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Name: People v. Guerra
Case #: F071164
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/21/2016
Summary

The requirement in Code of Civil Procedure section 77 that the appellate division of the superior court issue a brief statement of the reasons for its judgment, does not conflict with the Rule of Court that relieves the appellate division from having to issue written opinions. Defendant, who was charged with several driving while intoxicated misdemeanors, filed a motion to suppress evidence based on an improper detention. His motion was granted. The prosecution appealed to the appellate division of the superior court, which summarily reversed the trial court’s ruling. Defendant’s application for transfer to the Court of Appeal was granted. Held: Remanded to appellate division of the superior court. Section 77, subdivision (d) was amended in January 2015 to add the requirement that a judgment of the appellate division of the superior court in an appeal shall contain a brief statement of the reasons for the judgment. A judgment stating only “affirmed” or “reversed” is now insufficient. Here, the appellate division’s judgment, which provided only that the trial court’s order was reversed, violated the plain language of section 77, subdivision (d). California Rules of Court, rule 8.887(a) provides that appellate division judges are not required to prepare a written opinion, but may do so when they deem it advisable or in the public interest. If a rule conflicts with a statute, the statute controls. However, here there is no conflict between the requirements of section 77 and rule 8.887(a), because a “written opinion” generally connotes something more than “a brief statement of the reasons for the judgment.” Recognizing there is a difference between a written opinion (rule 8.887) and a judgment containing a brief statement of the reasons for the judgment (Code Civ. Pro., § 77, subd. (d)) comports with the legislative intent to improve the public’s understanding of decisions by the appellate divisions by reflecting how/why the appellate division reached its decision.

The full opinion is on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/F071164.PDF