wage claims by a private company’s employees who take federal prisoners and ICE detainees to medical appointments, court appearances, and the like.

The opinion can be viewed Monday starting at 10:00 a.m.

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