Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Western Union’s money transfer system

The FTC is alerting consumers who lost money to scammers who told them to pay via Western Union’s money transfer system between January 1, 2004, and January 19, 2017, that they can now file a claim to get their money back.  Refunds may be claimed by going to before February 12.  The refund program follows a settlement with the Western Union Company, which in January 2017 agreed to pay $586 million to resolve charges brought by the FTC and the U. S. Department of Justice.  Non-U.S. consumers who lost money through fraud-induced wire transfers may also file claims for refunds.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Center for International Law Programs: 16th Annual Dominick L. DiCarlo U.S. Court of International Trade Lecture: "A Conversation with The Honorable Gary Katzmann" and Conference on "International Trade Law and Ethics Program"

Center for International Law

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 from 2:00 PM to 5:15 PM (CST)

Chicago, IL

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Parrish v. Latham & Watkins, S228277

Malicious prosecution: Tort: Interim adverse judgment rule: Bad faith: Malice: Frivolous claim: SLAPP: Ethics:

The common law tort of malicious prosecution originated as a remedy for an individual who had been subjected to a maliciously instituted criminal charge, but in California, as in most common law jurisdictions, the tort was long ago extended to afford a remedy for the malicious prosecution of a civil action. (Sheldon Appel Co. v. Albert & Oliker (1989) 47 Cal.3d 863, 871 (Sheldon Appel).) The tort consists of three elements. The underlying action must have been: (i) initiated or maintained by, or at the direction of, the defendant, and pursued to a legal termination in favor of the malicious prosecution plaintiff; (ii) initiated or maintained without probable cause; and (iii) initiated or maintained with malice. (Ibid.; see Zamos v. Stroud (2004) 32 Cal.4th 958, 970 (Zamos); see also Soukup v. Law Offices of Herbert Hafif (2006) 39 Cal.4th 260, 297 (Soukup).)

A malicious prosecution claim will also lie if the defendant brought an action charging multiple grounds of liability when some but not all of those grounds were asserted with malice and without probable cause. (Crowley v. Katleman (1994) 8 Cal.4th 666, 671 (Crowley).) 

To establish liability for the tort of malicious prosecution, a plaintiff must demonstrate, among other things, that the defendant previously caused the commencement or continuation of an action against the plaintiff that was not supported by probable cause. We have held that if an action succeeds after a hearing on the merits, that success ordinarily establishes the existence of probable cause (and thus forecloses a later malicious prosecution suit), even if the result is overturned on appeal or by later ruling of the trial court. (Wilson v. Parker, Covert & Chidester (2002) 28 Cal.4th 811, 818 (Wilson).) This principle has come to be known as the interim adverse judgment rule.

The existence of probable cause is a question of law to be determined as an objective matter. (Sheldon Appel, supra, 47 Cal.3d at pp. 874, 875.). (…) A claim is unsupported by probable cause only if any reasonable attorney would agree that it is totally and completely without merit. (Wilson, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 817; accord, Sheldon Appel, at p. 885; In re Marriage of Flaherty (1982) 31 Cal.3d 637, 650; see also Zamos, supra, 32 Cal.4th at p. 970.). This rather lenient standard for bringing a civil action reflects the important public policy of avoiding the chilling of novel or debatable legal claims. (Wilson, supra, at p. 817.) The standard safeguards the right of both attorneys and their clients to present issues that are arguably correct, even if it is extremely unlikely that they will win. (Ibid., quoting Flaherty, supra, at p. 650.)

In this case we are asked to decide whether the interim adverse judgment rule applies when a trial court had initially denied summary judgment, finding that a lawsuit had sufficient potential merit to proceed to trial, but concluded after trial that the suit had been brought in bad faith because the claim, even if superficially meritorious, in fact lacked evidentiary support. The Court of Appeal answered that question in the affirmative. We agree and affirm.

