Actions of note at yesterday’s Supreme Court conference included:

  • Supreme Court signs off on another sentence commutation.
  • The court granted review in Travis v. Brand, where the Second District, Division Eight, Court of Appeal, in a published opinion, rejected an allegation that the Political Reform Act of 1974 had been violated by mislabeling as a “general purpose committee” what was in fact a “primarily formed committee,” i.e., one formed to support a particular ballot measure, and by not disclosing that the committee was “controlled” by a candidate.  The appellate court also found standing to appeal by non-parties to the superior court action even though they had not filed a motion to vacate the judgment, and it voided the judgment against them because they weren’t parties even though they had funded the lawsuit.  The Supreme Court has not limited the issues on review, so it’s not clear whether the substantive election law issue or the procedural issues, or all of them, will be addressed on review.

[June 25 update:  So, I apparently missed the Travis issue entirely.  The newly published, court-staff-drafted issue for the case is:  “Must a prevailing defendant in an action under the Political Reform Act of 1974 (Gov. Code, § 81000 et seq.) show that the case was frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation in order to recover attorney fees?”  The appellate court answered the question in the negative and affirmed a fee award of over $800,000, based on Government Code section 91003, which provides “[t]he court may award” attorney’s fees to a prevailing party.]

  • The court apparently didn’t care for the way the First District, Division Two, procedurally handled the habeas corpus petition in In re Murray.  After the appellate court denied the petition in a published opinion without issuing an order to show cause or holding oral argument, the Supreme Court granted review, transferred the case back with directions to issue an order to show cause, and depublished the opinion.  The issue raised in the habeas petition is a hot topic that has been the subject of two separate statements by Justice Goodwin Liu and commentary in a number of Court of Appeal opinions — whether defendants sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed between the ages of 18 and 25 should have access to a parole eligibility procedure that is available to other “youth offenders” convicted of similarly serious crimes.  (See here and here.)
  • The court denied review in Karton v. Ari Design & Construction, Inc., but Justice Carol Corrigan recorded a vote to grant.  The Second District, Division Eight, published opinion held an attorney fee award for the plaintiff-attorney was not too small.  It also held, however, that the defendant-contractor’s surety was responsible for paying the award even though it exceeded the amount of the surety’s construction bond.
  • Justice Corrigan also dissented in Tsasu v. U.S. Bank Trust, N.A., where the court denied five requests to depublish the partially published opinion of the Second District, Division Two.  There was no petition for review.  The appellate court held a third party could not rely on a quiet title judgment if the party had constructive knowledge of defects or irregularities in the judgment that was later invalidated.
  • The court denied review in In re L. R. over the recorded dissenting vote of Justice Liu.  In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth District, Division Two, rejected as untimely a mother’s due-process and ineffective-assistance-of-counsel attacks on a dependency court’s jurisdictional findings, because she didn’t challenge the findings until the dependency court later terminated her parental rights.  The Supreme Court also denied review — with Justice Liu again dissenting — of the appellate court’s summary denial of the mother’s related habeas corpus petition.
  • Justice Liu also recorded a dissenting vote from the denial of review in People v. Naranjo, where the Second District, Division Six, in an unpublished opinion, affirmed a first degree murder conviction, finding unconvincing 11 different arguments for reversal.  Because there are so many issues, it’s unclear what attracted Justice Liu’s attention, but it might have been the Batson/Wheeler issue, a topic of regular interest to Liu (see, e.g., here and here).  Or it could have been a sentencing issue about which there’s a split of Court of Appeal authority and which is before the Supreme Court in People v. Tirado (see here).
  • The court granted-and-held in Sujan v. Corona Regional Medical Center, deferring action until the court decides Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System, which was argued last month.  Bonni involves the issue of the extent, if any, to which the initiation and conduct of medical peer review proceedings is protected activity under the anti-SLAPP statute.  In Sujan, the unpublished opinion of the Fourth District, Division Two, held that the plaintiff’s causes of action for
    defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress did arise from protected peer review activity, but causes of action for conversion and for intentional interferences with a prospective economic advantage and with a contractual relationship did not.
  • There were 5 criminal case grant-and-holds:  two more holding for a decision in People v. Lewis (see here), which was argued last month (that’s a total of 289 Lewis grant-and-holds); one more holding for People v. Lopez (see here); one more holding for People v. Tirado (see here); and one more holding for People v. Renteria (see here and here).
  • The court dismissed review in a dozen grant-and-hold cases that had been waiting for the May decision in Stancil v. Superior Court (2021) 11 Cal.5th 381.  (See here and here.)