People v. Ramirez

Citation25 Cal.3d 260,158 Cal.Rptr. 316,599 P.2d 622
Decision Date07 September 1979
Docket NumberCr. 20076
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Parties, 599 P.2d 622 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Lawrence J. RAMIREZ, Defendant and Appellant.

Rowan K. Klein, Beverly Hills, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., S. Clark Moore, Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert F. Katz and Stephen M. Kaufman, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

MOSK, Justice.

In this case we review the scope of the due process clauses of the California Constitution. (Cal.Const., art. I, § 7 subd. (a); Id., § 15.) We hold that application of the clauses must be determined in the context of the individual's due process liberty interest in freedom from arbitrary adjudicative procedures. Thus, when a person is deprived of a statutorily conferred benefit, due process analysis must start not with a judicial attempt to decide whether the statute has created an "entitlement" that can be defined as "liberty" or "property," but with an assessment of what procedural protections are constitutionally required in light of the governmental and private interests at stake.

Appellant Lawrence J. Ramirez was convicted of second degree burglary in 1970 (Pen.Code, § 459), and in 1971 he pleaded guilty to possession of heroin (Health & Saf.Code, § 11500). 1 After adjourning criminal proceedings in each case, the court adjudged appellant to be a narcotic addict or in imminent danger of becoming a narcotic addict within the meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code section 3051. It thus committed him for treatment in the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC).

In 1974 appellant was granted outpatient status pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 3151. Two years later he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and disturbing the peace. The first charge was dropped; he pleaded guilty to the second. The Director of Corrections (Director) subsequently found he was "not a fit subject for confinement or treatment" in the CRC.

After a hearing on the propriety of the order excluding appellant from the CRC, the superior court held the Director did not abuse his discretion. Appellant's CRC commitment was subsequently terminated and criminal proceedings against him were resumed. In Case No. A-254109 the court suspended imposition of sentence on the burglary conviction; it granted three years' summary probation with six months in county jail as a condition thereof, and deemed the offense a misdemeanor pursuant to Penal Code section 17. In Case No. A-419523 the court upheld the exclusion order after appellant waived his right to a further hearing and submitted the question on the earlier disposition in Case No. A-254109; it then sentenced him to state prison for the narcotics offense.

This consolidated appeal is purportedly taken from the order excluding appellant from the CRC in Case No. A-254109, and from the judgment and exclusion order in Case No. A-419523. No appeal lies from the nonjudicial order of exclusion by the Director of Corrections. Review of such orders for abuse of discretion is available in the trial court upon the return of the defendant for resumption of the criminal proceedings, however, and following such review on appeal from the judgment. (People v. Montgomery (1967) 255 Cal.App.2d 127, 131, 62 Cal.Rptr. 895.) Because imposition of judgment was suspended and probation granted in Case No. A-254109, we treat the appeal in that case as an appeal from the order granting probation. (Pen.Code, § 1237, subd. 1; People v. Flores (1974) 12 Cal.3d 85, 94, 115 Cal.Rptr. 225, 524 P.2d 353.) In Case No. A-419523, the ruling of the trial court upholding the exclusion order is reviewable on this appeal from the judgment.

Appellant contends the procedures used by the CRC in excluding him from its program denied him his constitutional right to procedural due process. We agree.


The initial question presented is whether the due process clauses of the California Constitution mandate that an individual be granted procedural protections prior to his exclusion from the CRC. (Cal.Const., art. I, § 7 subd. (a); Id., § 15.) We begin our analysis by examining United States Supreme Court decisions discussing the federal due process clause. The federal cases support the conclusion that a person confined in the CRC has acquired a liberty interest that warrants due process protection. The reasoning of such cases, however, requires some refinement in order to determine the appropriate standards for invoking the state clauses.

In interpreting the federal clause, the Supreme Court has held that a prisoner may derive a due process liberty interest from either the Constitution or state law. (Meachum v. Fano (1976) 427 U.S. 215, 226, 96 S.Ct. 2532, 49 L.Ed.2d 451.) When the asserted interest is derived exclusively from state law, it will be recognized as within the scope of due process liberty if the state statute protects the interest by permitting its forfeiture only on the happening of specified conditions. For example, in Wolff v. McDonnell (1974) 418 U.S. 539, 94 S.Ct. 2963, 41 L.Ed.2d 935, the Supreme Court held that a prisoner's loss of "good-time credits" a loss that could result in lengthening his incarceration and his solitary confinement are within the scope of due process liberty when conditioned on the prisoner's serious misbehavior. And similarly, the Supreme Court concluded in Morrissey v. Brewer (1972) 408 U.S. 471, 92 S.Ct. 2593, 33 L.Ed.2d 484, that the parolee acquires a protected liberty interest in his conditional freedom because it cannot be revoked absent the occurrence of specified events.

By contrast, in cases in which a statute does Not protect an interest by specifying that its loss is subject to the happening of some condition, a protected liberty interest is not created under federal law. Thus, in Meachum v. Fano, supra, 427 U.S. at pages 226-227, 96 S.Ct. 2532, the Supreme Court held that a prisoner has no due process liberty interest when he is being transferred from one institution to another, despite any alleged hardship that might result, so long as the discretionary authority to make such transfers is not limited by statute and the transfer would not otherwise infringe upon a constitutional right. And in Montanye v. Haymes (1976) 427 U.S. 236, 96 S.Ct. 2543, 49 L.Ed.2d 466 the same holding was applied even though the transfer was ordered for disciplinary purposes.

