« Should a court hearing be required anytime a registered sex offender seeks entry to a public school? | Main | "Heroin addiction sent me to prison. White privilege got me out and to the Ivy League." »

January 21, 2015

Speculating about how new California Supreme Court will now handle capital cases

This new Los Angeles Times article, headlined "Brown appointees to Supreme Court renew hopes in death penalty cases," reviews reasons why some think that new California Justices might mean a new type of California capital justice. Here are excerpts from the piece:

In the long run, the new composition [of the California Supreme Court] could affect an array of cases, including medical malpractice and medical marijuana, but probably will be most felt in the criminal arena. The court, long dominated by former prosecutors, has affirmed about 90% of the death sentences it has reviewed. Criminal defendants rarely win.

"Brown certainly seems to have reshaped this court in a fairly dramatic way," said Jan Stiglitz, a co-founder of the California Innocence Project, which is representing a client in a case before the newly constituted court. Instead of appointing former prosecutors, Stiglitz said, "Brown has brought in not just people from the outside but people who don't have this background that sort of predisposes them to be cynical in criminal cases."

But little experience in criminal law also can be a handicap, critics said. Former prosecutors have "stared evil in the face and know what it looks like," said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which supports the death penalty. None of the Brown appointees have had prior judicial experience. "The academic view of criminal law is what produces bad decisions," Scheidegger said.

[Mariano-Florentino] Cuellar, the court's only Latino, is a former Stanford law professor. [Leondra] Kruger, the only African American justice, has worked primarily in Washington, where she represented the federal government in cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Goodwin Liu, Brown's first appointee last term, was a law professor at UC Berkeley....

Legal analysts expect the Brown justices may form a new majority with Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, a moderate to liberal Republican appointee.  Unlike the other Republican appointees, she was never a prosecutor.  She worked for the federal government on civil rights matters and as staff attorney on appellate courts.

January 21, 2015 at 05:21 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e201b7c73bf3b0970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Speculating about how new California Supreme Court will now handle capital cases:

Comments

Former prosecutors have "stared evil in the face and know what it looks like," said Kent Scheidegger

I too have stared evil in the face but no longer...he went to write for your blog.

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 21, 2015 7:36:25 PM

I know of no law academics who support the death penalty. Prof. Berman is exceptional in being an agnostic about the death penalty, I think. He may be intelligent enough to be hedging. All are pro-criminal in that the lawyer gets jobs from the criminal, and nothing from victims.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 21, 2015 11:45:47 PM

Brown has recreated the California Supreme Court into an intellectual powerhouse: a real tour de force. Congratulations to the governor and the People of California!

Posted by: anon1 | Jan 22, 2015 11:30:26 AM

Sotomayor was a former prosecutor and all but apparently -- in the minds of some -- staring evil in the face didn't quite stick in her case. KS likes the Alito sort of former prosecutor.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 22, 2015 12:19:50 PM

I hope they end the death penalty and destroy the jobs of hundreds if not thousands of tax sucking lawyer parasites.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 23, 2015 12:32:24 AM

S.C. you talk about " hundreds if not thousands of tax sucking lawyer parasites. " Please don't blame all the lawyers in the world just because your ex-wife's lawyer took you to the cleaners.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Jan 23, 2015 3:44:19 PM

"Former prosecutors have 'stared evil in the face and know what it looks like,' said Kent Scheidegger, legal director of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation[.]"

Yeah, but more impressively, they did it while walking to the courthouse through three feet of snow uphill both ways while killing a grizzly with their bare hands and shouting, "You kids get off my lawn."

Posted by: Stephen Hardwick | Jan 23, 2015 8:20:44 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB