It appears that In re Ricardo P. is in fact one of those previously stuck cases that were put on hold pending the filling of retired Justice Kathryn Werdegar’s long-vacant Supreme Court seat.  The case is decided today by a 4-3 vote, with the newest justice — Joshua Groban — in the majority, and it was pending for a long time, all indicia of earlier deadlock.

The point of dispute is whether, under the standard set by a 40+-year-old decision, a probation condition was valid because, although it “‘require[d] or forb[ade] conduct which is not itself criminal,'” the “‘conduct [was] reasonably related to the crime of which the defendant was convicted or to future criminality.'”  The majority opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu (with Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Leondra Kruger, and Groban concurring) holds requiring submission to warrantless searches of a defendant’s electronic devices does not pass the test when that condition is imposed on a burglary defendant who hadn’t used electronic devices to commit burglaries or in connection with any other illegal activities.  Expressing concern for probationers’ privacy rights, particularly with regard to cell phones, the court concludes that the “substantial burdens imposed by” the condition is impermissible because the condition “is not reasonably related to future criminality.”

Concurring and dissenting Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye (joined by Justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan) believes the juvenile court “could properly require [the defendant] to provide probation officers with limited access to his social media, messaging, and e-mail accounts in order to deter and detect further marijuana use.”  She says that a juvenile court, “in its experience standing in the shoes of a parent,” “simply did what many concerned parents would.  With or without signs of trouble, parents commonly monitor their teenagers’ social media accounts, e-mails, and text messages.”

The court affirms the First District, Division One, Court of Appeal, but disagrees with its reasoning.