In the case before us, Welfare and Institutions Code section 3053 requires that before the Director may exclude a person from the CRC, he must conclude "that the person, because of Excessive criminality or for other Relevant reason, is not a fit subject for confinement or treatment . . . ." (Italics added.) Although the words "other relevant reason" permit the Director broad discretion in making his decision, that discretion is not unlimited. Thus, since exclusion is conditioned by the terms of the statute, the patient-inmate's interest in remaining in the CRC is apparently within the scope of due process liberty and therefore warrants some degree of procedural protection.

Although we agree with this conclusion, the reasoning appears anomalous. Its effect is that as long as the interest is Not one that would otherwise fall within the scope of constitutional concepts of liberty, the state may "define it out" of the due process clause by specifying that it is subject to the unconditional discretion of the person in charge of its administration; further, the state may apparently limit the scope of the clause in this manner irrespective of the extent to which "grievous loss" or "substantial adverse impact" results. (See Meachum v. Fano, supra, 427 U.S. at p. 224, 96 S.Ct. 2532; Montanye v. Haymes, supra, 427 U.S. at p. 242, 96 S.Ct. 2453.) The Supreme Court's doctrine has thus been criticized as ultimately leading to circular reasoning that contravenes the clause by leaving the state free to decide whether and to what extent procedures are to be followed in dealings with its citizens without regard to federal standards. (Comment, Entitlement, Enjoyment, and Due Process of Law, 1974 Duke L.J. 89, 111; see also Saphire, Specifying Due Process Values: Toward a More Responsive Approach to Procedural Protection (1978) 127 U.Pa.L.Rev. 111, 140 (hereinafter cited as Saphire, Specifying Due Process Values ); Van Alstyne, Cracks in "The New Property": Adjudicative Due Process in the Administrative State (1977) 62 Cornell L.Rev. 445, 460-470 (hereinafter cited as Van Alstyne, Cracks in the New Property ); Comment, Two Views of a Prisoner's Right to Due Process: Meachum v. Fano (1977) 12 Harv.Civ.Rights Civ.Lib.L.Rev. 405, 416-417.)

The foregoing analysis leads us to conclude that the federal approach for determining whether a due process liberty interest is at stake masks fundamental values that underlie the clause. Initially, the approach fails to give sufficient weight to the important due process value of promoting accuracy and reasonable predictability in governmental decision making when individuals are subject to deprivatory action. The Supreme Court itself has stated that "The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual against arbitrary action of government (citations)." (Wolff v. McDonnell (1974) supra, 418 U.S. at p. 558, 94 S.Ct. at p. 2976.) And, as one federal circuit court observed with respect to occupations controlled by government, "The public has the right to expect its officers . . . to make adjudications on the basis of merit. The first step toward insuring that these expectations are realized is to require adherence to the standards of due process; absolute and uncontrolled discretion invites abuse." (Hornsby v. Allen (5th Cir. 1964) 326 F.2d 605, 610.) If minimizing such abuses of governmental discretion is to be a concern, it is misguided...

To continue reading

Request your trial
203 cases
  • People v. Douglas
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • May 3, 2018
    ......v. Los Angeles County Office of Education (2013) 57 Cal.4th 197, 213 [159 Cal.Rptr.3d 358, 303 P.3d 1140], quoting People v. Ramirez (1979) 25 Cal.3d 260, 267-268 [158 Cal.Rptr. 316, 599 P.2d 622], first italics added, second in Today's Fresh Start ; see 232 Cal.Rptr.3d 316 In re Vicks (2013) 56 Cal.4th 274, 310 [153 Cal.Rptr.3d 471, 295 P.3d 863].) Finally, and connected to the previous point, although perfection is ......
  • Michael L., In re
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 25, 1985
    ... . Page 140 . 216 Cal.Rptr. 140 . 39 Cal.3d 81, 702 P.2d 222 . In re MICHAEL L., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. . The PEOPLE", Plaintiff and Respondent, . v. . MICHAEL L., Defendant and Appellant. . Cr. 23647. . Supreme Court of California, . In Bank. . July 25, 1985. . \xC2"...Ramos (1984) 37 Cal.3d 136, 153, 207 Cal.Rptr. 800, 689 P.2d 430; see also People v. Ramirez (1979) 25 Cal.3d 260, 268, 158 Cal.Rptr. 316, 599 P.2d 622.) As this court long ago held in People v. Riser (1956) 47 Cal.2d 566, 586, 305 P.2d 1, ......
  • County of Sutter v. Davis
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 23, 1991
    ...... and what that right is, is a purely historical question, a fact which is to be ascertained like any other social, political or legal fact." (People v. One 1941 Chevrolet Coupe (1951) 37 Cal.2d 283, 286-287, 231 P.2d 832.) "The common law at the time the Constitution was adopted includes not only ...27, 154 Cal.Rptr. 529, 593 P.2d 226; see also People v. Ramirez (1979) 25 Cal.3d 260, 268-269, 158 Cal.Rptr. 316, 599 P.2d 622.) .         All of the cases in which a right to a jury trial has been found ......
  • Marquez v. Dep't of Health Care Servs., A140488
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 2, 2015
    ...... may mistakenly 192 Cal.Rptr.3d 402 match a Medi–Cal beneficiary without OHC with another individual who has OHC because of the ways "people spell their names and dates of birth, and social security numbers and so on." One DHCS official testified that the "problem with inaccurate social ...Ramirez (1979) 25 Cal.3d 260, 263–264, 158 Cal.Rptr. 316, 599 P.2d 622 ( Ramirez ).) Thus, when a person is "deprived of a statutorily conferred ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT