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People v. Superior Court (Jeremy Walker)

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

June 8, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF RIVERSIDE COUNTY, Respondent JEREMY WALKER, Real Party in Interest.

         PETITION for writ of mandate from the Superior Court of Riverside County No. RIF1201399 Becky L. Dugan, Judge. Petition granted.

          Michael A. Hestrin, District Attorney, and Donald W. Ostertag, Deputy District Attorney for Petitioner.

          Bonnie M. Dumanis, District Attorney, Peter J. Cross, Deputy District Attorney, as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

          No appearance for Respondent.

          Robert J. Booher, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Real Party in Interest.

          AARON, J.

         California Public Defenders Association, Law Offices of the Public Defender and Laura B. Arnold, as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Party in Interest.

         I.

         INTRODUCTION

         On November 8, 2016, the voters passed Proposition 57, [1] and the new law became effective the following day. As relevant to this writ proceeding, Proposition 57 eliminated the People's ability to directly file criminal charges against a juvenile defendant[2] in a court of criminal jurisdiction (Adult Court). We must determine whether Proposition 57 applies to a pending case that the People directly filed in Adult Court against real party in interest, Jeremy Walker, several years prior to the effective date of the new law. We conclude that Proposition 57 does not apply to Walker's case and that the trial court's transfer of Walker's case from Adult Court to the juvenile court (Juvenile Court) pursuant to the new law was erroneous.[3] Accordingly, we grant the People's writ petition and direct the trial court to vacate its order transferring Walker's case from Adult Court to Juvenile Court.

         II.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In February 2012, the People filed a complaint against Walker in Adult Court, alleging two counts of attempted premeditated murder (Pen. Code, §§ 664, 187, subd. (a)) and one count of active participation in a gang (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (a)). With respect to the attempted murder counts, the People alleged two firearm enhancements (Pen. Code, § 12022.53, subds. (d), (e)) and a gang enhancement (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (b)). The record indicates that Walker was 17 years old at the time of the events giving rise to the charges.

         The People filed the complaint pursuant to former section 707, subdivision (d) of the Welfare and Institutions Code.[4] That statute permitted the direct filing of criminal charges in Adult Court against a person who was under 18 years of age at the time the crime was allegedly committed, under certain specified circumstances.

         A jury found Walker guilty as charged. The jury also found the firearm and gang enhancements true. The trial court sentenced Walker to 80 years to life in prison.

         In May 2015, this court ruled that the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence at Walker's trial and reversed his convictions. In September 2015, the remittitur issued in Walker's appeal. Since the issuance of the remittitur, Walker has been awaiting retrial.

         On November 8, 2016, the voters passed Proposition 57, which became effective the following day.

         In late November 2016, Walker filed a motion to transfer his case from Adult Court to Juvenile Court, in light of Proposition 57. In his motion, Walker argued that Proposition 57 "applies retroactively to direct file cases which are not yet final." (Formatting omitted.)

         The People filed an opposition to the motion in which they argued that Proposition 57 did not apply retroactively to cases filed in Adult Court prior to the effective date of the new law.

         The trial court held a hearing on Walker's motion on December 12, 2016. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court granted the motion, ruling in relevant part:

         "One side is, it goes to [J]uvenile [C]ourt, because Prop 57 is to be broadly construed. It doesn't speak to retroactivity at all, which of course is the People's argument, if it doesn't speak to it, that means it's prospective.

         "So these cases are going to have to be adjudicated again by eventually the Supreme Court, I'm sure, but my order right now is I'm going to grant the motion and order it - put it in [J]uvenile [C]ourt, because I think that's what the intent of the proposition is."

         The trial court stayed its order to permit the People to seek appellate review.

         That same day, the People filed a petition for writ of mandate/prohibition in the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division 2. In their petition, the People requested that the Court of Appeal order the trial court to vacate its order granting Walker's motion. Three days later, the Administrative Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, transferred the matter to this court.[5]

         On December 22, this court issued an order to show cause, directed Walker to file a return, permitted the People to file a traverse, and stayed all further proceedings in the trial court. Thereafter, Walker filed a return, the People filed a traverse, and this court heard argument in the matter.[6]

         III.

         DISCUSSION

         The trial court's order granting Walker's motion to transfer the case from Adult Court to Juvenile Court is premised on an improper retroactive application of Proposition 57

         In their petition, the People argue that this court should order the trial court to vacate its order granting Walker's motion. In support of this contention, the People argue that Proposition 57 does not apply retroactively to cases properly filed in Adult Court prior to the effective date of the proposition, and that the trial court's order transferring Walker's case to Juvenile Court is premised on an improper retroactive application of the law.

