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People v. Superior Court (S.L.)

California Court of Appeals, Sixth District

September 20, 2019

THE PEOPLE, Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Respondent S.L., Real Party in Interest.

          Santa Clara County Superior Court Superior Court No.: 18CV42913A The Honorable Katherine Lucero Trial Judge.

          Attorneys for Petitioner, PEOPLE: Jeffery Rosen Jeff Rubin Office of the District Attorney

          Attorneys for Real Party in Interest, S.L.: Molly O’Neal Jeffrey M. Dunn Office of the Public Defender

          Attorneys for Amicus Curiae for Real Party in Interest, S.L.: Xavier Becerra Attorney General of California Thomas S. Patterson Senior Assistant Attorney General Tamar Pachter Supervising Deputy Attorney General Nelson R. Richards Deputy Attorney General

          Greenwood, P.J.

         Proposition 57 required prosecutors charging a minor aged 14 or older at the time of the offense to seek a juvenile court’s approval to transfer the minor to adult criminal court. In 2018, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill No. 1391 (SB 1391), prohibiting the transfer of 14- and 15-year-old minors to criminal court in most cases.

         The Santa Clara County District Attorney petitions this court for a writ of mandate requiring the juvenile court to conduct a hearing on whether minor S.L. should be transferred to criminal court.[1] S.L. was 15 years old at the time of the alleged conduct. The juvenile court declined to hold a transfer hearing based on SB 1391. The District Attorney now contends SB 1391 unconstitutionally amended Proposition 57 by abrogating prosecutors’ ability to move for transfer of minors who are 14 and 15 years of age to adult criminal court.

         We hold SB 1391 is constitutional because it is consistent with and furthers the intent of Proposition 57. Accordingly, we will deny the petition.

         I. Procedural Background

         The prosecution charged S.L. with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder. The alleged facts of the offenses are irrelevant to the resolution of this matter. The parties agree that S.L. was 15 years old at the time of the alleged murder.

         In February 2018, the prosecution filed a juvenile wardship petition under Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 alleging four counts: Count 1-murder (Pen. Code, § 187); and counts 2 through 4-attempted murder (Pen. Code, §§ 664, 187).[2] As to count 1, the petition alleged that S.L. personally and intentionally discharged a firearm in the commission of the offense. (Pen. Code, § 12022.53, subd. (d).) As to counts 2 through 4, the petition alleged that S.L. was a principal in the offense and that at least one principal personally and intentionally discharged a firearm. (Pen. Code, § 12022.53, subds. (c) & (e)(1).)

         In October 2018, the prosecution filed a brief challenging the constitutionality of SB 1391 on the ground that it impermissibly amended Proposition 57 by eliminating a court’s ability to transfer jurisdiction over a 15-year-old charged with murder to adult criminal court. S.L. filed an opposing brief, and the prosecution replied. In December 2018, the trial court held a transfer setting hearing and issued a ruling on the constitutional issue. The court ruled that SB 1391 is constitutional “and that it does impact the litigation in this case.” The court then issued an amended decision in January 2019, shortly after SB 1391 took effect. In a written opinion, the court ruled that SB 1391 did not impermissibly amend Proposition 57 and was therefore constitutional. The court also stayed the ruling as to count 1 to allow the prosecution to petition for a writ.

         The District Attorney then petitioned for a writ of mandate in this court on January 31, 2019. We stayed all trial court proceedings and requested preliminary opposition from S.L. in February 2019. After S.L. filed his brief in opposition, we issued an order to show cause, and ...


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