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Name: People v. Pena
Case #: S106906
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 02/05/2004

Appellant challenged The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s oral argument notice, which attached a tentative opinion, and noted that oral argument would not aid the decision-making process, and would instead delay the filing of the opinion for six to ten weeks or up to five months until the same panel is available. Appellant’s counsel did not request argument, and the Court of Appeal issued an opinion basically identical to the tentative opinion. Appellant petitioned for rehearing, arguing that the opinion contained misstatements of fact, and challenging the court’s oral argument procedure and arguing that the Court’s determination that oral argument would not help the decision-making process denied him his right to due process and infringed on his right to present oral argument. Appellant’s counsel stated he desired to have oral argument in order to bring to the court’s attention the misstatements of fact contained in the tentative opinion, but was deterred by the language of the waiver notice. The appellate court denied rehearing, and the Supreme Court granted review, and remanded appellant’s case back to the Court of Appeal to schedule oral argument. The waiver notice used by the Fourth District suggested too strongly that the court had finally decided the case and would not be affected by oral argument, and that appellate counsel might face adverse consequences if oral argument was requested anyway. Therefore, the notice had the potential to interfere with a party’s proper exercise of the right to present oral argument on appeal. The Supreme Court directed the Court of Appeal to refrain from utilizing that waiver notice in future cases. Further, since appellate counsel indicated that he had been deterred from requesting oral argument, the judgment was reversed and remanded.