Wednesday, November 14, 2007

People v. McCoy (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 15, 2007)

Sometimes I don't especially relish my job. Or, more accurately, my self-assigned mission to read every single one of the opinions published by the California Court of Appeal, California Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court. Because, to be honest, some of these opinions -- mostly, if truth be told, in the first category -- seem of incredibly minor importance. Sure, they are important in the aggregate. Sure, they resolve important issues of law. Sure, they may even be well-written, cogently argued, and reveal a wide variety of things about which I knew nothing before.

Still. Some days you're busy. And, like today, perhaps a little sleepy from that burrito you ate at lunch. You'd really just like to take a nap. But, instead, you read this opinion, published by Justice Turner this afternoon. Which, as its very first paragraph amply reveals, is exclusively about whether the particular criminal defendant here is required to pay the $15 state court construction penalty and the $10 state court surcharge. And -- to make matters worse -- the first paragraph ends with the following: "It bears emphasis we are only addressing a felony sentence imposed in Los Angeles County. As will be noted, in other counties, the result may be different." (emphasis in original).

Do I really gotta slog through this one? Can't I just pay the stinking $25 myself and skip over to the next case? *Sigh*

It gets worse, by the way, once you are actually reading the thing. Mind you, it's sort of an interesting issue once you're into it. Akin to the fascination you'd probably get in the fifth or sixth hour of watching paint dry. I mean, at some point, you're probably like: "Hey, I just noticed that the upper section of the fence differentially dries faster, probably due to the higher humidity at the bottom of the fence. Cool!!" Which is to say that once you're actually into any project, it can become somewhat interesting, on its own terms. Even though, from the outside, oh my God, what a nightmare.

And then, even inside the opinion, you run across paragraphs like these: "Two words of caution are in order. This case involves a felony sentence imposed in Los Angeles County. Section 76000, subdivision (e) makes clear that most counties allocate only $2 of the $7 penalty assessment on each fine to the section 76100 local courthouse construction fund. But other counties allocate different amounts to the local courthouse construction fund. (§ 76000, subd. (e).) Further, any county board of supervisors remains free to adopt a new resolution modifying the allocation to courthouse construction. If that happens, the amount deducted from the section 70372, subdivision (a) state court construction penalty will likewise change."

In other words, even though you've now invested the time to learn the answer to the $25 question here, that answer may well (1) not apply elsewhere, and (2) not apply in the future anyway. Awesome. I'm so glad I invested the time here.

Okay, I'll stop venting.

Often times, I say: "This is a must read opinion." Well, my friends: This ain't one of them. It's good. It's persuasive. It seems totally right to me. But, for recreational reading, it's a snoozer. Skip it. Move on. Or take a nap. You've got better things to do. Trust me.