Thursday, October 3, 2019
It Joins With Four Other Panels in Finding That SB 1391 Does Not Contravene Proposition 57; Dissenter Says Bill Is Inconsistent With Electorate’s Intent
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Div. Two of the Fourth District Court of Appeal yesterday joined with four other panels in holding that SB 1391, which went into effect Jan. 1, does not contravene Proposition 57, approved by voters in 2016 but, as in three other cases, the holding drew a dissent, and it clashes with the conclusion reached Monday by Div. Six of this district.
Proposition 57—which created the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act—authorizes a judge to permit the prosecution of as an adult of a person who is alleged to have committed certain specified crimes at the age of 14 or 15 (and allows the prosecution, with judicial approval) for any felony purportedly committed at the age of 16 or 17.
SB 1391, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, bars trying a person as an adult for an offense commtted at the age of 14 or 15 unless he or she was not apprehended until after having reached the age of 18.
Yesterday’s majority opinion was written by Justice Marsha G. Slough and concurred in by Justice Carol D. Codrington. Acting Presiding Justice Art W. McKinster dissented.
The court granted a writ of mandate barring the prosecution as an adult of a girl who allegedly committed an arson-murder six days before her 16th birthday.
Slough said SB 1391 constituted a valid amendment to Proposition 57 because it is consistent with each of the goals of the initiative measure. The express goals are:
“1. Protect and enhance public safety.
“2. Save money by reducing wasteful spending on prisons.
“3. Prevent federal courts from indiscriminately releasing prisoners.
“4. Stop the revolving door of crime by emphasizing rehabilitation, especially for juveniles.
“5. Require a judge, not a prosecutor, to decide whether juveniles should be tried in adult court.”
Each Goal Advanced
The jurist said that SB 1391 enhances public safety and reduces recidivism because there is a greater chance of recidivism if youths are subjected to prison, reduces prison spending by keeping children out of those facilities, and prevents federal courts from ordering the release of inmates by not adding juveniles to the prison population.
With respect to taking from judges the power under Proposition 57 to authorize the trial of persons whose alleged crimes were committed at age 14 or 15, she pointed out that under Proposition 21, enacted by in 2000, prosecutors could file charges in adult court in connection with specified offenses committed by persons at those ages without judicial consent. She wrote:
“Proposition 57 repealed the practice of direct filing and re-established the former rule that all minors are entitled to a judicial determination of unfitness before they can be transferred to criminal court. SB 1391 continues in the same direction of youth justice reform, resetting the minimum transfer age to 16, where it had been for decades before Proposition 21.”
The view that SB 1391 is consistent with the objectives of Proposition 57 has also been expressed by a division of the First District, as well as the Third, Fifth, and Sixth districts. A dissent was filed in the Fifth District case (by Justice Charles Poochigian) and in the Sixth District case (by Justice Adrienne Grover).
Dissenting yesterday, McKinster said:
“Nothing in the official title and summary, or in the official analysis, supports the majority’s conclusion that the voters who enacted Prop. 57 intended to effectively eliminate 14- and 15-year-old juvenile offenders from being eligible for trial in adult criminal court….
“If the voters were being asked to change the juvenile justice system to drastically limit or eliminate the number of 14- and 15-year-old juvenile offenders who could be tried and convicted in adult criminal court, I would expect to see an argument for and against that result. But that dog did not bark.”
He pointed out in a footnote that the electorate approved Proposition 57 by a vote of 8,790,723 to 4,847,354.
The case is O.G. v. Superior Court, B295555.
On Monday, Justice Kenneth Yegan wrote for this district’s Div. Six in finding that SB 1391 unconstitutionally contravenes Proposition 57. He wrote:
“The Legislature cannot overrule the electorate. All power of government ultimately resides in the people….Under the guise of ‘amendment,’ an initiative may not be ‘annulled’ by the Legislature.”
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