         Walker contends that Proposition 57 applies retroactively to cases filed in Adult Court prior to the effective date of the proposition. In the alternative, Walker contends that the trial court's order constitutes a prospective application of the new law. Walker also argues that the Adult Court lacks jurisdiction over his case pursuant to a section of the Welfare and Institutions Code (§ 602) as amended by Proposition 57. Finally, Walker maintains that to fail to apply Proposition 57 to his case would constitute a denial of equal protection of the law.

         We first provide a summary of Proposition 57, before considering whether the proposition may be applied retroactively to cases properly filed in Adult Court before the effective date of the statute. After concluding that Proposition 57 may not be applied retroactively, we next consider whether the trial court's order is premised on a prospective application of the new law. We conclude that the trial court's application of Proposition 57 to Walker's case constitutes an improper retroactive application of the law. We further conclude that the Adult Court does not lack jurisdiction over Walker's case under section 602 and that failing to apply Proposition 57 to Walker's case would not deny him equal protection of the law.

         A. Proposition 57

         1. Summary of Proposition 57

         In People v. Cervantes (2017) 9 Cal.App.5th 569 (Cervantes), review granted May 17, 2017, S241323, the Court of Appeal summarized the state of the law governing the filing of criminal charges against juveniles prior to the enactment of Proposition 57.

         "Historically, California required a judicial determination of unfitness for juvenile court before a minor could be prosecuted in adult court. [Citations.] Beginning in March 2000 [with the passage of Proposition 21[7] and continuing until the adoption of Proposition 57, however, the district attorney was authorized, as a matter of executive discretion, to file a criminal action against a juvenile in certain defined circumstances, rather than filing the case in juvenile court, a practice known as 'direct filing' or 'discretionary direct filing.' [Citations.] Some crimes... were considered so serious by the voters that, if committed by a minor age 14 or older, juvenile court was not an option; filing in adult criminal court was mandated by statute ('mandatory direct filing')." (Cervantes, at pp. 595-596, fn. omitted.)

         As noted previously, the electorate adopted Proposition 57 on November 8, 2016, and it became effective the following day. The proposition eliminated the People's ability to directly file charges against a juvenile defendant in Adult Court.[8] (See Cervantes, supra, 9 Cal.App.5th at p. 596; People v. Superior Court (Lara) (2017) 9 Cal.App.5th 753, 758 (Lara), review granted May 17, 2017, S241231.) The Cervantes court summarized Proposition 57 as follows:

         "Proposition 57 was designed to undo Proposition 21. After the passage of Proposition 57, the charging instrument for all juvenile crimes must be filed in juvenile court. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602.) While prosecuting attorneys may move to transfer certain categories of cases to criminal court (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 707, subd. (a)(1)), they have no authority to directly and independently file a criminal complaint against someone who broke the law as a juvenile, even by committing the crimes that previously qualified for mandatory direct filing. In cases where transfer to adult court is authorized (§ 707, subd. (b)) (and not all cases qualify), the juvenile court now has sole authority to determine whether the minor should be transferred. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 707, subd. (a)(2); see Brown v. Superior Court (2016) 63 Cal.4th 335, 340-341... [describing history and general provisions of the initiative measure].) Thus, Proposition 57 effectively guarantees a juvenile accused felon a right to a fitness hearing before he or she may be sent to the criminal division for prosecution as an adult." (Cervantes, at pp. 596-597, fn. omitted.)

         2. Proposition 57's amendments of sections 602 and 707

         As suggested by the Cervantes court's summary, Proposition 57 amended sections 602 and 707. As amended by Proposition 57, section 602 provides:

         "Except as provided in Section 707, any person who is under 18 years of age when he or she violates any law of this state or of the United States or any ordinance of any city or county of this state defining crime other than an ordinance establishing a curfew based solely on age, is within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, which may adjudge such person to be a ward of the court."[9]

         As amended by Proposition 57, section 707, subdivision (a)(1) provides:

         "(a)(1) In any case in which a minor is alleged to be a person described in Section 602 by reason of the violation, when he or she was 16 years of age or older, of any felony criminal statute, or of an offense listed in subdivision (b) when he or she was 14 or 15 years of age, the district attorney or other appropriate prosecuting officer may make a motion to transfer the minor from juvenile court to a court of criminal jurisdiction. The motion must be made prior to the attachment of jeopardy. Upon such motion, the juvenile court shall order the probation officer to submit a report on the behavioral patterns and social history of the minor. The report shall include any written or oral statement offered by the victim pursuant to Section 656.2.[10]"

         Proposition 57 also added section 707, subdivision (a)(2), which specifies certain criteria that the Juvenile Court shall consider in "decid[ing] whether the minor should be transferred to a court of criminal jurisdiction [(i.e., Adult Court)]." (§ 707, subd. (a)(2).)[11] The criteria include the degree of criminal sophistication exhibited by the minor (§ 707, subd. (a)(2)(A)(i)), the minor's prospects for timely rehabilitation (§ 707, subd. (a)(2)(B)(i)), the minor's history of delinquency (§ 707, subd. (a)(2)(C)(i)), the success of prior attempts by the Juvenile Court to rehabilitate the minor (§ 707, subd. (a)(2)(D)(i)), and the circumstances and gravity of the commitment offense (§ 707, subd. (a)(2)(E)(i)).

