Monday, August 20, 2007

O'Connell v. Stockton (Cal. Supreme Ct. - July 26, 2007)

I always like it when I'm right.

Mind you, I'm happy to be wrong. And surely, at times, am. But I always enjoy it when events go my way.

So, back in 2005, I commented on the opinion by Justice Butz in a case involving a municipal ordinance that allowed the City of Stockton to forfeit vehicles used by individuals to buy drugs or solicit prostitutes and said that "you're almost certainly looking at the California Supreme Court taking up the case." Which it promptly did, thank you very much. I also said that, in my view, Justice Butz wrote a very persuasive opinion. And as it turns out, I wasn't the only one. As, in this opinion, the California Supreme Court affirms.

It's a close one: a 4-3. But I think that Justice Kennard, who wrote the majority opinion, with whom Chief Justice George and Justices Werdegar and Moreno joined, has the much better of the argument. It was also fairly lame, in my opinion, that Justice Corrigan (joined by Justices Baxter and Chin) begins the dissent with the following paragraph: "The ordinance at issue is a practical and responsible attempt by the City of Stockton (Stockton) to address problems it, and many other cities face on a daily basis. The ordinance speaks to a narrow, pressing and quite real local concern. Street commerce in drugs and sex forces innocent people to share their neighborhoods with pimps, prostitutes, and drug dealers who use their streets as a bazaar for illegal transactions." It's a preemption opinion, for goodness sakes. It's irrelevant that drugs and prostitution ain't exactly WalMart. I'd focus a little more on the relevant facts -- and, hopefully, the law -- and less on the atmospherics.