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California's Dueling Harmless Error Standards: Approaches To Federal Constitutional Error In Civil Trials And Establishing The Proper Test For Dependency, Meehan Rasch
For forty years, California appellate courts generally have applied one discrete harmless error test for federal constitutional error in criminal cases and another for civil proceedings. In appeals from convictions in California state criminal cases, errors rising to a federal constitutional dimension are governed by the standard of Chapman v. California, which requires that these errors be proven by the state to be harmless beyond any reasonable doubt. The more lenient standard (for the trial court) of People v. Watson, which holds errors of state law and procedure harmless unless there is a reasonable probability that such error prejudiced the ...