Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, March 28, 2023


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California Supreme Court:

‘Good Cause’ Isn’t Needed for Suppression-Hearing Delay

Justice Corrigan Says Continuance Sought by Prosecution Must Be Granted to If Speedy Trial Rights Aren’t Implicated and It is ‘Reasonably Foreseeable’ That Dismissal Will Otherwise Result


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The California Supreme Court, anxious to establish the standard for a trial court to utilize in acting on a prosecution motion for the continuance of a suppression hearing in the absence of good cause, but where dismissal looms as the likely prospect without the delay, yesterday affirmed the conviction of a woman for loitering for the purpose of prostitution, a now-abolished misdemeanor, with nothing actually at stake other than a $235 fine.

“[W]e hold that it is an abuse of discretion for the court to deny continuance of a suppression hearing when it is reasonably foreseeable that dismissal of the case will result,” Justice Carol Corrigan wrote, “unless dismissal would be in furtherance of justice.”

The case arises under the circumstance where speedy trial rights did not compel the denial of the motion.

The opinion, which drew a concurring and dissenting opinion by Justice Joshua P. Groban, reverses a Sept. 21, 2021 decision by the Sixth District Court of Appeal. Justice Allison M. Danner authored the opinion which relies on Penal Code §1050(e).

“Continuances shall be granted only upon a showing of good cause,” that section provides.

Danner wrote:

“We decide that if a trial court finds that the request for a continuance of a motion to suppress lacks good cause under section 1050, subdivision (e), the trial court has the authority to deny the requested continuance on that basis even if this decision may foreseeably result in a dismissal of the prosecution.”

Trial Court Proceedings

Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Jesus Valencia Jr. initially denied a continuance sought by the prosecutor in the case of Dajah Brown who was arrested in a high-prostitution area by San Jose Police Department Officer Nader Yasin at about 11:30 p.m. on July 13, 2016. Valencia found a lack of good cause under the circumstance that the prosecutor told Yasin he did not need to appear to testify at the scheduled suppression hearing in light of a need to be in another courtroom, and the suppression motion was partially granted.

Valencia set the matter for trial.

However, Valencia reconsidered his ruling when the prosecution later pointed to the First District Court of Appeal’s June 7, 2010 decision in People v. Ferrer. The judge granted the continuance; at a new suppression hearing, he denied the motion; Brown later pled guilty and was placed on probation and ordered to pay $235 in fines and fees, with the sentence suspended pending appeal.

Decision in Ferrer

In Ferrer, There, Acting Presiding Justice Mark B. Simons of Div. Five said:

“The trial court erred in refusing to continue the hearing. Sections 1050 and 1050.5 prohibit the dismissal of an action due to the absence of good cause for a continuance or for the prosecutor’s failure to provide proper notice of a request for a continuance. Although the trial court did not dismiss the action as an express sanction for the failure to show good cause, dismissal was the reasonably foreseeable result of denial of the motion to continue.”

Sec. 1050(l) says that “[t]his section is directory only and does not mandate dismissal of an action by its terms” and §1050.5(b) provides:

“The authority to impose sanctions provided for by this section shall be in addition to any other authority or power available to the court, except that the court or magistrate shall not dismiss the case.”

Danner wrote:

“[W]e decline to follow Ferrer and consequently reverse the judgment….

“The trial court is ordered to reinstate its orders denying the prosecution’s request for a continuance and granting Brown’s motion to suppress.”

Corrigan’s Opinion

In yesterday’s opinion embracing Ferrer and reversing Danner’s opinion, Corrigan said that §1050 and §1050.5 “require a showing of good cause that the continuance of any criminal hearing is necessary,” but added:

“They do not prohibit the trial court from denying a continuance when the prosecutor fails to make such a showing. Because the continuance statutes do not themselves authorize dismissal, however, a dismissal under these circumstances is appropriate only if it is ‘in furtherance of justice.’ ”

The “in furtherance of justice” standard is set forth in Penal Code §1350(a), she noted. It says:

“The judge or magistrate may, either on motion of the court or upon the application of the prosecuting attorney, and in furtherance of justice, order an action to be dismissed.”

1990 Decision

The jurist pointed out that the impermissibility of denying a continuance of a trial on the basis of a lack of good cause where such a denial would result in a dismissal—and, as in Brown’s case—speedy-trial rights were not implicated—was established the 1990 case of People v. Ferguson, decided by the Fifth District.

In her opinion extending that principle to suppression motions, Corrigan declared:

“The reasonable foreseeability standard comes into play when the case cannot be tried absent the evidence, not when the case will simply be more difficult to prove. The standard requires the prosecution to defend its assertion that the contested evidence is vital. At the same time, the defense, in possession of discovery, will be poised to argue against this assertion, as it did here. Of course the defense cannot be put to the burden of arguing the strength of the prosecution’s case. And while the court is generally precluded from reading the police reports and other supporting documents…, the defense may give its consent for the court to do so, to assist in its consideration of the question. In the final analysis, the burden is on the People to make this showing. If that showing falls short, the court is free to deny the continuance and proceed with the suppression hearing.”

Corrigan noted that under legislation effective Jan. 1, persons convicted of loitering for purposes of prostitution, which is no longer an offense, may seek a resentencing or a dismissal of the charges with a sealing of the record.

Groban’s Opinion

Groban, whose opinion was signed by Justices Goodwin H. Liu and Kelli Evans, said he agrees that continuance of a suppression motion should not be denied solely because the motion is made in the absence of good cause, but expressed agreement with Danner that the “reasonable foreseeability standard” set forth in Ferrer is unwieldy, saying:

“It is unclear, for example, what type of evidentiary showing the prosecution must make to establish that denial of a continuance will result in dismissal. Nor is it clear how a trial court should go about making an ‘independent determination of whether dismissal’ will occur….Is the prosecution required to describe all of the admissible evidence that remains in the case and explain why that evidence is insufficient to continue?”

He continued:

“Does the court have a duty to independently review the entire record to ensure the prosecution’s representations are accurate? Should the court hold an evidentiary hearing to determine the remaining strength of the prosecution’s case? At a minimum, forcing the trial court to assess the state of the prosecution’s evidence, without having heard or seen that evidence, seems to place the court in a very difficult position.”

“The ‘reasonable foreseeability’ inquiry places defendants and their counsel in an even more difficult position. The majority notes that the defense can challenge the prosecution’s assertion that denial of a continuance is likely to result in dismissal….It seems highly unusual, however, to place defense counsel in the position of arguing in favor of the strength of the State’s case.”

Groban expressed disagreement “with the majority’s conclusion that the record in this case demonstrates the prosecution and the trial court complied with the standards articulated in today’s opinion,” saying:

“I would therefore reverse the judgment of guilt and remand the matter to allow the trial court to hold further hearings on whether the prosecution can proceed without the suppressed evidence.”

The case is People v. Brown, 2023 S.O.S. 1148.


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