Amir v. Superior Court (The People), 080218 SUPAD, BS 173665

Docket Nº:BS 173665
Opinion Judge:RICCIARDULLI, J.
Party Name:SHAHAB AMIR, Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent, THE PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest.
Attorney:Abtin Amir for Petitioner. No appearances for Respondent and Real Party in Interest.
Judge Panel:We concur: Kumar, Acting P. J. Richardson, J.
Case Date:August 02, 2018
Court:Superior Court of California
 
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SHAHAB AMIR, Petitioner,

v.

THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent,

THE PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest.

BS 173665

Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Los Angeles

August 2, 2018

ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS; petition for writ of mandate Lancaster Trial Court No. CP33883. Robert A. McSorley, Commissioner. Petition is granted.

Abtin Amir for Petitioner.

No appearances for Respondent and Real Party in Interest.

OPINION

RICCIARDULLI, J.

INTRODUCTION

When a person cited for an infraction resides or works closer to the county seat than to the court nearest to the place where they were cited, upon the person's demand, must the person be tried in a court in the county seat, or can the person's request be denied due to the travel inconvenience of the citing law enforcement agency? We hold a court in this instance must transfer the place of trial to the county seat. (Veh. Code, § 40502, subd. (b).)1

Petitioner Shahab Amir requested a writ commanding respondent Los Angeles County Superior Court to vacate its order denying his motion to change the location for trial of his infraction from Lancaster, which is 70 miles from his residence, to the Los Angeles County seat in the City of Los Angeles, which is two miles from his home, and enter a new order granting his motion. We will issue a writ so ordering.

BACKGROUND

Petitioner on September 2, 2017, was given a citation for speeding in Lancaster in Los Angeles County, and he requested the citing officer to specify the county seat as the place to appear. The officer refused to do so, instructing petitioner to appear in the Antelope Valley Courthouse in Lancaster.

At his arraignment on April 27, 2018, petitioner moved to transfer the case to the county seat. Petitioner maintained transfer was warranted because he resided in the City of Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Courthouse in Los Angeles was two miles from where he lived, and the courthouse in Lancaster was 70 miles from his home.

Respondent stated that section 40502 gave the court discretion to accede to a person's demand to be tried in the county seat, and respondent declined to change the location of the trial. Respondent issued a written ruling denying the motion.

Respondent recognized the Court of Appeal in 1959 construed section 40502's predecessor-former section 739-as conferring no discretion on a trial court to deny a person's transfer request to the county seat (Smith v. Municipal Court (1959) 167 Cal.App.2d 534, 540-541 (Smith)). But, respondent observed there were no published opinions holding this interpretation remained valid under the current law. Respondent ruled the current statute was differently worded than its predecessor and the current version afforded the trial court the discretion to decide the location of the trial. Respondent considered whether a change in the place of trial was “in the interest of justice.” It observed that the office of the citing agency, the California Highway Patrol (CHP), was located in Lancaster, the Antelope Valley Courthouse was the most convenient place for the CHP officer to appear to testify, and the next nearest other courthouses were 54.10, 55.17, and 69.70 miles away from the courthouse in Lancaster. In denying the transfer motion, the court concluded, “These distances are far too great for the traffic enforcement agencies to expend the funds to have their officers travel in order to appear on a single traffic citation in view of current public funding budget problems.”

Petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of mandate and for a stay, requesting we vacate the April 27, 2018, order denying his motion. On May 21, 2018, having determined that petitioner's request appeared to be meritorious, we issued a Palma notice indicating we would dismiss the petition as moot if respondent reconsidered and vacated its order and entered a new order granting petitioner's motion. (Palma v. U.S. Industrial Fasteners, Inc. (1984) 36 Cal.3d 171.) We also indicated that if respondent elected not to reconsider and vacate its order, it was to...

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