California Supreme Court Justice Carol Corrigan seemed to have a little bit of fun in March dismantling a Los Angeles criminal appellate lawyer’s compelling argument about the state’s pandering statute.
A pimp who tries to get a prostitute to change management can’t be convicted of pandering (recruiting someone into prostitution) if he believed his target was already working the streets, the lawyer argued. You can’t succeed in getting someone to become something she already is. And even if there were evidence that he tried to recruit a new prostitute, if his target is a cop, there’s no chance she’s actually going to become a prostitute. So the most he’s guilty of is attempted pandering.
But that didn’t fly.
“The interpretation urged by defendant could also lead to mischievous and potentially absurd results,” Corrigan wrote in the 5-2 decision on Thursday.
“Would a hiatus of weeks or months transform an ‘active prostitute’ into a former or inactive one?” Corrigan mused. “There is nothing in the legislative history or decades of case law that even remotely suggests an intent to raise these esoteric inquiries.”
But the lawyer, Vanessa Place (who is also a poet and author of a 50,000-word, one-sentence novel in verse), did win support from the bench.
Justice Joyce Kennard, arguing in a dissent, said the majority overreached the plain language of the pandering statute. “Decreeing what conduct is punishable is exclusively the domain of the Legislature,” she wrote.
In a separate short dissent, Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar sided with the Fourth District’s decision in People v. Wagner -- which the majority disapproved -- and wrote that she would “leave it to the Legislature to correct what may well have been an unintentional limitation on the scope of a criminal prohibition.”