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Name: People v. Hupp (2023) 96 Cal.App.5th 946
Case #: E079389, E079543
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/25/2023

A judge is not an “executive officer” within the meaning of Penal Code section 69. A jury convicted defendant of four counts of violating section 69 (threatening an executive officer) based on threatening statements he made to four judges. On appeal, he argued that as a matter of law, he could not be liable under section 69 because a judge is not an “executive officer” within the plain meaning of the term. Held: Reversed. Section 69 makes it a crime to attempt to deter, by means of any threat, an executive officer from the performance of a legal duty. The issue of whether a judge qualifies as an “executive officer” under this provision is a matter of first impression. Applying principles of statutory interpretation, the court agreed with defendant that in the context of section 69, “executive officer” unambiguously refers to an officer of the executive branch, and judges are not part of the executive branch. To the extent the pattern jury instruction for section 69 suggests that the definition of “executive officer” is meant to be broader than the plain meaning of the term (as the People argued), that suggests the instruction may need to be revised; it does not mean the interpretation of the statute should be stretched to fit the instruction. Defendant’s convictions must be reversed.