         Proposition 57 also amended section 707, subdivision (b) to state as follows:

         "Subdivision (a) shall be applicable in any case in which a minor is alleged to be a person described in Section 602 by reason of the violation of one of the following offenses when he or she was 14 or 15 years of age: [list of numerous offenses including attempted murder]."

         Finally, and importantly for this case, Proposition 57 repealed former section 707, subdivision (d), which permitted the People to directly file criminal charges against minors in Adult Court under certain specified circumstances. As applicable to this case, former section 707, subdivision (d)(1) provided in relevant part:

         "[T]he district attorney or other appropriate prosecuting officer may file an accusatory pleading in a court of criminal jurisdiction against any minor 16 years of age or older who is accused of committing an offense enumerated in subdivision (b).[12]"

         Proposition 57 also eliminated various presumptions to be applied by the Juvenile Court in determining whether a minor is "a fit and proper subject to be dealt with under the juvenile court law, " (former § 707, subd. (c)) by amending section 707, subdivision (a)(2) and repealing former section 707, subdivision (c).

         3. Proposition 57's uncodified sections

         Proposition 57 contains a number of uncodified sections, three of which Walker cites in his brief. Section 2 of Proposition 57 provides in relevant part:

         "Purpose and Intent.

         "In enacting this act, it is the purpose and intent of the people of the State of California to:

         "[¶]... [¶]

         "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."

         Section 5 of Proposition 57 provides, "Amendment. This act shall be broadly construed to accomplish its purposes. The provisions of Sections 4.1 and 4.2 of this act[13] may be amended so long as such amendments are consistent with and further the intent of this act by a statute that is passed by a majority vote of the members of each house of the Legislature and signed by the Governor."

         Finally, section 9 provides, "Liberal Construction. This act shall be liberally construed to effectuate its purposes."

         4. The distinctions between the prosecution of offenses in Adult Court and in Juvenile Court

         "Significant differences between the juvenile and adult offender laws underscore their different goals: The former seeks to rehabilitate, while the latter seeks to punish." (In re Julian R. (2009) 47 Cal.4th 487, 496.) The court in People v. Vela (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 68 (Vela) outlined some of these differences:

         "A prosecutor charges a minor with an offense by filing a juvenile petition, rather than a criminal complaint. [Citations.] Minors 'admit' or 'deny' an offense, rather than plead 'guilty' or 'not guilty.' [Citation.] There are no 'trials, ' per se, in juvenile court, rather there is a 'jurisdictional hearing' presided over by a juvenile court judge. [Citation.] The jurisdictional hearing is equivalent to a 'bench trial' in a criminal court. [Citation.] Although a juvenile court judge adjudicates alleged law violations, there are no 'conviction[s]' in juvenile court. [Citation.] Rather, the juvenile court determines-under the familiar beyond the reasonable doubt standard and under the ordinary rules of evidence-whether the allegations are 'true' and if the minor comes within its jurisdiction. [Citation.]

         "There is no 'sentence, ' per se, in juvenile court. Rather, a judge can impose a wide variety of rehabilitation alternatives after conducting a 'dispositional hearing, ' which is equivalent to a sentencing hearing in a criminal court. [Citations.] In the more serious cases, a juvenile court can 'commit' a minor to juvenile hall or to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), formerly known as the California Youth Authority (CYA). In order to commit a minor to the DJJ, the record must show that less restrictive alternatives would be ineffective or inappropriate. [Citation.] The DJJ, rather than the court, sets a parole consideration date. DJJ commitments can range from one year or less for nonserious offenses, and up to seven years for the most serious offenses, including murder. [Citation.] A minor committed to DJJ must generally be discharged no later than 23 years of age." (Id. at pp. 73-74.)

         B. The electorate did not intend for Proposition 57 to apply retroactively

         The People contend that the electorate did not intend for Proposition 57 to apply retroactively. "Whether the voters intended Proposition 57 to apply retroactively is a question of law to which we apply our independent judgment." (P ...


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