Legal News and Appellate Tips

Each week, TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal reviews several recent decisions out of the appellate courts in California, and elsewhere, and reports about the ones that might help you get an edge in your cases and appeals.

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Tag: Right to Jury Trial

The “Speedy” in Speedy Trial Becomes Relative, and the Limits of Scientology Arbitration: A Review of Jan. 2022 Cases on Ep. 25 of the Cal.App.Law.Pod.

Reviewing some 9th Circuit and California appellate cases of note from early 2022, Jeff Lewis and I discuss these juicy issues:

💡 Can the 6th Amendment right to speedy trial be indefinitely postponed due to Covid? (Yes, if the defendant is not incarcerated, says the 9th Circuit in *United States v. Olsen*.)

💡 Can the statutory right to a timely conservatorship jury trial be waived? (Yes, even if the judge kind of pushes you around, so stiffen up that spine!)

💡 Can the Church of Scientology compel arbitration of a dispute arising after members leave the church and allege Scientologist actor Danny Masterson rapes them? (No, but the Supreme Court had to step in and tell the Court of Appeal to take a little more time with the writ petition.)

💡 Can a pre-litigation demand cross the line into extortion, and thus fail to qualify for protection under Civil Code section 47’s litigation privilege? (Yes, if the attorney threatens to disclose the allegations to blow up the defendant’s potential merger.)

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Right to Speedy Trial Under 6th Amendment May Be Suspended Indefinitely During Covid, Holds 9th Circuit in Denying En Banc Review

What do judges think about the Covid impacts on court proceedings? Jury trials were put on hold in the early months, and only resumed in fits and starts. In-person appearances began again last year, but are being tabled again.

At least as it concerns criminal jury trials, you can get a good sampling of judges’ disparate feelings in *United States v. Olsen*, 21 F.4th 1036 (9th Cir. Jan. 6, 2022), where the Ninth Circuit recently denied en banc review of a panel decision reversing a dismissal for failing to comply with the Speedy Trial Act.

Tensions run high in each of the four opinions: the majority per curiam decision reversing the district court and reinstating the case, two concurrences by Judges Murguia and Bumatay, and a dissent by Judge Collins. There is too much going on to fairly summarize all of it. So in the article I only cover a few things that jumped off the page at me, including:

- No 6th Amendment analysis at all in the majority opinion;
- The 9th was displeased with the unseemly collateral dispute among judges of the Central District;
- “Impossibility” of jury trials was denied by a “General Order” in which the defendant had no input — is this constitutionally problematic? (Judge Collins thinks so);
- Should a Speedy Trial be denied because the defendant obtained prior continuance? What if it was to review the voluminous evidence the government amassed in six years of pre-indictment investigation?

Ultimately, while I agree with Judge Bumatay that this is a close call, I am persuaded by Judge Collins’ dissent. At a minimum, the Ninth Circuit should have granted *en banc* review here.

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Waiver of Jury Trial Held Voluntary, Despite Judge’s Statement Litigant Would Have to Wait 9 Mos. for a Jury

This one seems wrong to me.

This is a published case in *[Conservatorship of Joanne R.] (D2d7 Dec. 17, 2021 no. B310906) 72 Cal.App.5th 1009. The appellant was put under a year-long conservatorship. Under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act governing conservatorships, the appellant was entitled to a jury trial, to commence within 10 days of demand, challenging the establishment or extension of the conservatorship. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 5350.) So she invoked that right.

But here is what the trial judge says about the appellant’s right to commence a jury trial in 10 days: “if you would like to have a court trial with the judge making the decision we can do that today. If you would like to have a jury trial then we can do that as well, but we won't be able to do it today. We can reschedule and do that in November.”

This is in early February. That’s nine months into a 12-month conservatorship.

The appellant responds “I would prefer a jury trial, but I don’t want to wait until November.” Then after a short colloquy, says, “I think I want to go ahead today and do it.”

Is that a voluntary waiver of the appellant’s right to a jury trial? The Second District Court of Appeal says yes (but with reservations).

I think that is wrong, as I explain in the article. If the Legislature affords a right, it ought to honor it. The fact that the pandemic has made it difficult is not an excuse. Unless and until the Legislature decides to abrogate the right, the courts’ duty is to enforce it.

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