((…) Brought a malicious prosecution claim against FLIR‘s and Indigo‘s lawyers in the trade secrets case: defendants Latham & Watkins LLP (Latham) and Latham partner Daniel Scott Schecter. Defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 — that is, a special motion to strike a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP). (Equilon Enterprises v. Consumer Cause, Inc. (2002) 29 Cal.4th 53, 57.) To prevail on such a motion, a defendant must establish that the challenged claim arises from protected activity. (Baral v. Schnitt (2016) 1 Cal.5th 376, 384 (Baral).) If a defendant is able to do so, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate the merit of the claim by establishing a probability of success. (Ibid.)).

((…) The Court of Appeal decided Roger Cleveland Golf Co., Inc. v. Krane & Smith, APC (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th 660. In pertinent part, that case held that the one-year limitations period does not apply to a malicious prosecution suit filed against a former litigation adversary‘s attorney. (Id. at p. 677.) Instead, the court concluded, a two-year limitations period controls.)

((…) This court issued its decision in Lee v. Hanley (2015) 61 Cal.4th 1225, which (i) held that the one-year statute of limitations in section 340.6(a) applies to claims whose merits necessarily depend on proof that an attorney violated a professional obligation in the course of providing professional services (Lee, at pp. 1236–1237); and (ii) disapproved Roger Cleveland to the extent it was inconsistent with our opinion (Lee, at p. 1239). In particular, Lee criticized Roger Cleveland‘s premise that section 340.6(a) should be understood as a professional negligence statute (Lee, at p. 1239) without analyzing Roger Cleveland‘s ultimate conclusion that section 340.6(a) is inapplicable to claims filed against a former litigation adversary‘s attorney. The answer to the petition argued that Lee provides an alternative basis for upholding the trial court‘s grant of defendants‘ special motion to strike.
We granted the petition for review. We now conclude that the Court of Appeal was correct to hold that the interim adverse judgment rule applies. Because we conclude the malicious prosecution suit was barred on that basis, we do not reach the limitations issue.)

(…) We also recognized that the interim adverse judgment rule has its limits. The rule applies only to rulings regarding the merits of the claim, not those that rest solely on technical or procedural grounds. (Wilson, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 823.) And even where a ruling is based on the court‘s evaluation of the merits of the claim, the ruling does not establish the existence of probable cause if the ruling is shown to have been obtained by fraud or perjury. (Id. at p. 820.) While plaintiffs and their attorneys have the right to bring a claim they think unlikely to succeed, so long as it is arguably meritorious (id. at p. 822), they have no right to mislead a court about the merits of a claim in an attempt to procure a favorable ruling, and such a ruling can provide no reliable indication that the claim was objectively tenable.

(…) For purposes of the malicious prosecution tort, the existence of subjective bad faith is relevant to the question whether the suit was brought with malice, which, as our cases have made clear, concerns a litigant‘s subjective belief. (E.g., Sheldon Appel, supra, 47 Cal.3d at p. 874.) But it is a separate question whether, objectively speaking, defendants‘ suit was supported by probable cause. And as to that point, the trial court‘s finding of objective bad faith in the underlying action was not a finding that the action completely lacked merit.

(…) We have made clear that only those actions that any reasonable attorney would agree are totally and completely without merit may form the basis for a malicious prosecution suit. (Zamos, supra, 32 Cal.4th at p. 970.)

(…) We have made clear that a court determining whether a claim was supported by probable cause should rely on the facts known to the litigant accused of malicious prosecution. (Sheldon Appel, supra, 47 Cal.3d at p. 878.) Litigants, we have explained, need not attempt to predict how a trier of fact will weigh the competing evidence, nor to abandon their claims if they think it likely the evidence will ultimately weigh against them. (Wilson, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 822; see id. at p. 822, fn. 6 [litigant may have incomplete information at the outset of a case]; see also Soukup, supra, 39 Cal.4th at p. 292 [A litigant will lack probable cause for his action . . . if he relies upon facts which he has no reasonable cause to believe to be true. (quoting Sangster v. Paetkau (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 151, 164–165)].)

