Thursday, May 15, 2014

In Re Valli (Cal. Supreme Ct. - May 15, 2014)

What a wonderful set of opinions.

It's not that the issue is extraordinarily complicated.  The question is whether a life insurance policy on a spouse that was purchased with community property remains community property despite the fact that the sole beneficiary is the other spouse.  The answer is "Yes".  Everyone on the California Supreme Court agrees.  Despite the fact that Court of Appeal went the other way.

What's somewhat unusual -- and wonderful -- about the opinion is that a large portion of its opening legal analysis involves a lengthy discussion of a hypothetical in which a husband purchases a diamond necklace for his wife, discussing whether such a purchase would involve separate property if the husband hadn't yet given the necklace to his wife.  I liked this because I found the hypothetical enlightening and because it reminded me of lectures in law school.  It's community property.  Whether you buy the property from "third parties" or not, unless you've affirmatively transmuted the thing, it belongs to the couple.  Simple as that.

So I thought that Justice Kennard's opinion was great.  So too for Justice Chin's concurrence.  He's fully on board Justice Kennard's opinion, but writes separately to discuss at length a different statutory provision that has confused various appellate courts in dissolution case, and does a great job of providing guidance.  Two other justices expressly join this concurrence as well, and I liked the effort.  It's as if Justice Chin is taking on extra work just to make things easier for his subordinate colleagues.  I love that attitude.

Smart, helpful opinions.  What more can you ask for?

P.S. - Plus, as a bonus, there's a little "star factor".  Since the husband who purchased the policy here (and whose divorce is at issue) is none other than Frankie Valli.