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Name: Cuccia v. Superior Court of Ventura County
Case #: B197278
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 07/16/2007
Summary

The decisions of the Court of Appeal are binding on all superior courts of this state, and a trial court must follow an unambiguous holding of the Court of Appeal even if it believes it was erroneously decided. (Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court (1962) 57 Cal.2d 450.) People v. Marchman (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 79 held that in a Mentally Disordered Offender proceeding pursuant to Penal Code section 2960 et seq., the district attorney may initiate a recommitment proceeding only when the director of the facility providing the prisoner’s treatment states in a written evaluation, in accordance with section 2970, that the prisoner’s severe mental disorder is not in remission, or cannot be kept in remission without treatment. Here, the medical director at Patton State Hospital sent a letter to the People stating that Cuccia’s mental disorder was in remission. Despite the holding of Marchman, the district attorney filed a petition to extend the MDO treatment and argued strenuously that the trial court should not follow Marchman as it was wrongly decided. The trial court agreed and denied Cuccia’s motion to dismiss the petition. Chastising both the People and the trial court, the appellate court directed that appellant’s writ of mandate to dismiss the recommitment be granted. [Editor’s note: In California, when decisions of two appellate districts are in conflict, a trial court is free to choose and follow the law set forth by an outside appellate district. This is an important point of precedent not covered in the Cuccia case.]