Thursday, April 06, 2017

People v. Truong (Cal. Ct. App. - April 5, 2017)

This opinion ends not with a bang, but with a whimper.

The final argument raised by appellant's challenge to her conviction is her claim that the trial court should not have admitted the evidence about the credit limits of the credit cards she was alleged to unlawfully possess.  The opinion deals with this contention in a single paragraph at the end.

On the merits, Justice Lui seems entirely right that any error, even if it existed, would be harmless.

But there's no factual background about what evidence what admitted on the credit limit issue, or for what alleged purpose.  The reader is basically left entirely in the dark about what we're talking about.

The opinion also, strangely, feels the need to drop a footnote that defines what a credit card is.  And a long footnote at that:  "A credit card is generally defined as a “[s]tandard-size plastic token, with a magnetic stripe that holds a machine readable code. Credit cards are a convenient substitute for cash or check, and an essential component of electronic commerce and internet commerce. Credit card holders (who may pay annual service charges) draw on a credit limit approved by the card issuer such as a bank, store, or service provider (an airline, for example). Cardholders normally must pay for credit card purchases within 30 days of purchase to avoid interest and/or penalties.” ( [as of Apr. 4, 2017].)

Is that really necessary?  And, if it is, can we really not find a better source for this information than from an internet dictionary -- indeed, one I've never even heard of before?

Plus, the opinion also asserts that the error was harmless because "Credit cards, by definition, come with credit limits."  Again, I agree that any error would be harmless, and I also agree that most credit cards do indeed come with credit limits.

But it's actually untrue that "by definition," credit cards come with credit limits.  If I want, I can absolutely issue a credit card with no limit.  Indeed, some issuers purport to do precisely that.  that may or may not be a wise practice.  But it's not "definitionally" true that credit cards inherently have a credit limit.  If I want to say I'm liable for whatever amount the individual charges, I can do that.  No problem.  Not smart.  Maybe practically difficult to enforce any resulting liability if the user then runs up $1 trillion in charges buying, say, Russia.  But I can do it if I want.  That's still a credit card.

A funny way to finish up the last substantive paragraph of an opinion.