The California Supreme Court announced Monday that it will seek a constitutional amendment to push death penalty appeals down to the California Court of Appeal. This bombshell raises intriguing questions, and while we could just ask Chief Justice Ronald George, we thought it would be more fun to pose them to Legal Pad readers:
- How many more justices, if any, would the court of appeal likely need to handle the additional workload?
- If you're old enough to remember the name "Rose Bird," you know that death penalty cases can sometimes cause political blowback. Would justices on a regional appellate court be more vulnerable to attack on their death penalty voting records than justices on the California Supreme Court?
- Would moving capital cases to the court of appeal achieve the stated goal of expediting appeals in the state courts? What impact might there be, if any, when cases reach habeas corpus review in the federal courts?
- What would happen to the California Supreme Court central staff, a big chunk of which has been specially groomed over the last decade to work up death penalty appeals? Would it continue to operate as a unit, or would those positions be reassigned to the six different districts of court of appeal?
- Who would certify, supervise and pay the court-appointed counsel?
If this proposal has legs, it will be the subject of hot debate for years, so let's not waste any time. If you are familiar with the capital appeals process — or heck, even if you're not — please share your opinions in the comment section below.
— Scott Graham