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Name: Alvarez v. Superior Court
Case #: A125626
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/08/2010

San Francisco Superior Court’s judicial-assignment procedure limiting the number of judges authorized to accept plea agreements is valid. The prosecutor and defendant agreed to a plea bargain in a judge’s chambers. The judge approved the bargain, but did not take the plea. Per local court procedure, he transferred the matter to a designated department which handles plea negotiations for that judge to accept and take the plea. After the designated judge refused to accept the bargain without modifying it, defendant filed a writ of mandate/prohibition challenging the process. He argued it was not valid because a local court rule had not been adopted. The appellate court held the assignment procedure was validly instituted without promulgation of a local court rule. The court found the assignment procedure was an allocation of the “business of the court” and noted a presiding judge has plenary authority over judicial assignments per Government Code section 69508, subdivision (a), and rule 10.603. A local court rule was not needed before the procedure was enacted because it does not affect how parties are required to prosecute their cases or practices before the court, but rather governs who will hear the matter. For this reason, this case was distinguishable from Hall v. Superior Court (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 908 [local 30-day cut off rule for filing motions before trial] and from People v. Cobb (1983) 139 Cal.App.3d 578 [local rule refusing plea agreements after pretrial readiness conference].