There were two more straight grants of review at the Supreme Court’s conference yesterday, with, again, only six justices participating because of Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar’s retirement at the end of October. Actions of note included:
- Oil and gas drilling/fracking ban: The court granted review in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. County of Monterey to decide whether a county ordinance can prohibit “land uses in support of” oil and gas wells and fracking in unincorporated parts of the county. The court ordered briefing on whether “Public Resources Code section 3106 impliedly preempt[s] provisions” of the ordinance, which was adopted by initiative. Distinguishing a bunch of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal decisions in its published opinion, the Sixth District Court of Appeal held there is preemption because the statute “explicitly provides that it is the State of California’s oil and gas supervisor who has the authority to decide whether to permit an oil and gas drilling operation to drill a new well or to utilize wastewater injection in its operations.” Unusually, there were a bare minimum four votes to hear the case. Of the six justices conferencing, Justice Carol Corrigan was recused and Justice Joshua Groban did not vote for review.
- Murder liability: The court granted the Attorney General’s petition for review in People v. Curiel, where the Fourth District, Division Three, unpublished opinion reversed the denial of a petition for resentencing filed by a defendant who had been convicted of first degree murder with special circumstances, even though he was not the shooter who killed the victim. The appellate court concluded that, despite the special circumstances finding, the defendant was entitled to a hearing at which the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he is ineligible for relief. Curiel becomes one of many cases that are or have been on the Supreme Court’s docket concerning Senate Bill No. 1437, 2018 legislation that allows resentencing of some defendants convicted of felony murder or murder under a natural-and-probable-consequences theory. (See also here.)
- Recorded vote: The court denied review in People v. Ward, but Justice Goodwin Liu recorded a vote to grant. It’s another case raising an equal protection challenge to a statute making youth offender parole hearings unavailable for defendants sentenced to life without parole for offenses committed between the ages of 18 and 25. The short unpublished opinion by the First District, Division Five, followed other Court of Appeal decisions rejecting the constitutional argument. Justice Liu has shown a continuing interest in these parole ineligibility issues. (See here and here.) The court is expected to decide a related constitutional issue in People v. Williams (see here).
- New-Legislation Grant-and-Transfers: The court granted review and transferred three more cases back to the Courts of Appeal for reconsideration in light of new legislation: one more for Senate Bill 567 and two more for Senate Bill 775 (see here and here).
- Grant-and-holds: There were four criminal case grant-and-holds: two more holding for a decision in People v. Strong (see here), one more holding for People v. Delgadillo (see here), and one more holding for People v. Williams (see here).
- Disposal of grant-and-holds: The court dumped a bunch more criminal grant-and-hold cases, 51 this week. In recent past conferences, there have been as many as 80 disposed of. Review was dismissed in 21 cases that had been grant-and-holds waiting for last July’s decision in People v. Lewis (2021) 11 Cal.5th 952. In 28 cases that had been on hold for both Lewis and People v. Lopez (Lopez was transferred in November to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration in light of SB 775 (see above)), the court transferred the matters to the Courts of Appeal for reconsideration in light of Lewis and SB 775. By our count, there are 78 Lewis grant-and-holds still pending. There had been 327 of them. (See here.) The court also transferred two cases that had been holding just for Lopez, sending the cases back to the Courts of Appeal for reconsideration in light of SB 775.