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People v. Superior Court (Hartway)

19 Cal. 3d 338, 562 P.2d 1315 (1977)

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People v. Superior Court (Hartway)

California Supreme Court

19 Cal. 3d 338, 562 P.2d 1315 (1977)

Facts

A group of over 250 women (defendants) were charged by the Oakland Police Department (the department) with soliciting or engaging in prostitution. The defendants argued in relevant part that several department policies that enforced California’s solicitation statute violated the defendants’ equal-protection rights by deliberately discriminating against women. First, the department employed more men than women as decoys to solicit prostitution, resulting in more arrests of female prostitutes than male customers. In 1973 and 1974, 1,160 women were arrested using male decoys and 57 men were arrested using female decoys. Second, in trick cases (i.e., arrests that did not involve decoys), police disproportionately arrested the alleged female prostitute but not the alleged male customer. The defendants presented evidence of six trick cases in which women were arrested for solicitation and men were not. The prosecution (plaintiff) presented evidence of four trick cases in which male customers were arrested. Female police officers were prohibited from working alone as decoys. The department claimed that 60 percent of its total personnel hours allotted to investigating prostitution were focused on pimps and other people who employed prostitutes, 95 percent of whom were male. Third, until 1975, suspected prostitutes were arrested, detained, and forced to submit to sexually-transmitted-infection testing and sometimes treatment; suspected customers were merely issued citations. After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the municipal court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. The defendants appealed, and the California Superior Court issued a writ restraining trial proceedings and determined that police unconstitutionally discriminated against women in enforcing the prostitution statute. The prosecution then petitioned the California Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition to prevent the dismissal of the defendants’ charges.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Clark, J.)

Dissent (Tobriner, C.J.)

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