Monday, March 30, 2009

People v. Chun (Cal. Supreme Court - March 30, 2009)

This is the type of work you can do when -- as a court -- you've got a little extra time on your hands. And that's a good thing.

Justice Chin writes a very long and good opinion about the second-degree felony murder rule and the related merger doctrine. Justice Moreno also writes a very good (and brief) dissent that reiterates his opposition to the second-degree felony murder rule. Both are worth reading.

As a practical matter, it's also nice that the California Supreme Court takes the time to clear up this confusing and difficult area. Each of the competing positions are reasonable. But -- perhaps in part for that reason -- the state of the law here is profoundly muddled. It's good, on occasion, to revisit these grand issues and try to get the law to make more sense. Even when, as here, there's no "special" reason to pick out any one particular case in order to do so, and even when there's no seeming time pressure to address those topics that have lingered for almost a century and would happily do so for another if left alone.

I like it.