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Name: K.R. v. Superior Court
Case #: S231709
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 06/29/2017

In every criminal plea in both adult and juvenile court, an implied term of the agreement is that the judge who accepts the plea will be the judge who pronounces sentence. At a settlement conference before Judge Sapunor, the minor K.R. admitted several probation violations with the understanding that he would be released from juvenile hall in one week and his case would be transferred to Clark County, Nevada, where his mom lived. The disposition hearing was scheduled for one week later. When the parties returned, Judge Arguelles presided over the disposition hearing despite the minor’s objection that he had given no Arbuckle waiver. Judge Arguelles disapproved the agreed disposition, stating his intent to commit the minor to Division of Juvenile Justice. The Court of Appeal denied the minor’s petition for writ of mandate based on an Arbuckle violation, finding no indication in the record that the minor expected the plea judge to handle the disposition. Review was granted. Held: Reversed. In People v. Arbuckle (1978) 22 Cal.3d 749, the court held that a defendant’s negotiated plea agreement necessarily included an implied term that the same judge who accepted his plea would preside at sentencing. This rule has been extended to juvenile cases (In re James H. (1985) 165 Cal.App.3d 911). However, some appellate courts, relying on language in In re Mark L. (1983) 34 Cal.3d 171, that seemed to restrict Arbuckle’s holding to its record, have declined to apply Arbuckle’s same-judge rule as a categorical presumption, instead examining the trial record to determine the parties’ actual intent. This is incorrect, as it is always implied in a plea that the judge taking the plea will conduct the sentencing or disposition hearing.

A trial court need not expressly retain jurisdiction over sentencing when it takes a plea in order for an Arbuckle right to attach. The prosecution argued that even if Arbuckle does provide that, absent a waiver, the plea judge will conduct sentencing, that rule should not apply here because the plea judge did not retain jurisdiction over sentencing when it took the plea. This is not the case because, as a rule, trial courts accepting a plea always retain discretion over sentencing. Further, the comments of the juvenile court make it clear that the court was ready to impose the agreed disposition when the minor entered his admission. The juvenile court retained discretion over the disposition hearing.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: