Proposition 66 applies to habeas petitions filed before Proposition 66’s enactment and pending on Proposition 66’s effective date (October 25, 2017). In 1999, defendant was sentenced to death. In 2006, he filed a habeas petition in the California Supreme Court. In 2014, the Supreme Court issued an order to show cause why habeas relief should not be granted on three claims of juror misconduct. In 2015, the Court issued two orders referring the claims to the superior court for an evidentiary hearing and to issue a report and recommendation to the Supreme Court on how to resolve the claims. After the superior court conducted the evidentiary hearing, but before it issued any ruling, the Supreme Court vacated the two prior orders and transferred the misconduct claims to the superior court for adjudication. In the same February 2018 order, the Supreme Court denied the remaining claims on the merits. In September 2018, the superior court issued a 70-page written order denying relief. Defendant appealed. The Court of Appeal requested briefing on the application of Prop. 66 to the case. Held: Appeal from the trial court’s denial of habeas petition was jurisdictionally proper. In 2016, voters approved Proposition 66, which changed the procedures for collateral review of persons sentenced to death in California. Instead of filing habeas petitions in the California Supreme Court, capital defendants must now file their habeas petitions in the superior court that imposed their death sentence. These defendants have a right to appeal denial of relief to the Court of Appeal (Pen. Code, § 1509.1, subd. (a)), and thereafter to seek review in the California Supreme Court. The plain language of Prop. 66 makes clear that its procedures apply to petitions filed before Prop. 66 was enacted. Section 1509, subdivision (g) provides that if a habeas petition is pending on the effective date of this section, the court may transfer the petition to the court which imposed its sentence. Furthermore, this interpretation furthers the Proposition’s purpose of reforming the inefficient appeals process for death penalty cases.
The Supreme Court properly transferred defendant’s claims to the superior court, making appeal to the Court of Appeal appropriate. Prop. 66 grants the Supreme Court discretion to transfer pending habeas petitions to the superior court. This power to transfer the entire case ostensibly includes the power to transfer a portion of the case. Here, the Supreme Court’s February 2018 order vacated the prior referral order, denied all of the non-referred claims, and transferred the sole outstanding referred claims to the superior court for adjudication, thereby divesting itself of any further connection with the petition. The fact that the Court did not reference Prop. 66 in the transfer order is of no moment.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/B293216.PDF