California Lawyers

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california lawyer,california lawyers,california attorney,california attorneysMany notable California decisions have shaped not only the Golden State’s laws, but the nation’s too.  This frontier state is known for its progressive ideas and policies, although perhaps surprisingly, it has enacted some of the strictest criminal sentencing guidelines in the country.

California is one of 13 states in the nation to allow same-sex marriage.  In May 2008, the California Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, In re. Marriage Cases, in which it held that Proposition 22 (which added a section to the California Family Code that officially defined marriage in the state as a union between a man and a woman) violated the state constitution.  In November 2008, however, voters narrowly passed Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to limit marriage between men and women.  In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Hollingsworth v. Perry resulted in the dismissal of the passage of Proposition 8, which led to the legalization of same-sex marriages in California.

California is also a progressive leader regarding medical marijuana laws in the United States. In 1996, California became the first state to initiate a program for the use of medical marijuana. Under the Compassionate Use Act, individuals with chronic illnesses are allowed to use and even grow marijuana for medical purposes. More recently, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that reduced the criminal charge for the possession of marijuana. As of January 1, 2011, the possession of marijuana in California is treated as an infraction of the law, rather than a misdemeanor. Despite these recent policies, marijuana continues to evoke controversy throughout the state.

In contrast to its lenient stance on medical marijuana, California’s three-strikes or habitual offender law is one of the harshest in the country.  Although a number of states impose stricter sentences on repeat offenders, California courts mandate an enhanced sentence for any third felony conviction (whether or not it’s serious or violent) if the first two felonies were serious, violent, or both.  California’s law has been challenged on the basis that it violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; however, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld California’s law in 2003, in Ewing v. California and Lockyer v. Andrade.  California voters somewhat mitigated the law’s effect in 2000 by passing Proposition 36, which provides drug treatment rather than life in prison for offenders convicted of possessing drugs; yet, four years later, voters rejected Proposition 66, which would have required the third felony to be violent and/or serious to result in a mandatory 25 year-to-life punishment.

California is also notorious for imposing stringent requirements on future lawyers, who must pass a moral character examination as well as the dreaded Bar Examination, promulgated by the State Bar of California.  The California Bar Exam has been the bane of Former Governor Pete Wilson, current Attorney General Jerry Brown, and former Stanford University Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan, who all failed the first time.  About 44% of candidates pass the California Bar each year, compared with the national average of 70%.  Although the California Bar is longer than exams in most states and it is graded more harshly, another possible reason for the pass rate discrepancy is that California allows those who have not attended ABA-accredited law schools to take the test; additionally, individuals who did not attend law school may still qualify to take the California Bar Exam if they trained for four years with a judge or law firm in compliance with ABA rules and regulations. 

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Before selecting a new lawyer, it is important for individuals seeking legal assistance to make sure a prospective lawyer is certified with his or her State Bar and has completed adequate educational training.  By using a lawyer locating service such as LegalMatch, clients can easily research attorneys’ backgrounds before hiring them.  LegalMatch pre-screens its lawyers and provides clients with background reports on each lawyer, which include educational information, disciplinary records, and former client reviews.   

Additional information about the laws and legal procedures of California can be found by searching the following websites:

California is also a progressive leader regarding medical marijuana laws in the United States. In 1996, California became the first state to initiate a program for the use of medical marijuana. Under the Compassionate Use Act, individuals with chronic illnesses are allowed to use and even grow marijuana for medical purposes. More recently, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that reduced the criminal charge for the possession of marijuana. As of January 1, 2011, the possession of marijuana in California is treated as an infraction of the law, rather than a misdemeanor. Despite these recent policies, marijuana continues to evoke controversy throughout the state.

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Last Modified: 05-06-2014 11:14 AM PDT


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