Abbott v. City of Los Angeles

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation82 A.L.R.2d 385,3 Cal.Rptr. 158,53 Cal.2d 674,349 P.2d 974
Decision Date26 February 1960
Parties, 349 P.2d 974, 82 A.L.R.2d 385 John Hunley ABBOTTT, Appellant, v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES et al., Respondents. L. A. 25657.

A. L. Wirin, Fred Okrand, Norman G. Rudman and Edmond D. Edelman, Los Angeles, for appellant.

Roger Arnebergh, City Atty., Philip E. Grey, Asst. City Atty., and William E. Doran, Deputy City Atty., Los Angeles, for respondents.

PETERS, Justice.

Plaintiff brought this action for declaratory relief, and for an injunction, naming the City of Los Angeles, its Police Chief and its City Attorney as defendants. He alleged the enactment of sections 52.38-52.53, inclusive, of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, which constitute a 'criminal registration act'. 1 He further alleged that he is a person who has been convicted of a crime in that, having been classified as a conscientious objector under the federal Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, he was, in 1943 convicted (on a plea of guilty) of failure to remain in a Civilian Public Service Camp (violation of 50 U.S.C.A.Appendix, § 311 *, and was sentenced to two years in prison, which sentence he served (less time off for good behavior). He further alleged his knowledge of the provisions of the registration statute, together with his failure to register. He then challenges the ordinance as being unconstitutional, and alleges that he would suffer irreparable injury, by way of trial and punishment, if defendants are not restrained from enforcing its provisions. He urges that the ordinance violates the Due Process Clauses, the Privileges and Immunities Clauses and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and also violates sections 4, 11, 13 and 21 of Article I, and section 25, subd. 33 of Article IV of the California Constitution.

Defendants in their answer, admit every allegation of the complaint save and except the allegations of unconstitutionality and the allegations that plaintiff has no plain, speedy or adequate remedy. Specifically admitted are the allegations regarding the dispute between the parties, thus eliminating all question of the propriety of the causes of action for declaratory relief. Injunctive relief is also proper. 2 With the pleadings so framed, the only issue before the trial court was the constitutionality of the ordinance.

A pro forma trial was had, during which the admitted facts were placed in evidence by the unrebutted testimony of plaintiff, who also testified that his occupation as a carpenter required him alternately to leave Los Angeles and to return thereto for varying periods of time, and to change his residence at frequent intervals. The trial court made its findings of fact in conformity with this testimony, and concluded that the ordinance is constitutional, both on its face and as applied to plaintiff. Judgment was entered thereon in favor of defendants. Plaintiff has appealed.

Although the Legislature of this state has enacted numerous laws requiring individuals and organizations to register name, address and activity, 3 there appears to be but one such statute requiring registration with either state or local authority by reason of previous conviction of crime. That is Penal Code, § 290, which requires that persons who have been convicted of certain specified sex crimes must register with the sheriff or chief of police in the area in which they reside. On the other hand, some municipalities within California have enacted so-called criminal registration ordinances applying to many offenses. 4 The present case appears to be the first to come before this court involving the constitutionality of such a 'criminal registration' ordinance. 5

The ordinance here under attack has been before the United States Supreme Court in the case of Lambert v. People of State of California, 355 U.S. 225, 78 S.Ct. 240, 2 L.Ed.2d 228. That court refused to pass upon the constitutionality of the statute per se, but held that the application thereof, in that case, was violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The rationale of the decision was that the highest state court to which Lambert in that case might appeal (i. e., the Appellate Department of the Superior Court) had held that lack of knowledge of the existence of the statute was not available as a defense to Lambert and that in this type of ordinance due process requires knowledge as an essential element of the offense. The court therefore held that an attempt to convict in the absence of knowledge was unconstitutional

The ordinance is silent as to scienter. The question as to whether a legislative intent to include knowledge or willful failure to register should be inferred was left undetermined by the United States Supreme Court. 6 If this court were to interpret the ordinance as not requiring knowledge, then the ordinance would be unconstitutional under federal law. On this point the Supreme Court of the United States has already spoken. But if we were to interpret the ordinance by implication to require knowledge as an element of the offense the decision in Lambert v. People of State of California would not be controlling. This is an interesting question, but for the reasons hereafter stated, we are not called upon to make such a determination in this case. This is so because we are of the opinion that the ordinance is unconstitutional because it attempts to legislate in a field already pre-empted by the state. In other words the respondent city has attempted to legislate in a field, and in a manner, beyond its constitutional power.

