NewsLinks is a collection of recent news items relating primarily to the California judicial branch. NewsLinks does not verify nor endorse the accuracy or fairness of the news items, and the views expressed in opinions, editorials, and commentaries are those of the writers only.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a conservative challenge Tuesday to the California Voting Rights Act, which seeks to enhance minority representation by requiring many local governments to switch from at-large elections to district elections.
Southern California courthouses whose operations were drastically curtailed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic are gearing up for a reawakening, but justice will look much different as judges work to balance health concerns and constitutional rights.
If the pandemic persists with a second or third wave, the notion of trial-by-zoom, so inconceivable at the beginning of the year, will not seem so undoable by the end of the year. If the trial-by-zoom does come along, look for it to first be attempted in civil cases.
According to the council’s emergency framework, which was meant to provide consistency among various county and city orders, a court may not issue an eviction summons unless a judge finds it is a necessary action to protect public health and safety. This applies to all evictions, whether they are related to COVID-19 or not.
(Subscription required) The state Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday passed bills to protect residential and commercial renters harmed by economic shutdowns resulting from the coronavirus. But organizations representing landlords and insurers pointed out these bills could have constitutional problems and may simply transfer risks onto property owners and company shareholders.
(Subscription required) Under the proposed law, if the judge determines that an objective observer could view bias as playing a factor in a peremptory challenge, the initial objection would be sustained, regardless if the discrimination was found to be intentional or negligent. In that case, the judge would be inclined to either seat the challenged juror, declare a mistrial or provide an appropriate alternative remedy accepted by the objecting party.
(Subscription required) Many superior courts in California are only opening their doors Tuesday, or plan to do so soon after more than two months of being closed because of the COVID-19 virus. Court leaders face a host of daunting challenges, from determining how to safely bring jurors into courtrooms -- usually using a staggered system expected to take much longer -- to processing thousands of filings submitted since March.
California held more than 10,000 juveniles in state custody in 1996, a time of rising crime rates and fearful descriptions of young criminals as “super-predators.” Now, violent crime rates have been falling for years, coronavirus stay-at-home edicts have reduced them further, state funding has dried up, and the juvenile custody population is down to 750.
Protesters are demanding the release of non-violent inmates so they can follow social distancing, improved sanitation, access to medical treatment and better communication between inmates and families.
The petition, filed on April 1, sought to prohibit, “until the threat of COVID-19 ends,” requiring sex offenders to appear in-person for their mandatory periodic registration updates. A May 7 gubernatorial executive order “encouraged” law enforcement “to adopt telephonic, remote, or other procedures for registration and reporting . . . that are consistent with State and local public health guidance regarding physical distancing.”
"The Kern Superior Court continues to monitor closely the evolving coronavirus situation," it said. "The court continues to take steps to ensure procedures meet federal, state and local guidelines. We are receiving important timely updates from the Department of Public Health and the Judicial Council of California. As the situation evolves, we may adjust precautionary measures, as warranted."
Small claims trials will be heard remotely starting June 1 through the court’s BlueJeans teleconferencing platform, and those involved in the trials will receive specifics before their hearing dates, according to a press release from the superior court. Civil harassment, elder abuse, gun violence and domestic violence restraining order trials will also be held remotely starting June 1.
The jury had been hearing the case in a courtroom at the Airport courthouse, near Los Angeles International Airport, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced court officials to close the county’s courthouses to all but time-sensitive, essential matters in March. Moving the trial from the courtroom where it was being heard to a larger one at the Inglewood courthouse will better enable the court to implement social-distancing protocols, according to Hearn.
(Subscription required) In a presentation near the beginning of Thursday's hearing, Deputy Legislative Analyst Drew Soderborg gave more detail on where the dollars would come from. They would include $178 million in reductions from state trial courts, $14.2 million from dependency counsel, and $23 million from the pot of money that supports the Supreme Court, appellate courts and the Judicial Council.
(Subscription required) "After 22 years of serving as a deputy district attorney for San Joaquin County, I am honored to have been appointed commissioner by the superior court of this county," Rasmussen said.
(Subscription Required) The move by the San Francisco-based federal court is the latest by federal and state superior courts to delay trials due to the complicated logistics of keeping jurors and everyone else in courthouses 6 feet apart to follow state and county health rules.
(Subscription required) Since being named commissioner a year ago, Lee has split her time between courthouses in Walnut Creek and Richmond overseeing traffic, small claims and unlawful detainer calendars.
The Supreme Court in In re White today holds a superior court did not abuse its discretion in denying bail to a man arrested on suspicion of aiding the attempted kidnapping and assault with intent to commit rape of a 15-year-old girl.
“COVID-19 has immensely affected our economy, put pressure on both tenants and property owners to fulfill their payment obligations, and has exacerbated the need to keep people housed during an existing housing crisis,” said Gonzalez of her bill.
In People v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court today holds that, during jury argument, a prosecutor impermissibly and prejudicially vouched for the credibility of two prison officers who testified against an inmate defendant convicted of assaulting one of the officers. The prosecutor said the officers wouldn’t jeopardize their careers by lying.