The Constitution of the State of California is the document that establishes and describes the duties, powers, structure and function of the government of the U.S. state of California. The original constitution, adopted in November 1849 in advance of California attaining U.S. statehood in 1850, maintains jurisdiction along with the current constitution, which was ratified on May 7, 1879, Article 3 Section 2 of the current Constitution references the original boundaries as stated in the 1849 Constitution at Article 7.
The result of Progressive mistrust of elected officials, the 1879 constitution is the third longest in the world (behind the constitutions of Alabama and of India), and has been described as “the perfect example of what a constitution ought not to be”.
California’s constitution is one of the longest collections of laws in the world, taking up 110 pages. Part of this length is caused by the fact that many voter initiatives take the form of a constitutional amendment. The constitution can be changed by initiatives passed by voters. Initiatives can be proposed by the governor, legislature, or by popular petition, giving California one of the most flexible legal systems in the world.
Many of the individual rights clauses in the state constitution have been construed as protecting rights even broader than the Bill of Rights in the federal constitution. An excellent example is the case of Pruneyard Shopping Center v. Robins, in which “free speech” rights beyond those addressed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution were found in the California Constitution by the California courts. One of California’s most significant prohibitions is against “cruel or unusual punishment,” a stronger prohibition than the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” This caused the California Supreme Court to find Capital Punishment unconstitional on state Constitutional grounds in the 1972 case of People v. Anderson.