Respondents contend that the legislation is a reasonable exercise of police power. Such an exercise of police power by a city must be based upon section 11 of Article XI of the California Constitution, which provides that a city 'may make and enforce within its limits all such local, police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws.' By its very terms, this power is confined to a subject matter that is not in 'conflict' with general laws. The appellate courts, in interpreting this clause, have laid down certain general and specific rules which act as guideposts to municipalities in this field. Consideration of those rules demonstrates that Los Angeles was without power to enact the instant ordinance.

The power granted by section 11 of Article XI is not only a delegation of power by the people to the local body, but it is also a limitation upon the local body (In re Mingo, 190 Cal. 769, 214 P. 850; Cramer v. City of San Diego, 164 Cal.App.2d 168, 170, 330 P.2d 235; Lossman v. City of Stockton, 6 Cal.App.2d 324, 44 P.2d 397; Agnew v. City of Culver City, 147 Cal.App.2d 144, 304 P.2d 788). A city has no power to legislate upon matters which are not of a local nature (Pipoly v. Benson, 20 Cal.2d 366, 369, 125 P.2d 482, 147 A.L.R. 515; Lossman v. City of Stockton, supra, 6 Cal.App.2d 324, at pages 327-328, 44 P.2d at page 399, both holding that control of traffic on highways is not a local matter). When there is a doubt as to whether an attempted regulation relates to a municipal or to a state matter, or if it be the mixed concern of both, the doubt must be resolved in favor of the legislative authority of the state (Ex parte Daniels, 183 Cal. 636, 639-640, 192 P. 442, 21 A.L.R. 1172; Lossman v. City of Stockton, supra).

These rules are not limited in their application to situations where a local body attempts to enact legislation the actual language of which conflicts with previously enacted state law. These rules also prevent any legislation by a local body (other than in furtherance of the state law) when the entire field, that is the subject matter of the ordinance, has already been fully occupied by the state. Thus the Constitution prohibits a city from imposing additional requirements in a state occupied field (James v. Myers, 68 Cal.App.2d 23, 156 P.2d 69; Agnew v. City of Los Angeles, 51 Cal.2d 1, 330 P.2d 385), or from punishing the same act denounced by state law (In re Mingo, 190 Cal. 769, 214 P. 850, supra; Ex parte Daniels, 183 Cal. 636, 192 P. 442, 21 A.L.R. 1172, supra).

The denial of power to a local body when the state has pre-empted the field is not based solely upon the superior authority of the state. It is a rule of necessity, based upon the need to prevent dual regulations which could result in uncertainty and confusion. Thus, the term 'conflict' as used in section 11 of Article XI has been held not to be limited to a mere conflict in language, but applies equally to a conflict of jurisdiction. In Pipoly v. Benson, supra, this court said, 20 Cal.2d at pages 370-371, 125 P.2d at pages 485: 'Paradoxical as it may seem, it is apparent that an ordinance and a statute may be identical * * * and yet the ordinance is invalid because within the constitutional provision it is in conflict with the statute. * * * The invalidity arises, not from a conflict of language, but from the inevitable conflict of jurisdiction while would result from dual regulations covering the same ground. Only by such a broad definition of 'conflict' is it possible to confine local legislation to its proper field of supplementary regulation.' Thus, whether the state has pre-empted the field to the exclusion of local legislation depends not only upon the language of the statutes adopted, but upon the purpose and scope of the legislative scheme. In applying this rule, the fields of licensing certain types of business activities (Agnew v. City of Culver City, supra), regulating traffic on public highways (Pipoly v. Benson, supra), presentation of claims for damages against local bodies (Eastlick v. City of Los Angeles, 29 Cal.2d 661, 177 P.2d 558, 170 A.L.R. 225), tests for loyalty as prerequisite to public employment (Tolman v. Underhill, 39 Cal.2d 708, 249 P.2d 280; Bowen v. County of Los Angeles, 39...

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