Marijuana adjudication, programs for mentally ill focus of new California laws

Juvenile justice reform, sentence reductions or expungement of convictions for marijuana users and expansion of programs that focus on mentally ill defendants all are highlights of new laws in California.

The judicial branch of California reports that the passage of recreational marijuana legalization in 2016 ushered in reforms — a legislative shift noted among new laws that went into effect on Jan. 1.

“AB 1793 provides a new process to identify an estimated 220,000 cannabis cases that qualify for dismissal or reduced sentences. If unchallenged by prosecutors, courts will automatically modify the sentences of those affected,” the state judicial website notes.

“California offers more than 400 specialty courts that treat the underlying causes of crime, and a new law (AB 1810) helps expand such programs for mentally ill defendants,” the article continues. “The state will funnel $100 million to county programs that divert some mentally ill defendants from jails into treatment (defendants charged with particularly serious crimes are excluded).

A change to California’s felony murder rule, SB 1437 stipulates that “only accomplices who act with ‘reckless indifference’ to human life, aid in the murder or conspire to commit murder can now be held responsible for first-degree murder,” the state reports.

Several laws target juvenile justice. These include SB 439, which ends criminal prosecution of children younger than 12, except in the case of specific violent crimes; SB 1391, which prohibits the prosecution of children under 16 years old as adults; and AB 1214, which aims to “ensure consistent procedures for restoring the competency of children declared mentally unfit by a judge.”

Another new law, SB 1208, “improves emergency procedures available to courts in a disaster,” the state notes.

Modernization of the warrant process and the launch of pilot programs at eight courts to take traffic court online are among the other highlights.


Health care law in limbo during government shutdown

The appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker may be delayed to the government shutdown. Photo Credit: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo as reported by Roll Call, 1/11/19.

In December, a federal judge in Texas struck down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but under appeal, the status of the health care law remains in limbo during a partial government shutdown.

“The partial government shutdown halted a major challenge to the 2010 health care law among other civil litigation on Friday, as Justice Department lawyers sought the same in a challenge from three Senate Democrats to the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general,” reports

“The federal court system will start feeling the crunch of the shutdown on Jan. 18 when the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts estimates it will run out of the court fee balances and other non-appropriated funds that so far allowed for regular operations,” notes an article by Roll Call.

“Courts have been asked to delay or defer non-mission critical expenses, such as new hires, non-case related travel, and certain contracts to stretch funds to that date. Criminal cases are expected to proceed uninterrupted.”


California federal judge blocks Trump birth control coverage rules in 13 states

Photo credit: AP File Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, as reported by AP on 1/13/19.

According to the AP, on Sunday, 1/13/19, Judge Haywood Gilliam of California granted a request for a preliminary injunction by California, 12 other states and Washington, D.C.,  to block Trump administration rules, which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control. According to the report, “The plaintiffs sought to prevent the rules from taking effect as scheduled today while a lawsuit against them moved forward… But Gilliam limited the scope of the ruling to the plaintiffs, rejecting their request that he block the rules nationwide.”

Calif. Gov. Brown makes final judicial appointments

Gov. Brown of California announces final judicial appointments during his last few weeks in office. Photo credit:

Less than a week before leaving office, California Gov. Jerry Brown made his final judicial appointments, filling 12 open trial court seats.

“Like many of the approximately 600 judicial appointments Brown has made over the last eight years, the latest batch of soon-to-be bench officers is ethnically diverse and includes many women (nine) and Democrats (10),” The Recorder at reports.

The appointees include Clifford Blakely Jr. and Karin Schwartz in Alameda County; John Devine in Contra Costa County; Vedica Puri to the San Francisco Superior Court; Nicole Isger in Santa Clara County; Terrye Davis in Solano County; Heather Mardel Jones in Fresno County; and Maria Cavalluzzi, Gail Killefer, Pamela M. Villanueva, David Yaroslavsky and Jennifer H. Cops in  Los Angeles County.

Brown’s full announcement is posted online.

Courts Monitor publisher thinks that the newly emerging cannabis industry can learn a thing or two from the alcohol industry

Sara Corcoran is a correspondent, contributing editor, and founding publisher of the National Courts Monitor & California Courts Monitor.

Sara Corcoran, the Courts Monitor publisher, thinks that the newly emerging cannabis industry can learn a thing or two from the alcohol industry. For example, as the repeal of alcohol prohibition turns 85 years old, the feuds between the “beer and wine” crowd and the “distilled spirits” companies could easily be repeated as cannabis regulation takes shape amid conflicted industry sectors. She is published at CityWatch LA, the regionally prominent Los Angeles-based opinion-and-politics website here.