Aug. 1, 2022
Great Workout Arthur
Because he failed to notify the court that held the probation violation hearing of defendant’s imprisonment within 30 days after he himself received notification, the trial court did not have jurisdiction to sentence defendant. Lucky break for the defendant. We reversed. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read the statute. It won’t help.
Today there are no failures. No matter the screw-up, everyone does a great job. Compliments! What good are they if every numbskull gets one? We have become liars and hypocrites for fear of offending someone. Take my treadmill for example. I did 20 minutes of fast alternating uphill running, then level slow jogging, then back to uphill running. The treadmill's screen message got it right, "GREAT WORKOUT ARTHUR." Damned right I had a "great" workout. But on another occasion, when I shut off the treadmill after three minutes to "take" (receive) a call on my cell (cell phone), the treadmill gave me the same thumbs up, "Great Workout Arthur." No caps this time. "Liar, hypocrite!" I yelled at the treadmill... and then had to explain to my insurance broker on the phone that I didn't mean her. On another occasion I confessed to my gym buddies in the locker room: "Hey guys, I pooped out on the stationary bike today and fell off the seat when getting off." Their response: "At a way to go bro...give me five."
We live in a world where everyone gets praise. We are all terrific. With everyone now doing a bang-up job and basking in the high echelons of accomplishment, we can pat one another on the back for... breathing. What if a friend or a colleague asked what I thought of an article "they" (new usage to avoid "he or she" - sorry Daniel Webster) had written, and I suggested a few changes? God forbid "they" might be offended. What if I said, "Terrific article, but this compound sentence needs a semicolon?" Sorry, that is a micro aggression.
And this takes me to the Legislature and Penal Code section 1203.2a. Let's cite verbatim a couple of paragraphs:
"If any defendant who has been released on probation is committed to a prison in this state or another state for another offense, the court which released him or her on probation shall have jurisdiction to impose sentence, if no sentence has previously been imposed for the offense for which he or she was granted probation, in the absence of the defendant, on the request of the defendant made through his or her counsel, or by himself or herself in writing, if such writing is signed in the presence of the warden of the prison in which he or she is confined or the duly authorized representative of the warden, and the warden or his or her representative attests both that the defendant has made and signed such request and that he or she states that he or she wishes the court to impose sentence in the case in which he or she was released on probation, in his or her absence and without him or her being represented by counsel."
"Upon being informed by the probation officer of the defendant's confinement, or upon receipt from the warden or duly authorized representative of any prison in this state or another state of a certificate showing that the defendant is confined in prison, the court shall issue its commitment if sentence has previously been imposed. If sentence has not been previously imposed and if the defendant has requested the court through counsel or in writing in the manner herein provided to impose sentence in the case in which he or she was released on probation in his or her absence and without the presence of counsel to represent him or her, the court shall impose sentence and issue its commitment, or shall make other final order terminating its jurisdiction over the defendant in the case in which the order of probation was made. If the case is one in which sentence has previously been imposed, the court shall be deprived of jurisdiction over defendant if it does not issue its commitment or make other final order terminating its jurisdiction over defendant in the case within 60 days after being notified of the confinement. If the case is one in which sentence has not previously been imposed, the court is deprived of jurisdiction over defendant if it does not impose sentence and issue its commitment or make other final order terminating its jurisdiction over defendant in the case within 30 days after defendant has, in the manner prescribed by this section, requested imposition of sentence."
The first paragraph contains 171 words. The second paragraph contains 252 words. Any reader who checks whether my trusted judicial assistant Bonnie Edwards and I counted correctly is invited to stop reading this or any future column. And if our number count is off, no need to call it to everyone's attention, the whole point of this column.
So, what am I supposed to say - "Terrific job Legislature?" No matter that the statute is seemingly incomprehensible and anyone who writes a sentence longer than 25 words should be hanged and quartered.
But guess what? The statute does have meaning for anyone given the laborious task of figuring it out, like say, for instance, a judge. Yes, I figured it out... I guess I did thirty-one years ago when I was politically incorrect. In People v. Holt (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 962, 965, I wrote, "It is an unenviable chore to consider Penal Code section 1203.2a. The statute reflects a disregard for careful drafting and contempt for the English language. Meandering clauses in which the subject and predicate are ruthlessly separated from one another, jumps in thought and logic, and a lack of organization make the going difficult. Nevertheless, we have persevered in our trek through the statute's thicket of tangled clauses. Our efforts have not gone unrewarded. The statute has a specific meaning that apparently was not discernible to other courts."
Please forgive. I was callous and did not give a hoot what the Legislature felt so many years ago. Yes, legislatures have feelings. After all, they are composed of people. But I can't help feeling sorry for the probation officer who had to interpret the statute. Because he failed to notify the court that held the probation violation hearing of defendant's imprisonment within 30 days after he himself received notification, the trial court did not have jurisdiction to sentence defendant. Lucky break for the defendant. We reversed. Don't know what I'm talking about? Read the statute. It won't help.
But perhaps I am overreacting to current notions of sensitivity to others. I have not experienced a trace of this trend in petitions for rehearing.
Wonder what my good friend and colleague Arleigh Woods would have thought about all of this. I think she would say, "Get over it." She recently passed away. She was a dear friend and colleague who was the Administrative Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division 4, and the Presiding Justice of Division 4 from 1982 to 1996. She was a brilliant jurist, who wore warmth, humor, grace and style with impeccable taste. And her wardrobe matched. OK, Arleigh, I hear you. I'm over it.