(…) As we held in Zamos, the tort of malicious prosecution . . . includes continuing to prosecute a lawsuit discovered to lack probable cause. (Zamos, supra, 32 Cal.4th at p. 966.) That means that there may be circumstances in which an interim ruling rendered at one point in the litigation will not, due to intervening circumstances, establish the existence of probable cause to continue the litigation.

The denial of summary judgment in the underlying trade secrets action established probable cause to bring that action. Because that action was supported by probable cause, Parrish and Fitzgibbons cannot establish a probability of success on their malicious prosecution claim. (Baral, supra, 1 Cal.5th at p. 384.) We thus affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

(Cal. S.C., Aug. 10, 2017, Parrish v. Latham & Watkins, S228277).

Action civile dépourvue de chances de succès, poursuite pénale infondée : toutes deux peuvent faire l'objet d'une action en dommages-intérêts, en Californie comme dans la plupart des systèmes appliquant la Common law. Les quatre conditions objectives et subjective : l'action frivole doit avoir été initiée ou maintenue par le défendeur, un jugement défavorable au défendeur doit l'avoir terminée, l'action frivole n'était basée sur aucun motif raisonnable, et elle doit subjectivement avoir été initiée ou continuée avec l'intention de nuire.

Une telle action en réparation peut également être déposée si l'action qui en forme le substrat n'était dépourvue de fondement que dans certaines de ses conclusions.

La jurisprudence a précisé que si l'action "de base" conduit à un jugement favorable au demandeur à cette action, ce jugement favorable constitue la condition du motif raisonnable, même si ce jugement est renversé ultérieurement par le même Tribunal ou par une autorité supérieure. Ce principe porte le nom de "interim adverse judgment rule".

L'existence de la condition du motif raisonnable s'apprécie objectivement. Il s'agit d'une question de droit et non de fait pour le Jury. Une conclusion n'est pas supportée par un motif raisonnable si tout avocat raisonnable estime dite conclusion intégralement sans mérite. Le but est ici d'éviter de dissuader un plaideur de saisir la Justice dans des cas qui présentent des questions juridiques nouvelles ou qui présentent des arguments contestables, même si les chances de succès sont extrêmement faibles.

En l'espèce, la Cour doit déterminer si la règle de l'"interim adverse judgment rule" s'applique dans le cas où la cour de première instance refuse de prononcer un jugement sommaire, considérant que l'affaire présente des chances de succès suffisantes permettant un procès au fond, puis juge, après l'administration des preuves, que l'action a été déposée de mauvaise foi. La réponse donnée par la Cour est affirmative : la règle de l'"interim judgment rule" s'applique, barrant la route à une action subséquente en dédommagement.

(Est donné comme exemple une action en réparation dirigée contre l'avocat adverse. Celui-ci répond en déposant une motion anti-SLAPP. Dans ce cadre sont discutées deux jurisprudences récentes, l'affaire Roger Cleveland (2014) et Lee (2015), qui traitent en outre du délai pour déposer dite action en réparation (deux ans et non une année selon Roger Cleveland, peut-être une année selon Lee, la question restant ouverte car la présente espèce ne tranche pas à cet égard, se limitant à rejeter la présente action en réparation par application de l'"interim adverse judgment rule")).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Williams v. Super. Ct., S227228

Discovery & objections: Class action: Standing: Affirmative defense: Summary judgment: Fishing expeditions:

In the absence of privilege, the right to discovery in this state is a broad one, to be construed liberally so that parties may ascertain the strength of their case and at trial the truth may be determined. Our prior decisions and those of the Courts of Appeal firmly establish that in non-PAGA (Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004) class actions, the contact information of those a plaintiff purports to represent is routinely discoverable as an essential prerequisite to effectively seeking group relief, without any requirement that the plaintiff first show good cause.

(PAGA authorizes an employee who has been the subject of particular Labor Code violations to file a representative action on behalf of himself or herself and other aggrieved employees. (Lab. Code, § 2699)).

