Tuesday, June 10, 2008

People v. Manchel (Cal. Ct. App. - June 10, 2008)

I thought that Justice Zelon penned an extremely well-written opinion in this case. It flows, it's breezy, and it's persuasive. I wish that law review articles -- or at least the ones I write -- could be similarly smooth.

On the merits, she does a great job distinguishing the principal authority on which the defendant relies. Yes, it's true, she says, that the California Supreme Court held in Hofsheier that it violates equal protection when a defendant is subject to mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender for engaging in oral copulation with a minor but less than that for full-on intercourse. And that might facially seem the case here as well.

But, she explains, you were 10+ years older than your 15-year old partner. Which, under the statute, means that you engaged in a "lewd and lacivious act" -- a felony with mandatory registration -- regardless of which of the two sex acts (oral copulation or intercourse) you performed. Hence there's no equal protection violation since the "lesser" (oral sex) isn't treated differently than the "greater" (sex).

Well done. Especially since this seems to be an argument -- one that seems right to me, I might add -- that a prior panel and/or attorney missed in the Second District earlier this year, which went the other way.

Sometimes you read an opinion and say: "Look, I don't know much about the specific statutes the Court of Appeal is talking about, but from what the author says, she seems entirely right." This is one of those cases.