02/25/2021--The Supreme Court today finds a 2018 statute did not violate the California Constitution in eliminating the possibility of transfer to adult criminal court of almost all prosecutions for crimes committed by 14- and 15-year-olds. In O.G. v. Superior Court, the Ventura County District Attorney — supported by the California District Attorneys Association — argued the legislation improperly amended a 2016 initiative approved by the voters. California’s Attorney General, however, supported the position of the petitioner — who was charged with committing two murders when he was 15 years old — that the statute was a valid amendment. The Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Joshua Groban agrees with the petitioner and the Attorney General. The initiative — Proposition 57 (which, incidentally, made the ballot only after a 2016 Supreme Court decision cleared the way) — ended unilateral prosecutor discretion to transfer juvenile cases to criminal court, but still allowed certain transfers with judicial approval. It also permitted amendments that “are consistent with and further” its intent. The legislation — Senate Bill 1391 — eliminated even the option of getting judicial approval for transferring juveniles accused of committing crimes when they were 14 or 15 years old. Applying a “highly deferential standard” to the Legislature’s action, the court concluded SB 1391 was a permissible amendment of Proposition 57 because it “is fully consistent with and furthers Proposition 57’s fundamental purposes of promoting rehabilitation of youthful offenders and reducing the prison population.” The court reverses the Second District, Division Six, Court of Appeal, whose opinion was at odds with a number of other appellate court decisions.
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