(…) Early in discovery, Williams issued two special interrogatories (…)

(…) Williams moved to compel responses (…)

A trial court must be mindful of the Legislature‘s preference for discovery over trial by surprise, must construe the facts before it liberally in favor of discovery, may not use its discretion to extend the limits on discovery beyond those authorized by the Legislature, and should prefer partial to outright denials of discovery. (Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court, 56 Cal.2d at p. 383.) A reviewing court may not use the abuse of discretion standard to shield discovery orders that fall short: Any record which indicates a failure to give adequate consideration to these concepts is subject to the attack of abuse of discretion, regardless of the fact that the order shows no such abuse on its face. (Id. at p. 384; see Pacific Tel. & Tel. Co. v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 161, 171.)

In the absence of contrary court order, a civil litigant‘s right to discovery is broad. Any party may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action . . . if the matter either is itself admissible in evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2017.010; see Davies v. Superior Court (1984) 36 Cal.3d 291, 301 [discovery is not limited to admissible evidence].)

This right includes an entitlement to learn the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter.

Of course, the discovery may also fail to reveal any, or many, other violations or unlawful policies, but that is an equally worthy end result. The discovery statutes were intended to curtail surprises, enable each side to learn as much as possible about the strengths and weaknesses of its case, and thereby facilitate realistic settlements and efficient trials. (See Fairmont Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (2000) 22 Cal.4th 245, 253, fn. 2; Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court, supra, 56 Cal.2d at p. 376.)  (fn. 3).

(…) Code of Civil Procedure section 2019.020. That provision sets out the general rule that the various tools of discovery may be used by each party in any order, and one party‘s discovery shall not operate to delay the discovery of any other party. (Id., subd. (a).) However, if a party shows good cause, the trial court may establish the sequence and timing of discovery for the convenience of parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice. (Id., subd. (b).)

California law has long made clear that to require a party to supply proof of any claims or defenses as a condition of discovery in support of those claims or defenses is to place the cart before the horse. The Legislature was aware that establishing a broad right to discovery might permit parties lacking any valid cause of action to engage in fishing expeditions, to a defendant‘s inevitable annoyance. (Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court, supra, 56 Cal.2d at p. 385.) It granted such a right anyway, comfortable in the conclusion that mutual knowledge of all the relevant facts gathered by both parties is essential to proper litigation. (Id. at p. 386.)

Doubts as to whether particular matters will aid in a party‘s preparation for trial should generally be resolved in favor of permitting discovery; this is especially true when the precise issues of the litigation or the governing legal standards are not clearly established. (see Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 785, 791, fn. 8.) In pursuing such discovery, the strength or weakness of the plaintiff‘s individual claim is immaterial: It is well established that relevancy of the subject matter does not depend upon a legally sufficient pleading, nor is it restricted to the issues formally raised in the pleadings. (Union Mut. Life Ins. Co., infra, at p. 10.)

(…) The way to raise lack of standing is to plead it as an affirmative defense, and thereafter to bring a motion for summary adjudication or summary judgment, not to resist discovery until a plaintiff proves he or she has standing. (Cf. Union Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Superior Court, 80 Cal.App.3d at p. 12 [a discovery motion is not the right vehicle to litigate the appropriate scope of an action].)

(Possible objections: overbreadth, relevance, undue burden, expense, intrusiveness, privacy interests).

(Cal. S.C., July 13, 2017, Williams v. Super. Ct., S227228).

Le droit d'exercer la procédure de discovery est large, il vise à permettre aux parties d'apprécier le mérite de leurs prétentions, ainsi qu'à favoriser des accords amiables. Par exemple, dans les actions de classe, l'obtention de l'identité de toutes les parties potentielles peut faire l'objet de la procédure de discovery, sans que le demandeur ne doive préalablement démontrer les mérites de sa démarche de classe. Le caractère relevant ou non de la preuve recherchée ne dépend pas de ce que contiennent les mémoires. Le risque d'une "fishing expedition" a été reconnu par le législateur : il a considéré qu'il s'agissait d'un inconvénient inévitable lié au système précité.

