Briggs v. Brown

Decision Date24 August 2017
Docket NumberS238309
Citation221 Cal.Rptr.3d 465,400 P.3d 29,3 Cal.5th 808
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties Ron BRIGGS, Petitioner, v. Edmund G. BROWN, Jr., as Governor, etc., et al., Respondents; Californians to Mend, Not End, the Death Penalty, etc., Intervener.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Christina Von der, Irvine, Ahe Rayburn and Lillian Jennifer Mao, Menlo Park, for Petitioner.

Michael J. Hersek, San Francisco, for Habeas Corpus Resource Center as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

Sanger Swysen & Dunkle, Robert M. Sanger, Stephen K. Dunkle, Santa Barbara; Clarke Johnston Thorp & Rice, Thomas H. Speedy Rice, San Diego; Law Office of Melissa Bobrow and Melissa Bobrow, San Diego, for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and Death Penalty

Focus as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

Hilary Potashner, Federal Public Defender (Central District) and Heather Williams, Federal Public Defender (Eastern District) for Offices of the Federal Public Defenders as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Matthew S. Kahn, San Francisco, Kevin Yeh, Ryan P. McGinley-Stempel, San Francisco, and Theane Evangelis, Los Angeles, for Constitutional Law Amici as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

O'Melveny & Myers, Brett J. Williamson, Anne M. Steinberg, Newport Beach, Alix R. Sandman, Matthew T. Kline, Los Angeles, and Susannah K. Howard, San Francisco, for The Innocence Network, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

Kathleen A. Kenealy, Acting Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Douglas J. Woods, Assistant Attorney General, Marc A. LeForestier and Jose A. Zelidon-Zepeda, Deputy Attorneys General, for Respondents.

Michele Hanisee, Ivy B. Fitzpatrick, Murrieta; Joe Brandon; Steven J. Walter ; Cyril Yu, Fresno; Maeve Fox, Ventura; Michael A. Caves; Andrew Soloman; Matt De Moura; Karen Jensen ; and Robert Maddock for Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Association, San Diego County Deputy District Attorneys Association, Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys, Ventura County Prosecutor's Association, Kern County Prosecutors Association, Sacramento County Deputy District Attorneys Association, Yolo County Deputy District Attorneys Association, Solano County Association of Deputy District Attorneys and Sonoma County Prosecutors' Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

David A. Sanders, Daniel M. Lindsay, West Sacramento, and Justin C. Delacruz for California Correctional Peace Officers Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Stephen M. Wagstaffe, Redwood City, Mark Zahner and Frank C. Meyer IV, Sacramento, for California District Attorneys Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Nina Salarno Besselman for Crime Victims United of California as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Hayes & Ortega, Dennis J. Hayes and Michelle C. Hribar, San Diego, for Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney (Orange) and Holly M. Woesner, Deputy District Attorney, for Orange County District Attorney as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, Charles H. Bell, Jr., Terry J. Martin, Sacramento; Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, Kent S. Scheidegger and Kymberlee C. Stapleton for Intervener

Mastagni Holstedt, David P. Mastagni, David E. Mastagni and Isaac S. Stevens, Sacramento, for Peace Officers Research Association of California as Amicus Curiae.

The Law Offices of Brooks Ellison and Patrick J. Whalen, Sacramento, for California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment as Amici Curiae.

Corrigan, A.C.J.

In the November 2016 election California voters approved Proposition 66, the Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act of 2016. (Gen. Elec. (Nov. 8, 2016) § 1.) The measure's various provisions are intended to facilitate the enforcement of judgments and achieve cost savings in capital cases. Petitioner Ron Briggs seeks writ relief from this court, challenging the constitutionality of certain aspects of the proposition. Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and the Judicial Council of California oppose the petition as respondents. They are joined by intervener Californians to Mend, Not End, the Death Penalty, a campaign committee representing the proponents of the initiative. The issues raised are of sufficient public importance to justify the exercise of our original jurisdiction in the interest of a prompt resolution. ( Legislature v. Eu (1991) 54 Cal.3d 492, 500, 286 Cal.Rptr. 283, 816 P.2d 1309.)1

Petitioner asserts four grounds for relief. He claims Proposition 66 (1) embraces more than one subject, as prohibited by the California Constitution; (2) interferes with the jurisdiction of California courts to hear original petitions for habeas corpus relief; (3) violates equal protection principles by treating capital prisoners differently from other prisoners with respect to successive habeas corpus petitions; and (4) runs afoul of the separation of powers doctrine by materially impairing the courts' ability to resolve capital appeals and habeas corpus petitions, and to manage their dockets in general.

