Thursday, October 30, 2008

In Re Charllisse C. (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Oct. 30, 2008)

The Ninth Circuit has taken the last couple of days off, at least as far as published opinions go. Fortunately, there's no rest for the weary in the California appellate courts.

Today the California Supreme Court gives the following lesson about how to avoid dissent. It's a tough conflict of interest issue that involves the validity of screening by the Children's Center of Los Angeles through the creation of different internal "units" so that it can avoid disqualification in dependency cases. But the Court resolves the dispute unanimously; by contrast, the decision below had generated three different opinions.

How does the California Supreme Court achieve unanimity on this difficult issue? By merely holding that the Court of Appeal applied the wrong legal standard (since this is a concurrent, rather than successive, conflict of interest case), and then remanding the case alongside relentless reminders that the Court isn't even trying to decide the merits.

That works. Though merely defers the day of reckoning.