La cour de première instance doit préférer une procédure de discovery partielle plutôt qu'un rejet complet.

Les réquisitions doivent toutefois porter sur des moyens de preuve admissibles au procès, ou porter sur des éléments susceptibles de découvrir de tels moyens. Par exemple, les noms et adresses des personnes susceptibles de divulguer des moyens de preuve peuvent être requis.

Le Code de procédure civile, à sa Section 2019.020, prévoit que de manière générale les différents outils de la procédure de discovery peuvent être utilisés par toutes les parties dans n'importe quel ordre. La discovery d'une partie ne saurait empêcher la discovery d'une autre. Cependant, pour justes motifs, la cour peut établir l'ordre et le moment des diverses opérations de discovery, de manière à ce que ces opérations ne chargent pas inutilement les parties ni les témoins, le tout à la lumière de l'intérêt de l'administration de la justice.

A titre d'exemple, si une partie entend se prévaloir d'une absence de "standing" de l'autre partie, elle doit le faire en soulevant une défense affirmative, puis en sollicitant une décision sommaire. Elle ne peut pas valablement résister à la procédure de discovery jusqu'à ce que l'adverse partie démontre satisfaire aux conditions de "standing".

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Lynch v. Cal. Coastal Commission, S221980

Waiver: Forfeiture: Estoppel:

“Waiver means the intentional relinquishment or abandonment of a known right.” (Bickel v. City of Piedmont (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1040, 1048; see Waller v. Truck Ins. Exchange, Inc. (1995) 11 Cal.4th 1, 31.) Waiver requires an existing right, the waiving party's knowledge of that right, and the party's “actual intention to relinquish the right.” (Bickel, at p. 1053.) “Waiver always rests upon intent.” (City of Ukiah v. Fones (1966) 64 Cal.2d 104, 107.) The intention may be express, based on the waiving party's words, or implied, based on conduct that is “so inconsistent with an intent to enforce the right as to induce a reasonable belief that such right has been relinquished.” (Savaglio v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 588, 598; see Waller, at pp. 31, 33-34.)

Waiver differs from estoppel, which generally requires a showing that a party's words or acts have induced detrimental reliance by the opposing party. (See, e.g., Feduniak v. California Coastal Com. (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 1346, 1359.)

It also differs from the related concept of forfeiture, which results when a party fails to preserve a claim by raising a timely objection. (See In re S.B. (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1287, 1293, fn. 2.)

Although the distinctions between waiver, estoppel, and forfeiture can be significant, the terms are not always used with care. “As we have observed previously, forfeiture results from the failure to invoke a right, while waiver denotes an express relinquishment of a known right; the two are not the same.” (People v. Romero (2008) 44 Cal.4th 386, 411.)

Whether a waiver or forfeiture has occurred is often a factual question, typically reviewed for substantial evidence. (Bickel v. City of Piedmont, supra, 16 Cal.4th at pp. 1052-1053.) “When, however, the facts are undisputed and only one inference may reasonably be drawn, the issue is one of law and the reviewing court is not bound by the trial court's ruling.” (St. Agnes Medical Center v. PacifiCare of California (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1187, 1196.) Moreover, the determination whether a party's actions constitute forfeiture is essentially legal in nature, and thus subject to independent review. (Cf. Evans v. City of San Jose (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 1123, 1136 [legal issues concerning administrative exhaustion are reviewed de novo].)

(Cal.S.C., July 6, 2017, Lynch v. Cal. Coastal Commission, S221980).

Waiver : renoncer ou abandonner intentionnellement un droit qui est connu de son titulaire. L'élément intentionnel est d'importance. L'intention peut être expresse, ou implicite, fondée sur une conduite à ce point inconsistante avec une intention de se prévaloir du droit qu'elle laisse raisonnablement penser que le droit est abandonné.

Forfeiture : Quand une partie manque à préserver ses prétentions en omettant de se manifester.