Petitioner's constitutional challenges do not warrant relief. However, we hold that in order to avoid serious separation of powers problems, provisions of Proposition 66 that appear to impose strict deadlines on the resolution of judicial proceedings must be deemed directive rather than mandatory.


Proposition 66 includes a series of findings and declarations to the effect that California's death penalty system is inefficient, wasteful, and subject to protracted delay, denying murder victims and their families justice and due process. (Voter Information Guide, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 8, 2016) § 2, p. 212 (Voter Guide).) The measure enacts a series of statutory reforms, which may be grouped into three general categories: (1) provisions to expedite review in capital appeals and habeas corpus proceedings; (2) provisions governing the confinement of prisoners sentenced to death and the administration of the death penalty; and (3) provisions pertaining to California's Habeas Corpus Resource Center. Petitioner does not directly challenge each one of the measure's provisions. We summarize them all, however, as context for his claim that Proposition 66 unconstitutionally addresses more than one subject. (See part II.A, post .)2

A. Expedited Review

Proposition 66 amends Penal Code section 190.6 to give the Judicial Council 18 months to adopt rules and standards for expediting appeals and state habeas corpus review in capital cases.3 ( § 190.6, subd. (d).) "Within five years of the adoption of the initial rules or the entry of judgment, whichever is later, the state courts shall complete the state appeal and the initial state habeas corpus review in capital cases." (Ibid .) The Judicial Council is directed to monitor the review process and amend the rules and standards as necessary to complete proceedings within the five-year period. (Ibid .)

Section 190.6, subdivision (b), an existing provision, sets a seven-month limit on the filing of the opening brief in a capital appeal, except upon a showing of good cause or when the trial transcript exceeds 10,000 pages. Subdivision (e) of section 190.6 is amended by Proposition 66 to provide that "[t]he failure of the parties or of a court to comply with the time limit in subdivision (b) shall not affect the validity of the judgment or require dismissal of an appeal or habeas corpus petition. If a court fails to comply without extraordinary and compelling reasons justifying the delay, either party or any victim of the offense may seek relief by petition for writ of mandate. The court in which the petition is filed shall act on it within 60 days of filing." (Ibid .)

Section 1239.1 declares it the duty of this court to expedite review in capital cases. We must appoint counsel for indigent appellants as soon as possible, and grant extensions of time for briefing only "for compelling or extraordinary reasons." (§ 1239.1, subd. (a).) Proposition 66 calls on us and the Judicial Council to reevaluate the competency standards for appointed counsel in death penalty appeals and habeas corpus proceedings. "Experience requirements shall not be limited to defense experience." ( Gov. Code, § 68665, subd. (b).)

The initiative measure extensively revamps the procedures governing habeas corpus petitions in capital cases. Under current practice, habeas corpus proceedings are initiated in this court, which appoints counsel and provides for their compensation.4 Under the initiative measure, however, "[a] petition filed in any court other than the court which imposed the sentence should be promptly transferred to that court unless good cause is shown for the petition to be heard by another court. A petition filed in or transferred to the court which imposed the sentence shall be assigned to the original trial judge unless that judge is unavailable or there is other good cause to assign the case to a different judge." (§ 1509, subd. (a).) The superior court is made responsible for appointing counsel to represent indigent prisoners in capital cases. (§ 1509, subd. (b); Gov. Code, § 68662, as amended by Prop. 66.)

The initial habeas corpus petition must be filed within a year of the appointment of counsel. (§ 1509, subd. (c).) An untimely initial petition, and any "successive" petition, "shall be dismissed unless the court finds, by the preponderance of all available evidence, whether or not admissible at trial, that the defendant is actually innocent of the...

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