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Peterson v. State

May 17, 2010

NEIL C. PETERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA; COUNTY OF NEVADA; ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Garland E. Burrell, District Judge, Presiding DC No. CV 08-0442 GEB.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tashima, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Submitted April 16, 2010*fn1 -- San Francisco, California

Before: A. Wallace Tashima and Sidney R. Thomas, Circuit Judges, and William Stafford, Senior District Judge.*fn2

OPINION

Neil Peterson appeals the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings to the County of Nevada in his 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Peterson alleged that California Proposition 115 ("Prop. 115"), the Crime Victims Justice Reform Act, violates his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

I.

Prop. 115, which was adopted by California voters in 1990, added both constitutional and statutory language to permit a probable cause determination at a preliminary hearing to be based on hearsay evidence presented by a qualified investigative officer. See Whitman v. Superior Court, 820 P.2d 262, 265 (Cal. 1991). Prop. 115 amended the California Constitution to provide:

In order to protect victims and witnesses in criminal cases, hearsay evidence shall be admissible at preliminary hearings, as prescribed by the Legislature or by the people through the initiative process.

Cal. Const. art. I, § 30(b). It also amended the California Penal Code to provide:

Notwithstanding [the hearsay rule], the finding of probable cause may be based in whole or in part upon the sworn testimony of a law enforcement officer . . . relating the statements of declarants made out of court offered for the truth of the matter asserted . . . . Any law enforcement officer . . . testifying as to hearsay statements shall either have five years of law enforcement experience or have completed a training course certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training that includes training in the investigation and reporting of cases and testifying at preliminary hearings.

Cal. Penal Code § 872(b). Prop. 115 further amended the California Evidence Code to provide a preliminary hearing exception to the general requirement that hearsay declarants be made available for cross-examination. Cal. Evid. Code § 1203.1.

II.

Peterson was charged in 2005 with two felonies and several misdemeanors for health and safety violations arising out of his ownership and operation of an automobile dismantling site. Pursuant to Prop. 115, at the preliminary hearing, the prosecution called only one witness, the investigating officer, who testified to the hearsay ...


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