Estoppel : Implique de démontrer que les mots ou les actes d'une partie ont entraîné la prise de dispositions par l'adverse partie préjudiciable à ses intérêts.

(La présente affaire porte sur des oppositions de propriétaires fonciers contre des décisions autorisant des travaux de protection contre l'érosion (les propriétés sont sises en hauteur et en bordure de falaise surplombant l'océan pacifique). Les travaux sont autorisés, mais les décisions sont assorties de conditions, d'où les recours. Après le dépôt des oppositions et en cours de procédure, les propriétaires ont mis en œuvre les travaux. La Cour juge ici que par dite mise en œuvre, les propriétaires ont renoncé à leurs oppositions. Puis sont précisés les moyens de droit à disposition pour construire légalement des systèmes de protection provisoire (ici contre l'érosion), dans l'attente de l'issue de la procédure d'opposition).

Monday, July 3, 2017

P. v. Hopson, S228193

Sixth Amendment (confrontation right): Fourteenth Amendment: Hearsay: Civil-law mode of criminal procedure: Harmless beyond a reasonable doubt:

Defendant R. L. H. was tried on charges that she, along with her boyfriend, J. Thomas, was responsible for the 2011 murder of her housemate, L. B. In her trial testimony, defendant pinned the blame on Thomas, who had since died. In rebuttal, the prosecution introduced a confession Thomas had given to detectives following his arrest, in which he pinned much of the blame on defendant. Defendant argues that the admission of Thomas‘s confession violated her right under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution to confront the witnesses against her. The Court of Appeal rejected the argument, concluding that the claim fails because Thomas‘s confession was presented not to establish the truth of his account, but instead to undermine defendant‘s competing account of their joint crime.

We granted review to consider whether the admission of Thomas‘s confession violated defendant‘s Sixth Amendment confrontation right. Our review is de novo. (People v. Seijas (2005) 36 Cal.4th 291, 304.)

We conclude, contrary to the Court of Appeal, that the jury was in fact asked to consider Thomas‘s confession for its truth and that the admission of the confession thus violated defendant‘s Sixth Amendment right to confront her accusers. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

The confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is binding on the states under the Fourteenth Amendment, guarantees the right of a criminal defendant to be confronted with the witnesses against him. (U.S. Const., 6th Amend.; see Pointer v. Texas (1965) 380 U.S. 400, 406.)

The understanding of the clause‘s protections has shifted over time. Although the United States Supreme Court at one time interpreted the clause to bar admission of out-of-court statements that lacked adequate indicia of reliability (Ohio v. Roberts (1980) 448 U.S. 56, 66), the court reconsidered this approach in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (Crawford). Tracing the historical origins of the confrontation right, the court explained that the principal evil at which the Confrontation Clause was directed was the civil-law mode of criminal procedure, and particularly its use of ex parte examinations as evidence against the accused. (Id. at p. 50.) Interpreting the clause with this focus in mind, the court held that the Sixth Amendment bars admission of testimonial statements of a witness who did not appear at trial unless he was unavailable to testify, and the defendant had had a prior opportunity for cross-examination. (Id. at pp. 53–54; accord, Davis v. Washington (2006) 547 U.S. 813, 821.)

It is undisputed that Thomas‘s postarrest confession to police — which defendant had no opportunity to test through cross-examination — qualifies as testimonial within the meaning of Crawford.

Indeed, Crawford itself identified unconfronted accomplice statements to authorities as core testimonial statements that the Confrontation Clause plainly meant to exclude. (Crawford, supra, 541 U.S. at p. 63; see also, e.g., Michigan v. Bryant (2011) 562 U.S. 344, 358.) But in a portion of the opinion central to the case before us, the high court in Crawford also made clear that this rule of exclusion applies only to testimonial hearsay; the confrontation clause does not bar the use of testimonial statements for purposes other than establishing the truth of the matter asserted  that is, for nonhearsay purposes. (Crawford, at p. 60, fn. 9, citing Tennessee v. Street (1985) 471 U.S. 409, 414; see also People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665, 682 [describing the not-for-the-truth limitation on the confrontation right].) The principal question we confront here is whether Thomas‘s un-cross-examined confession was used for such a nonhearsay purpose, or whether it was instead used as evidence against the accused, in violation of defendant‘s Sixth Amendment rights. (Crawford, at p. 50.)

