WA Supreme Court: Some Court Education and Explanation of Why SRA Trumps No Second Chance Rule in Re-Sentencing (Part I - published after part II)
Those of you that have read the other opinion from the Washington Supreme Court today know what’s coming. The interesting thing here is the way these cases came out.
Both State v. Jones and State v. Cobos deal with the same issue: Whether the Sentencing Reform Act or the No Second Chance Rule wins on re-sentencing. These were written by two different judges, but submitted on the same day, one referencing the other. To get a better idea of how this happens, you need a background on how cases are selected. Thank you, Justice Mary Yu for providing that knowledge:
Ever wonder how opinions are assigned to a particular Justice? We are randomly assigned cases (it is a blind random drawing). Once you have a case, your chambers is responsible for writing a pre-hearing memo that outlines the issues and law in the case, and recommends a disposition. The memo is circulated to each Justice and then after oral argument, we meet and decide the case. After deciding the case, depending on the vote of the Court, the Chief assigns the tasks of writing the majority opinion and dissent, if any, to a Justice. Generally, the Justice who wrote the pre-hearing memo writes the opinion if she/he obtains a majority vote. Any Justice is free to write a concurrence or join a dissent, if there is dissent. So . . . we don’t get to pick and choose cases!
If you’re not following Justice Yu on Facebook, you should. You could learn a lot!
Anyhow, so that’s how this weird situation came about. Now, how the justices battled over who got to do the heavy lifting on this case (Cobos ended up being the short opinion, but it could have been the other way around), I don’t know.
So, this opinion gets a little bit more detail as to why the court decided that the Sentencing Reform Act trumped the no second chance or will. In order to get an idea of why, you need to first look at the reasons the no second chance rule was adopted. It was not a matter of due process, but judicial economy (read: time-saver). The Court recognized the rule would likely be overrun by something akin to the SRA long before it happened:
But the "no second chance" rule cannot be viewed as constitutionally based. Our later case law recognized this and instead focused on what constitutes notice. For example, in Bergstrom, we allowed the State to provide additional evidence on remand because of the ''unique circumstances” of the case. State v. Bergstrom, 162 Wn.2d 87, 98, 169 P3d 816 (2007) (holding that the State was not on notice when defense counsel acknowledged criminal history over defendant's explicit objection). The dissent in Bergstrom, however, argued that the State was put on notice by the defendant's objection. Bergstrom, 162 Wn.2d at 100 (Alexander, C.J., dissenting). And in In re Personal Restraint of Cadwallader, 155 Wn.2d 867, 123 P.3d 456 (2005), we held that the State was not permitted to introduce new evidence on remand of a prior conviction, under the peculiar facts of that case, even though the defendant did not object. Justice Bridge, in her dissent, remarked that "the legislature would likely not endorse the majority's decision to prohibit evidence of Mr. Cadwallader's 1985 conviction on remand." Cadwallader, 155 Wn.2d at 883 (Bridge, J., dissenting). In neither case did the opinions identify a specific constitutional basis in analyzing the issues.
Justice Bridge's remarks would prove prophetic. In 2008, the legislature amended several sections of the SRA, including RCW 9.94A.530. Its intent was clear:
Given the decisions in In re Cadwallader, 155 Wn.2d 867 (2005); State v. Lopez, 147 Wn.2d 515 (2002); State v. Ford, 137 Wn.2d 472 (1999); and State v. McCorkle, 137 Wn.2d 490, 973 P.2d 461 (1999), the legislature finds it is necessary to amend the provisions in RCW 9.94A.500, 9.94A.525, and 9.94A.530 in order to ensure that sentences imposed accurately reflect the offender's actual, complete criminal history, whether imposed at sentencing or upon resentencing.
LAWS OF 2008, ch. 231, § 1.
Essentially, the legislature didn’t like but the court was doing with the no second chance rule and chose to change it. While the court had allowed the no second chance rule to stand as a method of preventing re-presentation of evidence in order to save time and money, the legislature wanted all of the criminal information in the history presented in resentencing.