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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit After Manning & Kass Attorney Makes Persuasive Argument Against "Right to Die"

Manning & Kass was recently retained as defense counsel in two California "right to die" cases, in San Diego and San Franscisco.

The "right to die" movement in California has made headlines across the country as terminally ill patients try to have Penal Code 401 (the current penal code statute used to prosecute physicians who assist in suicide) declared unconstitutional. The statute reads, “Every person who deliberately aids, or advises, or encourages another to commit suicide, is guilty of a felony.”

During the last session of the California legislature, proposed bill SB128, which would have legalized physician assisted suicide, was defeated. The bill was opposed by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the disability rights community, and the Catholic Church, among more.

On Monday, July 27, San Diego Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack dismissed a lawsuit brought against the district attorney in San Diego (one of multiple suits brought by same plaintiffs against California state and county governmental entities). In doing so, he declared that to change the laws prohibiting physician-assisted suicide is a job for California's legislature, not its courts.

Darin L. Wessel, a partner in the firm's San Diego office and member of the Appellate Litigation Team, was assigned to write the briefs on these cases. The demurrer filed on behalf of the firm's client in the San Diego case was sustained, without leave to amend.

Judge Pollack found Penal Code 401 constitutional. The Court found that the issue in this case was not suicide, which has been found by courts to not be criminalized under California law, but whether there exists a constitutional right to an assisted suicide. The Court followed the leading California appellate court case, Donaldson and found that the US Supreme Court cases of Washington v. Gluksberg and Vacco v. Quill were persuasive even in evaluating issues under the California Constitution.