Monday, March 10, 2014

In Re A.C. (Cal. Ct. App. - March 10, 2014)

I like this.  It's not something I've seen before.

Court of Appeal Opinion A, in 2006, holds that it's error for a court to engage in a particular practice (here, setting a "maximum confinement term" for a minor who's returned to his or her parents rather than confined in juvie hall), but nonetheless declines to "strike" this irrelevant declaration from the sentence on the theory that since it's of no legal effect anyway, there's no harm leaving it there.

Since the Court of Appeal has identified this practice as error in a published (and precedential) opinion, you'd think that trial courts would stop doing it.  But they don't.  Lots of 'em keep on "adding" this to the sentence.  Leading to additional appeals.

So in 2008, the Court of Appeal issues Opinion B.  Which reiterates that, yes, setting that irrelevant term is indeed error, but noting that trial courts have nonetheless continued the practice.  So Opinion B decides to strike the term from the sentence.  Hoping that, now, trial courts will get the point, since now they'll partially be "reversed" if they add the term.

But that doesn't entirely work either.  Since now there's a "split" in the Court of Appeal.  The Third District says you don't strike the thing, but the Second District says you do.  Leading to more appeals about whether the thing should be struck.  With the People siding with the Third District and the minors asking the Court of Appeal to follow the Second.

So today, the Third District throws in the towel.  It reiterates that it's still totally error to add a maximum confinement term.  And since that didn't seem to stop the practice, and since the resulting appellate split has simply led to more appeals (and consequent waste of time and resources), it decides to go ahead and start striking  the term as well.  Hoping that this solution will finally "stop the error and quell the debate over its effect."

Let's hope that (finally) works.

I think that's a nice, practical resolution.  There's no need to waste money here.  So I like Justice Duarte's resolution.  As well as the willingness of the Third District to be flexible here.  Even though it thinks that its prior decision was just fine, it appreciates the resulting consequences, which everyone should realize are not optimal.  So it reconsiders its prior ruling.

I like it.  I like it a lot.