In People v. Sanchez, supra, 63 Cal.4th 665, we examined the development of the high court‘s Crawford jurisprudence and instructed courts addressing the admissibility of out-of-court statements to undertake a two-step analysis. The first step is a traditional hearsay inquiry: Is the statement one made out of court; is it offered to prove the truth of the facts it asserts; and does it fall under a hearsay exception? If a hearsay statement is being offered by the prosecution in a criminal case, and the Crawford limitations of unavailability, as well as cross-examination or forfeiture, are not satisfied, a second analytical step is required. Admission of such a statement violates the right to confrontation if the statement is testimonial hearsay, as the high court defines that term. (Id. at p. 680.) The primary question in this case centers on whether Thomas‘s confession was offered to prove the truth of the facts it asserted, and therefore qualified as testimonial hearsay for purposes of the confrontation clause.

(…) But the second and more fundamental problem with the argument is that the jury was never informed of the limited nonhearsay purpose for which Thomas‘s confession was ostensibly admitted, and, critically, the prosecution did not use Thomas‘s confession for any such limited purpose. The prosecution instead used Thomas‘s confession to establish the role that defendant had played in the murder — that is, for the truth of his out-of-court statements. If the prosecution had intended simply to impeach Thomas‘s credibility — that is, to demonstrate that Thomas was an unreliable witness — it would have sufficed to present his inconsistent statements.

Crawford makes clear that the prosecution may not ask the jury to credit an accomplice‘s out-of-court stationhouse confession shifting or spreading blame to the defendant unless the defendant has had the opportunity to test the accomplice‘s reliability in the crucible of cross-examination. (Crawford, supra, 541 U.S. at p. 61.) In this case, as the Court of Appeal observed, evidentiary rules were very loosely applied . . . and few restrictions were observed by either side, or by the trial court. The end result was that an accomplice‘s confession implicating the defendant was used as substantive evidence of her role in the crime, even though she had no opportunity to test his reliability through cross-examination. This violated defendant‘s right of confrontation.

The Attorney General argues that any violation of defendant‘s Sixth Amendment rights was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. (Chapman v. California (1967) 386 U.S. 18, 24; see, e.g., People v. Pearson (2013) 56 Cal.4th 393, 463.) The Attorney General argues the evidence of defendant‘s guilt was sufficiently overwhelming that there was no reasonable possibility that the jury verdict could have been affected by the admission of Thomas‘s confession. Defendant, however, points out that Thomas‘s confession was both powerfully incriminating and provided the only direct evidence of defendant‘s role in the murder, which explains why the prosecutor relied on the confession so heavily in his arguments to the jury.

Because the Court of Appeal concluded that defendant‘s constitutional right to confront Thomas had not been violated, it did not address these arguments. We consider it appropriate to remand this matter to the Court of Appeal to permit that court to determine the question in the first instance. (People v. Mendoza (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1114, 1135; see Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.528, subd. (c).)

Secondary sources: McCormick on Evidence (7th ed. 2013) The Hearsay Rule, § 249, p. 189, fn. 2; Witkin, Cal. Evidence (5th ed. 2012) Hearsay, § 38, pp. 831–832; Wigmore on Evidence (Chadbourn ed. 1970) Specific Error (Contradiction), § 1000, pp. 956–958.

(Cal.S.C., July 3, 2017, P. v. Hopson, J. Kruger (concur.: JJ. Chin, Corrigan, Liu, Cuéllar. Diss.: C.J. Cantil-Sakauye, J. Werdegar, S228193).

Droit de l'accusé dans la procédure pénale de confronter les témoins comparant contre lui :

En l'espèce, l'accusée a soutenu en cours de procédure que l'homicide était le fait de son ami, entre-temps décédé.

