Release Date:  August 24, 2017
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

Bookmark and Share

In a decision announced today, the California Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge to Proposition 66, “The Death Penalty Reform and Savings Act” adopted by voters last November. The court was unanimous in rejecting attacks on the initiative as a whole. The court divided 5-2 on issues regarding a time limit and appeals of habeas corpus cases to the courts of appeals.

Shortly after Proposition 66 passed, former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp and former El Dorado County Supervisor Ron Briggs filed a petition in the state Supreme Court seeking a ruling to strike down the new law. The petition named as respondents the Governor and the Attorney General, who share an obligation to enforce state laws.

Earlier this year, the court accepted the Proposition 66 campaign committee as a party in the case, with the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation providing representation along with an attorney retained by the committee.

The Yes on 66 Committee’s brief had responded to the petition by noting that all of the initiative’s provisions advanced the goal of enforcing judgments in capital cases more effectively and efficiently. The brief also cited numerous earlier California Supreme Court decisions upholding a much broader spread of provisions incorporated in previous ballot measures. As noted by CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger, “in order to find Proposition 66 in violation of the single-subject rule, the Court would have to clear-cut at least 40 years of its own precedent.”

In the majority opinion in Briggs v. Brown, authored by Acting Chief Justice Carol Corrigan, the court rejected the petitioners’ claim that provisions of Proposition 66 violated the state’s single-subject rule for ballot measures, stating, “As the findings and declarations prefacing the measure make clear, it was intended as an extensive reform of the entire system of capital punishment to make it more efficient, less expensive, and more responsive to the rights of victims. With that purpose in mind, it is readily apparent that the provisions identified by the petitioner are reasonably germane to the ‘comprehensive criminal justice reform’ approved by the voters.”

“Death penalty opponents made their case to the people and lost. Their effort to get the courts to overturn Proposition 66 would have left California with a dysfunctional death penalty process and thwarted the clear will of the voters,” said Scheidegger.

CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.