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.

New legislation wipes out earlier drug-conviction sentence enhancements

February 27, 2020 | At the Lectern
In People v. McKenzie, the Supreme Court today retroactively applies a statutory elimination of certain drug-related sentence enhancements. The defendant had initially been subject to the enhancements when he pleaded guilty, had his sentences suspended, and been placed on probation, but the enhancements weren’t imposed until his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to prison two years later.

Two Sanchez claims: one defendant loses, another given a second chance to win

February 27, 2020 | At the Lectern
The Supreme Court today decides two follow-ups to the Sanchez case, a 2016 opinion in which the court held the Sixth Amendment, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36, precluded a prosecution expert from relating “case-specific statements . . . concerning [the] defendant’s gang membership.”

Yet another Prop. 47 opinion filing Monday

February 28, 2020 | At the Lectern
Jimenez raises the issue whether a felony conviction for the unauthorized use of personal identifying information of another (Pen. Code, § 530.5, subd. (a)) may be reclassified as a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 on the ground that the offense amounted to Penal Code section 459.5 shoplifting.

Editorial: Courthouse immigration arrests diminish justice for all

February 26, 2020 | The Press Democrat
The arrests blocked the suspects from participating in scheduled court appearances, thereby derailing judicial proceedings. Worse, they sent a clanging signal to anyone in Sonoma County with real or imagined concerns about their immigration status: Cooperate with law enforcement and the courts at your peril.

Column: When are jury trials available in enforcement actions?

February 28, 2020 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) California precedent held that jury trials are not available in Prop. 65 cases, but that line of reasoning has already been questioned by the California Court of Appeal. The California Supreme Court may now overrule that precedent entirely.

AB-5 blues: New 'gig' work law upends Bay Area's arts scene

February 28, 2020 | The Mercury News
But AB-5 dictated that such freelance arrangements could no longer work for City Lights — or for many other nonprofit theater, dance or music groups in California. Under AB-5, “Stage Kiss” actors and crew members either had to either be hired as hourly employees, which City Lights couldn’t afford, or do the show as volunteers.
A flood of proposed changes to California's AB 5 awaits state lawmakers

A flood of proposed changes to California's AB 5 awaits state lawmakers

February 28, 2020 | Los Angeles Times
Critics of California’s new law limiting the use of independent contractors don’t just want legislators to take a second look at a handful of fiercely debated provisions. They want a series of potential do-overs — some to make small revisions to the law and others that would go as far as repeal it.

District Attorney Leading Efforts to Dismiss 66000 Marijuana Convictions in California

February 28, 2020 |
California courts have been ordered to dismiss around 66,000 marijuana convictions, even those going back decades. Eligible for the conviction dismissal were those who are 50 years of age or older, those who have not been convicted of a crime in the last 10 years, those with a conviction who successfully completed probation, and those with a conviction under the age of 21.

Judicial Profile: Kings County Judge Kathy Ciuffini

February 28, 2020 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) Judge Kathy Ciuffini is new to probate, but the loss of her father a few years ago gave her some perspective before her election to the bench. “I understand it, I understand the loss and the grief,” Ciuffini said. “The first thing I’ll say to people is just, first of all, I recognize that there’s a loss and people are grieving and people change and they’re not themselves when they’re grieving.”

Probation officers applaud governor’s speech on criminal law changes

February 27, 2020 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) The governor also noted other issues, like the looming presence of SB 10, a law that will phase out cash bail if it survives a fall referendum, noting $75 million in his budget proposal for pilot projects on pretrial assessment. Newsom also sought to reassure the group over the ongoing reduction in fines and fees revenue collected by courts that has been hitting probation office budgets.

Judicial Profile: Orange County Judge Shaina Colover

February 27, 2020 | Daily Journal
(Subscription required) Colover took over as presiding judge of the North Justice Center’s drug court last June, which puts her at the Fullerton courthouse nearly every Friday. Other days, she’s at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, presiding over misdemeanor trials and handling assorted motions and felony preliminary hearings.

California Supreme Court to study ways to prevent discrimination in juries

February 26, 2020 | The Mercury News
In a news release, the court said that Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye will organize a study group composed of “judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, and other practitioners in criminal and civil litigation” to study what additional measures may be needed to ensure diversity in California juries. At the center of the debate are preemptory challenges — attorneys’ ability to dismiss potential jurors without stating a reason — as well as case law that critics say doesn’t go far enough to weed out unconscious bias or flat-out racism in trials.

Ag working out impact of AB5

February 26, 2020 | The Sun Gazette
Under Assembly Bill 5, if someone does work for a business that is a part of a company’s core purpose, that worker must be treated as a full-time employee. “I don’t think anyone really knows what the full implications are for AB 5,” said Bryan Little, the director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation. “The new test is a very narrow and specific fit that complicates how someone can do business.”

ICE arrests in Sonoma County prompt calls for immigrant protections

February 25, 2020 | The Press Democrat
The united message was delivered during a press conference outside the Sonoma County courthouse, where Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents arrested two men on Feb. 18 despite a new state law that bars civil immigration arrests at California courthouses.

Is New York’s bail bonds industry pushing back on bail reform?

February 25, 2020 | WKBW
New York isn’t the only state to experience growing pains with bail reform. Voters in California will decide in November whether to reverse its bail reform legislation amid criticism and pressure from the bail bonds industry, which stands to lose millions from the reform of these laws.

Opinion: Why We Need to Reform New York’s Criminal Justice Reforms

February 25, 2020 | New York Times
We support the New York State Legislature’s efforts to address the inequities of bail and to ensure that people accused of crimes have the information they need to defend themselves in court. We also appreciate the willingness of state lawmakers to collaborate with us to refine the reforms passed last year in a manner that best serves our entire communities.
Cal High three-peats as county mock trial champions

Cal High three-peats as county mock trial champions

February 25, 2020 | Danville San Ramon
Students at California High School in San Ramon have once again shown their legal prowess by successfully defending their school's title as champions at Contra Costa County’s 39th annual Mock Trial Competition.

California bill would seal 2 million criminal records

February 24, 2020 | Associated Press
California will consider legislation that would wipe the low-level criminal records of about 2 million people going back decades, part of a lawmaker’s second attempt to remove barriers to finding work or housing.

California Task Force Recommends Limited Fee-Sharing, 'Regulatory Sandbox'

February 24, 2020 | The Recorder
The task force stopped short of calling for immediate changes that would allow non-lawyers to take an ownership stake in law firms. The group also opted for only a modest expansion of fee-sharing. Instead, the 22 members pinned many of their hopes for reform on the creation of a trial program for entrepreneurs known as the “regulatory sandbox.”
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