Tuesday, May 1, 2007 • Court of Appeal hears cases in Susanville May 2

Publisher’s note: This story originally appeared in the Tuesday, May 2, 2007, edition of the Lassen County Times.

California’s Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, brings the appeals court process to Lassen County.

Three of the court’s 11 justices will hear oral arguments in two cases — one from Placer County and one from Lassen County at Susanville’s Veterans Memorial Hall on Wednesday, May 2.

Students from Lassen High School, judges, lawyers and interested members of the public are invited to attend. The doors open at 8:30 a.m.

At 9:30 a.m., the justices will hear oral arguments in the Placer County case of The People v. Stacy Victory Scott.

At 10 a.m., the justices will hear arguments in the Lassen County case of Pit River Tribe v. Milford Donaldson et. al.

A question and answer session will begin at 10:30 a.m., but the justices will not answer questions on the cases they’ve just heard. The court session ends at 11:41 a.m.

After the Court of Appeals files the opinions in the cases it heard in Lassen County, copies of the opinions will be forwarded to LHS so the students may discuss the issues and the justices’ decision.

As part of this educational experience for high school students, justices of the Third Appellate District will meet with students and teachers on Tuesday, May 1, to discuss the court’s appellate process and function. Dan Lewis, Lassen High School’s principal, suggested the location and arranged for high school students to attend the proceedings.

That evening, justices, court staff, and local dignitaries will attend an educational and social event.

The court’s historic visit marks the first time the Court of Appeal has held a session in Susanville.

Since the inception of the court’s award-winning outreach program in 2000, oral arguments have been heard in Shasta, Butte, Nevada, Yolo, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, El Dorado, Plumas, Tehama, Amador, Mono, Yuba and Glenn counties.

The jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, includes 23 counties and covers the largest geographic district in the state.

According to Presiding Justice Arthur G. Scotland, the court decided the time had come to encourage interested individuals to attend argument and learn first hand how the appellate courts operate.

“We choose to hold court in a school setting so we could make it an educational opportunity for students,” Scotland said.

The Third Appellate District ordinarily holds oral argument at its courtroom in the Library and Courts Building, 914 Capitol Mall, Sacramento.

  For more information, call Deena C. Fawcett, Clerk/Administrator of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, at 916-653-0187.

People v. Scott
First up is the case of The People v. Stacy Victoria Scott, a criminal case from Placer County.

Scott is appealing a conviction for burglary and two counts of receiving stolen property. A jury found her guilty, and she was sentenced to 300 days in county jail and five years probation.

In her appeal, Scott contends her Fourth Amendment rights were denied because her attorney failed to renew a suppression of evidence motion that was denied during a preliminary hearing during her trial. Generally, if a motion to suppress evidence is denied at a preliminary hearing, the defendant must raise the issue before the trial court to persevere the issue for appeal.

At issue is a warrantless search by two welfare case workers and two detectives who visited Scott’s residence to conduct welfare check on her 2-year-old daughter.

The case workers and detectives reported finding hazardous chemicals on the front porch of the residence. They also said the defendant, who has a history of mental health issues, appeared to be very agitated and paranoid. After consultation with the case workers, one of the detectives determined exigent circumstances justified a warrantless entry into the home to protect the child.

Once inside the residence, a detective observed the stolen property in plain view.

Scott claims the detectives came to her house as part of a criminal investigation and there is no evidence of an imminent danger to the child. She alleges the hazardous chemicals on the porch were simply cleaning supplies and her anger and resistance to the detectives do not equate with a danger to the child. The defendant argues the detectives should have sought a warrant in order to enter her residence without her consent.

Pit River Tribe v. Miford Donaldson, et. al
The California Department of Transportation began a reconstruction project along a 10-mile segment of state route 299 in Lassen and Shasta counties. Two sites were identified as having prehistoric archeological significance because they contained flaked and ground stone tools and some debris and bone fragments that may have been Native American artifacts or remains. The two sites were determined not to be within the area of direct impact of the proposed construction.

Three years into the project, Caltrans began excavating the area without notifying the Pit River Tribe or having an archeologist or monitor present. Representatives of the tribe appeared at the site and discovered obsidian flakes and some human remains. The tribe asked the Native American Heritage Commission to review the matter. The commission denied the tribe’s appeal.

Caltrans resumed construction and the excavated materials were moved into to stockpiles — one on state property and a second on the property of adjacent land owners who denied the tribe access. The land owner eventually bulldozed the second stockpile.

The tribe brought legal action against Caltrans, the commission, other state agencies and officers, but the court dismissed the case because the tribe failed to state any valid, legal claim.

Caltrans was dismissed from the tribe’s appeal on procedural grounds. The appeal against the commission and other state agencies and officers remains.

The tribe argues the court erred and misinterpreted the California Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

The tribe also argues the state agencies violated the Native American Historical, Cultural and Sacred Sites Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

Noting that the tribe’s complaint against Caltrans was dismissed, a ruling which is final because the tribe failed to perfect a timely appeal from the judgment dismissing Caltrans from the action, defendants contend the tribe cannot “indirectly pursue its appeal against Caltrans under the guise that all state agencies are one and the same,” according to a summary of the case provided by the court.