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Narith S. v. Superior Court (The People)

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Third Division

December 4, 2019

NARITH S., Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent THE PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS in mandate. Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. NA101252-02, Laura Laesecke, Judge. Petition granted.

          Cyn Yamashiro and Markéta Sims, Independent Juvenile Defender Program, for Petitioner.

          No appearance for Respondent.

          Jackie Lacey, District Attorney, Phyllis Asayama and John Pomeroy, Deputy District Attorneys, for Real Party in Interest.

          EGERTON, J.

         Narith S. petitions for a writ of mandate requiring the trial court to vacate its order denying his motion to remand his case to juvenile court. Narith was 15 years old at the time of the offenses with which he is charged. The trial court ruled Senate Bill No. 1391 (SB 1391) unconstitutional. We agree with our colleagues in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Districts who have recently confronted this issue and concluded that SB 1391 is constitutional. Accordingly, we grant Narith's petition.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2015 the People charged Narith with nine counts of attempted murder as well as shooting at an inhabited dwelling and discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle.[1] The case arose from a gang-related drive-by shooting at an apartment complex. After detectives gave Narith the Miranda admonition, [2] he told them he had fired a number of shots from the back seat of his friend's car after yelling “Fuck Chongos” (a derogatory term for the gang that is his gang's rival). Five victims were struck with bullets; all five survived. Narith was 15 years old at the time of the alleged crimes.

         Narith was arraigned in criminal (adult) court in November 2015. A year later his counsel moved to remand his case to juvenile court. In January 2017 the trial court certified Narith to the juvenile court. In June 2018 the juvenile court found Narith unfit for juvenile court and returned him to criminal court.

         On January 3, 2019, Narith filed a motion to remand his case to juvenile court, citing SB 1391. The district attorney opposed the motion, arguing SB 1391 is “an unconstitutional amendment to the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, as amended by an initiative statute, Proposition 57.” Narith filed a reply.

         On February 20, 2019, the court heard the motion. The court ruled SB 1391 unconstitutional and therefore denied Narith's motion to be transferred back to the juvenile court. Narith filed a petition for a writ of mandate and a request for a stay of his adult proceedings. We issued an order to show cause and a stay.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Proposition 57 and SB 1391

         In November 2016 the voters approved Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Reconciliation Act of 2016. (People v. Superior Court (Alexander C.) (2019) 34 Cal.App.5th 994, 997 (Alexander C.).) Proposition 57 “ ‘largely returned California to the historical rule' ” in effect before 2000 that “required a juvenile court to declare a minor unfit for the juvenile system before a district attorney could prosecute that minor in criminal court.” (Alexander C., at pp. 997-998.) Under Proposition 57, “ ‘ “[c]ertain categories of minors... can still be tried in criminal court, but only after a juvenile court judge conducts a transfer hearing to consider various factors such as the minor's maturity, degree of criminal sophistication, prior delinquent history, and whether the minor can be rehabilitated.”' ” (Alexander C., at p. 998, quoting People v. Superior Court (Lara) (2018) 4 Cal.5th 299, 305.)

         Proposition 57 set forth five purposes: “1. Protect and enhance public safety. [¶] 2. Save money by reducing wasteful spending on prisons. [¶] 3. Prevent federal courts from indiscriminately releasing prisoners. [¶] 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.” (People v. Superior Court (S.L.) (2019) 40 Cal.App.5th 114, 121, review granted Nov. 26, 2019, S258432 (S.L.), quoting Voter Information Guide, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 8, 2016) text of Prop. 57, § 2, p. 141 (Voter Guide).) Proposition 57 “authorize[d] legislative amendment of its provisions that amended [Welfare and Institutions Code] section 707, ‘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.' ” (People v. Superior Court (K.L.) (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th 529, 535 (K.L.), quoting Voter Guide, § 5, p. 145.)

         In September 2018 the Governor approved SB 1391 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.) (Stats. 2018, ch. 1012, § 1). It took effect January 1, 2019. SB 1391 “eliminates the district attorneys' ability to seek transfer of 14 and 15 year olds from juvenile court to criminal court” (subject to a narrow exception if the minor is “ ‘not apprehended prior to the end of juvenile court jurisdiction' ”). (Alexander C., supra, 34 Cal.App.5th at p. 998; Welf. & Inst. Code, ยง 707, subd. (a)(2).) The Legislature declared that SB 1391 ...


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