At its double Wednesday conference (“double” because there was no conference last week), the Supreme Court’s actions of note include:

  • The court granted review in Siry Investment, L.P. v. Farkhondehpour to resolve a split of authority.  The Second District, Division Two, Court of Appeal’s published opinion found inapplicable a Penal Code statute allowing treble damages and attorney fees in civil suits for knowingly “receiv[ing] any property that has been stolen or that has been obtained in any manner constituting theft or extortion.”  The appellate court held the statute allows civil penalties only “when the underlying conduct involves trafficking in stolen goods,” not, as in the case before it, when there has been an “improper diversion of a limited partnership’s cash distributions through fraud, misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty.”
  • After the completion of party briefing, and on the same day it filed two amicus curiae briefs, the court got rid of a Medi-Cal benefits case — Rivera v. Kent — in which it granted review nine months ago.  The court said that, because the defendant State had conceded “both issues on which we granted review, there is no controversy remaining for the court to decide.”  It could have broadened review to decide other issues that the State had briefed (rule 8.516), but the court transferred the case back to the First District, Division Four, for further proceedings consistent with the concessions and it directed the appellate court “to award to [the plaintiffs] the costs of obtaining review in this court . . ., and, under the circumstances of this litigation also consider whether to award attorney’s fees, should [the plaintiffs] so move.”  For good measure, the Supreme Court also depublished the appellate court’s opinion, which had held that a statutory and regulatory 45-day deadline to determine Medi-Cal eligibility “is merely a target, not an absolute requirement.”
  • The court un-held two cases — People v. Valencia and People v. Garcia — that had been back-burnered for People v. Perez, in which the court’s February decision held the defendant had not waived raising a Sanchez issue (see here).  In both Valencia and Garcia, the court ordered the parties to brief, “Does gang expert testimony regarding uncharged predicate offenses to establish a ‘pattern of criminal gang activity’ under Penal Code section 186.22, subdivision (e) constitute background information or case-specific evidence within the meaning of People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665?  Was any error prejudicial?”  In both cases, concerning co-defendants, the Fifth District’s unpublished opinions (here and here) held the admission of gang expert testimony was reversible error.
  • Three other Perez grant-and-holds weren’t un-held.  Instead, one was transferred to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration in light of Perez, review was dismissed in another, and the third is continuing to hold, but it’s now waiting for decisions in Valencia and Garcia (see above).
  • The court denied review in People v. Williams, but it depublished the somewhat divided opinion of the Fourth District, Division One.  A majority of the appellate court came up with its own reason — rejected by both parties — why the defendant was subject to supervised parole instead of postrelease community supervision.  A concurring justice criticized the majority for “[e]schewing the considered position of the parties, the uniform views of knowledgeable and respected commentators, and [the California Department of
    Correction and Rehabilitation’s] consistent application of the [relevant] statute.”
  • The court denied review in People v. Aguilera, but Justice Goodwin Liu recorded a vote to grant.  The Fifth District, in a 97-page unpublished opinion, with a 31-page dissent, affirmed life-without-parole sentences for three defendants convicted of premeditated murder.  The majority held harmless an instructional error and the erroneous admission of certain gang evidence.  The dissent found an additional instructional error and concluded that “cumulatively the errors in this case affected the defendants’ rights, such that they were no longer operating on a balanced playing field with the prosecution.”  Because the appeal concerned various issues and because Justice Liu did not explain his vote, it is unclear which issue or issues attracted his attention. (See here.)
  • Justice Liu also registered an unexplained dissent from the denial of review in People v. Armstrong.  Unlike in Aguilera (see above), however, the reason for Liu’s vote in Armstrong is apparent.  The Second District, Division Three, unpublished opinion held to be admissible statements the defendant made in jail to undercover informants after he had invoked his Miranda rights.  Last year, Liu issued a detailed separate statement dissenting from the denial of review in another, similar case, asking, “How is it possible . . . that the protections of Miranda are so easily evaded?”
  • The court denied three petitions for review in writ proceedings (here, here, and here) that, according to the Court of Appeal dockets (here, here, and here), involved “challenge[s] to the legality and constitutionality of the emergency orders issued by the Judicial Council” dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic (see here).  Judicial Council members Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Ming Chin were recused.  (Related:  here, here, and here.)
  • There were 13 criminal case grant-and-holds:  seven more holding for a decision in People v. Lewis (see here); four more holding for People v. Lopez (see here); one holding for both Lewis and Lopez; and one holding for both People v. Tirado (see here) and People v. Lemcke (originally People v. Rudd) (see here).