No pseudonymization of defendants in California court notices


In People vs. Gregordecided on August 12 by the California Court of Appeals, Judge Elena Duarte joined by Judges Jonathan Renner and Peter Krause, the defendant, a naturalized citizen, “pleaded guilty to a criminal sexual offense which was later reduced to a misdemeanor and dismissed after early termination of the trial period”:

In April 2011, pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant pleaded guilty to the felony of contacting a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense (§ 288.4, subd. (b); count 2), and no contested tort of contact with a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense (§ 288.4, subd. (a)(1); count 3). Sentencing was delayed for a year. If the defendant successfully completed a sexual integrity program, count 2 should be dismissed.

This limited his ability to sponsor family members for visas, leading him to seek the full withdrawal of his guilty plea:

After being informed that he was unable to sponsor his father for a family visa due to this conviction, the defendant filed the pending petition pursuant to Section 1473.7 of the Penal Code and sought to withdraw his plea by claiming that he was unable to meaningfully understand, defend against, or knowingly accept the adverse immigration consequences of his conviction. The trial court denied the motion; defendant appealed.

I’m skipping this background question here, a topic I haven’t researched at all, and focusing on the issue of pseudonymization:

We first explain why we reject the respondent’s request to refer to him by his initials in this opinion. Defendant bases its argument on California Court Rules, Rule 8.90(b)(10) and (11). Rule 8.90(b)(10) is a “catch-all” provision that permits the court to use first name or initials “in other circumstances where personal privacy interests justify not using the name of the person”. Rule 8.90(b)(11) provides for the use of the initials of “[p]persons in other circumstances where use of that person’s full name would defeat the purpose of anonymity of a person identified in items (1) through (10). »

We are not aware of any authority applying Rule 8.90(b)(10) and (11) to criminal defendants except in the narrow circumstances – not applicable here – in which the sole purpose of the appeal is to attempt assert a legal right to privacy. (See, for example, People c. DC (Cal. App. 2020); People against EB (Cal. App. 2020).) Additionally, while the defendant argues that he may eventually be able to ask the trial court to seal his criminal record in the event he succeeds in overturning his plea and that his case would be remanded and resolved in veterans court, that argument is entirely speculative.

While we appreciate the defendant’s position and corresponding claim, his position in this appeal is that of a criminal defendant seeking relief from the denial of his motion to withdraw a guilty plea. We therefore deny his request for redactions.

Note that the issue was not whether the defendant’s name would be entirely inaccessible in the court record (the general rule of true pseudonymity), only whether the defendant’s name would be omitted from the court’s opinion. and legend. Here is the full text of Rule 8.90(b), by the way:

Rule 8.90. Confidentiality of reviews…
To protect personal privacy interests, in all notices, the Review Tribunal should consider referring to the following individuals by first name and initial or, if the first name is unusual or other circumstances compromise the purpose of anonymity, by their initials only:
(1) Children in all proceedings under the Family Code and protected persons in proceedings for the prevention of domestic violence;
(2) Wards in guardianship proceedings and curatorships in guardianship proceedings;
(3) Patients in mental health procedures;
(4) Victims in criminal proceedings;
(5) Persons protected in civil harassment proceedings under Article 527.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure;
(6) Protected Persons in Workplace Violence Prevention Proceedings under Section 527.8 of the Code of Civil Procedure;
(7) Persons Protected in Violence Prevention Proceedings in Private Post-Secondary Schools under Section 527.85 of the Code of Civil Procedure;
(8) Persons protected in procedures for the prevention of abuse of the elderly or dependent adults under article 15657.03 of the Code of Social Protection and Institutions;
(9) Minors or disabled persons in proceedings to compromise the claims of a minor or disabled person;
(10) Persons in other circumstances where the interests of privacy justify not using the person’s name; and
(11) Persons in other circumstances where use of that person’s full name would defeat the purpose of anonymity of a person identified in (1) through (10).

Thanks to Ron Matthias for the pointer; congratulations to Daniel B. Bernstein and Stephanie A. Mitchell of the California AG office, who were successful.


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