Wednesday, November 09, 2016

People v. Rodriguez (Cal. Supreme Ct. - Aug. 22, 2016)

I'm not sure I have the heart today to write a really long post about a published opinion.  It's an interesting day, to be sure.  But there are also a lot more things to think about today than whether the Ninth Circuit or the California Court of Appeal got X or Y right in a particular case.  Or at least they seem more pressing today.

But I nonetheless want to say something.  And thought I'd say something positive.  Make today about things that are good.  Things that are pretty.

So I will.

Justice Cuellar writes a pretty darn good opinion here.  Maybe a bit long.  But very persuasive.

He also writes a very good summary of its basic holding.  Which makes the opinion very easy to describe:

"Criminal defendants routinely file motions at the outset of their cases to suppress the evidence against them. When a judge grants such a motion, the prosecution may decide to dismiss the case and refile charges. But if the prosecution does refile such charges, Penal Code section 1538.5, subdivision (p) provides that any suppression motion the defendant subsequently files must be heard by the ―same judge‖ who granted the prior motion so long as that judge is 'available.' The question before us is whether trial courts are vested with discretion to decide whether a judge is available under section 1538.5(p), and if so, what limitations constrain that discretion.

What we hold is that although trial courts possess broad discretion to distribute business within their courts and make determinations concerning the availability of judges, that discretion must be exercised in a manner consistent with constraints imposed by section 1538.5(p). In light of the statute‘s text, as well as its purpose of prohibiting prosecutorial forum shopping, the trial court‘s discretion should be exercised in accordance with the following understanding: A judge may be found unavailable for purposes of section 1538.5(p) only if the trial court, acting in good faith and taking reasonable steps, cannot arrange for that judge to hear the motion. The trial court must make its finding of unavailability on the record."

Sounds exactly right.

There you go.  The world's a better place.