Disability Rights California (see Welf. & Inst. Code § 4900 et seq.) filed an original writ petition in the Supreme Court yesterday seeking to prevent enforcement of the CARE Act, legislation enacted in September at the urging of Governor Gavin Newsom. CARE stands for Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment. Newsom describes the new law as “a new framework to get people with mental health and substance use disorders the support and care they need.”

The writ petition — Disability Rights California v. Newsom — claims the method for providing that “support and care” “violates essential constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection while needlessly burdening fundamental rights to privacy, autonomy and liberty.” It alleges the Act is a “radical change in California law,” under which “thousands of unhoused Californians with mental illness will be threatened with court orders, forced into involuntary treatment and swept off the streets, not because they are a danger to themselves or others, but because a judge has speculated they are ‘likely’ to become so in the future.”

The Supreme Court doesn’t often agree to hear original writ petitions on their merits. The DRC petition cites as an example California Redevelopment Assn. v. Matosantos (2011) 53 Cal.4th 231, concerning the constitutionality of legislation dissolving redevelopment agencies (see here). In Matosantos, the court said, “We will invoke our original jurisdiction where the matters to be decided are of sufficiently great importance and require immediate resolution.” (Id. at p. 253.)

Others that we can think of are Legislature v. Padilla (2020) 9 Cal.5th 867, which extended the time to prepare redistricting maps because of the Covid pandemic (see here) and Briggs v. Brown (2017) 3 Cal.5th 808, dealing with challenges to Proposition 66, an initiative designed to speed executions in California (see here).

DRC alleges this as the need for Supreme Court review in the first instance: “The state and counties have already begun planning implementation of the new court procedures required by the Act. An initial cohort of seven county superior courts must implement the CARE Act by October 1, 2023. Because of litigation timelines and the likelihood of appeals, a civil action filed in the superior court of any of the seven counties, or in the four appellate districts in which they are located, would not result in a final ruling regarding the statewide legality of the CARE Act prior to October 1, 2023.”