L'accusation déposa alors dans la procédure une déclaration de l'ami, incriminant l'accusée.

Celle-ci s'opposa au dépôt de dite déclaration, au motif qu'elle portait atteinte à son droit d'interroger à l'audience les témoins déposant contre elle, droit déduit du Sixième Amendement de la Constitution fédérale, lequel s'applique aux Etats en vertu du Quatorzième Amendement.

La cour d'appel a rejeté cet argument, considérant que la déclaration n'avait pas été admise pour permettre au Jury d'apprécier la véracité de son contenu, mais bien pour décrédibiliser la version contraire présentée par l'accusée.

Saisie à son tour, la Cour Suprême de Californie juge, contrairement à la cour d'appel, qu'il a été demandé au Jury de considérer la conformité à la vérité de la déclaration de l'ami de l'accusée, en violation du droit de celle-ci de pouvoir interroger un témoin déposant contre elle.

La jurisprudence de la Cour Suprême fédérale relative aux limites du Sixième Amendement a varié au fil du temps. La Cour considère aujourd'hui que le droit de confronter le témoin adverse a pour but d'éviter l'admission au procès d'éléments contre l'accusé recueillis hors procédure et de se distancer à cet égard des pratiques des juridictions de droit civil. Ainsi, le Sixième Amendement prohibe la production au dossier des dépositions d'un témoin qui ne comparaît pas à l'audience, à moins qu'il ne soit dans l'impossibilité de comparaître et que l'accusé ait eu une opportunité antérieure de le questionner. (Pour être exclues, les dépositions doivent encore être de nature "testimoniale", le sens de ce terme n'étant pas l'objet de la présente espèce).

Par ailleurs, une déposition hors procédure ne pourra être exclue que si elle a nature de "hearsay", soit qu'elle a été donnée pour établir la véracité de son contenu. Il s'agit dès lors en l'espèce de déterminer si la déclaration hors procédure de l'ami décédé a été proposée pour un motif hors la limite de "hearsay" ou s'il a été proposé comme moyen de preuve contre l'accusée, en violation du Sixième Amendement. A cet égard, il est bien possible que la déclaration ait été admise à d'autres fins que celle d'incriminer directement l'accusée. Le problème est que le Jury n'a jamais été informé du but restreint, hors la limite de "hearsay", pour lequel la déclaration avait été admise. En outre, l'accusation n'a pas utilisé la déclaration dans le cadre de ce but restreint, elle l'a utilisée au contraire comme preuve directe de culpabilité.

La jurisprudence Crawford a clairement considéré que l'accusation ne pouvait pas demander au Jury de donner crédit à une déclaration d'un complice, donnée hors audience, par laquelle l'accusé était désigné comme coupable, à moins que ce dernier n'ait eu l'opportunité d'interroger le déclarant à cet égard. Tel n'a pas été le cas en l'espèce.

P. v. Valencia, S223825


Wobblers are a special class of crimes involving conduct that varies widely in its level of seriousness, and may therefore be chargeable or . . . punishable as either a felony or a misdemeanor. (People v. Park (2013) 56 Cal.4th 782, 789; see also People v. Kunkel (1985) 176 Cal.App.3d 46, 51, fn. 3). (cf. fn 2).

(…) In Robert L., 30 Cal.4th 894, we refused to presume that voters were aware of the legal meaning of the term wobbler (p. 34) (…) Although the term wobbler is commonly used by attorneys, judges, and law enforcement personnel who are familiar with criminal law, we observed that the word does not have a meaning defined by statute or commonly understood by the electorate.

(…) Unreasonable to presume that a lay voter would understand or give credit to a term of legal art.

(Cal.S.C., July 3, 2017, P. v. Valencia, S223825).

Le terme "Wobbler", qui réunit des infractions susceptibles d'être qualifiées de felony ou de misdemeanor, n'est pas défini dans la loi. Il n'est pas supposé être connu de l'électorat en cas de votation sur le texte d'une initiative.