By Richard Braucher, PJDC Board Member
Today a unanimous California Supreme Court held that the provisions of Prop. 57, eliminating direct filing of youth into adult court, are to be applied retrospectively to cases not yet final. People v. Sup. Ct. Lara, S241231, authored by Justice Ming Chin, had no difficulty finding California’s state rationale for retroactivity under In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740 applied:
Estrada is not directly on point; Proposition 57 does not reduce the punishment for a crime. But its rationale does apply. The possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court—where rehabilitation is the goal—rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment. Therefore, Proposition 57 reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles. For this reason, Estrada’s inference of retroactivity applies.
The case, which is expected to affect hundreds of youth across the state, was an important priority of the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center, which was also a significant force behind the passage of the anti-direct file provisions of Prop. 57. PJDC’s amici were the principal proponents for application of Estrada. Congratulations to Rourke Stacy and Sue Burrell, who did the lion’s share of briefing, for their outstanding work!