Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

by
Patricia petitioned for the dissolution of her marriage to Thomas in 2001. A dissolution judgment entered in 2002; a judgment on reserved issues entered in 2008. In 2005, trial court Commissioner Oleon determined, based Thomas’s conduct in the dissolution proceedings and two separate civil actions, that Thomas was a vexatious litigant, and issued an order, prohibiting him from filing any new litigation or motion in propria persona without obtaining leave of the presiding judge. Thomas was also ordered to cover Patricia's attorney fees. In 2006, Thomas unsuccessfully moved (Code of Civil Procedure 170.1) to have Oleon disqualified. Weeks later, Thomas filed another section 170.1 challenge; the court failed to timely respond. Months later, notwithstanding his disqualification, Oleon reentered his previous vexatious litigant orders, effective from 7/29/05 because, when entering his original orders, he neglected to file a mandatory form. In 2018, Thomas complained to the presiding judge regarding Oleon’s post-disqualification involvement. The court issued an order to show cause, then reaffirmed that Thomas qualifies as a vexatious litigant and reimposed the pre-filing order. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that “Thomas appears to have used the opportunity ... to make implicit threats against various members of the California judiciary and State Bar.” The court upheld the 2018 orders as supported by substantial evidence and rejected an argument that a nonplaintiff litigant cannot be designated a vexatious litigant. View "Marriage of Deal" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against his next door neighbor, alleging trespass and nuisance claims, and seeking to remove a portion of defendant's fence, which encroached on plaintiff's property. Plaintiff also sought to enjoin defendant from continuing to park old, inoperable cars on a driveway plaintiff owned, and to collect damages for defendant's past use of the driveway. Defendant raised a statute of limitations defense. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's conclusion that the fence and parked cars were continuing encroachments and affirmed the trial court's order of their removal. Therefore, the trial court correctly found that plaintiff's trespass and nuisance claims were not time-barred. The court also affirmed the trial court's conclusion that plaintiff failed to prove his damages claim. Although the court agreed with plaintiff that he was entitled to damages, the court found the real estate appraisal expert's estimate was not an accurate measure of the benefit received. Furthermore, plaintiff did not present any other evidence upon which the trial court could value the benefits defendant received. View "Madani v. Rabinowitz" on Justia Law

by
Mark’s grandfather, McKie, created a trust in his will for the benefit of his wife, Yvonne. during her life and granted her a testamentary power of appointment over the remainder. If Yvonne did not exercise her appointment power, McKie’s children from a prior marriage and Yvonne’s son from a prior marriage would each take a one-quarter share of the remainder; if a child did not survive Yvonne, that child’s surviving issue would take that child’s share. The issue of each of the children had a contingent remainder interest in the trust, subject to divestment by Yvonne’s exercise of her appointment power. McKie died in 1988. His adult children settled claims against the estate unrelated to the trust, disclaiming any interest in the trust. In 1991, the probate court issued a distribution decree, specifying that the trust's remainder was to be distributed solely to Yvonne’s son or his issue. McKie’s grandchildren were not given notice; the Decree eliminated their contingent interests. Yvonne died without having exercised her power of appointment. Mark’s father predeceased Yvonne. Mark unsuccessfully petitioned to be recognized as a trust beneficiary under the will's default distribution provision. The court of appeal reversed. Mark had a property interest in the trust in 1991 and the Decree adversely affected his interest. Mark’s existence and address were reasonably ascertainable; due process required that Mark be given notice of the proceeding that resulted in the Decree and an opportunity to object. View "Roth v. Jelley" on Justia Law

by
This case stemmed from a dispute concerning which persons are the true members of the Atwell Island Water District. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court relied on improper extraneous documents when ruling on the motion to strike and thereby abused its discretion, but the court nevertheless affirmed the granting of the motion without leave to amend. In this case, the election that appellant alleged took place on January 17, 2017 was void, because it was held the day after a state holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Milton Pace and Nathan Cameron were therefore not duly elected to the District board. Therefore, the court concluded that Leonard Herr's firm was not retained by a board majority as John Mitchell could not constitute a majority by himself, and Herr consequently was not authorized to prepare, sign, or file pleadings on the District's behalf. The court held that the pleadings were rightfully stricken, and leave to amend should not have been allowed because the pleadings were incurably defective. View "Atwell Island Water District v. Atwell Island Water District" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
by
Defendant Fidel Mora-Duran waived preliminary hearing and pleaded no contest to felony marijuana cultivation. After his plea, but before sentencing, Proposition 64 was passed, which amended Health & Saf. Code section 11358 narrowing the scope of conduct constituting felony marijuana cultivation. Defendant asked the trial court to sentence him and redesignate his conviction as a misdemeanor. The trial court refused, explaining the parties had not agreed to that. The court then rejected the plea agreement and reinstated charges. After the prosecution filed an amended information, defendant pleaded no contest to felony marijuana cultivation under section 11358(d)(3)(C), a new provision enacted as part of Proposition 64 requiring proof of additional elements. Thereafter, defendant was placed on probation for two years on the condition that he serve a period in jail that amounted to time served. On appeal, defendant contended: (1) the trial court abused its discretion in rejecting the plea agreement; (2) his conviction should have been reversed because charges were added to the amended information after a preliminary hearing was waived in violation of Penal Code section 1009; and (3) his sentence violated the prohibition on ex post facto punishment. The Court of Appeal concluded defendant’s second contention had merit: the amendment to the information, though ostensibly filed pursuant to the same statute, constituted a significant variance from the original charges. Defendant's conviction under section 11358(d)(3)(C) was reversed, and the attendant sentence was vacated. The matter was remanded for further proceedings on the other charges. View "California v. Mora-Duran" on Justia Law

by
Lipsett pled guilty to battery on a non-prisoner by a prisoner and admitted a prior conviction that qualified as a strike. He was sentenced to six years in prison. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting his argument that the trial court abused its discretion and violated his constitutional rights in refusing to strike the strike, noting that Lipsett has an extensive criminal history involving violence and that this crime was violent. The court also rejected an argument that his case should be remanded for a determination of whether he qualifies for mental health diversion, Penal Code 1001.36. That section was not intended to apply retroactively to cases that have been adjudicated but are not yet final on appeal. View "People v. Lipsett" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
A juvenile court found that Amber had committed felony assault by force likely to produce great bodily harm, adjudged her a ward of the court, and imposed conditions of probation. The conditions included a requirement that she submit her electronic devices to warrantless searches of any medium of communication likely to reveal whether she is complying with the conditions of her probation. The court of appeal held that the condition is appropriate but too broad to withstand scrutiny. It imposes a burden that is not proportionate to the legitimate interest it serves of ensuring that Amber does not have contact with a specific person. View "In re Amber K." on Justia Law

by
California resident Nicholas Nadhir sued non-resident Yousef Zehia for defamation, violation of the online impersonation law, appropriation of name or likeness, and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on Zehia's sending of allegedly defamatory statement to California residents through private online social media messages with the aim of interfering with the residents' personal relationships. Zehia moved to quash service of summons and the trial court denied the motion to quash on grounds that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Zehia was proper. Zehia filed a petition for writ of mandate requesting that the Court of Appeal direct the trial court to vacate its order denying his motion to quash and enter a new order granting the motion to quash. The Court concluded Zehia's suit-related conduct created a substantial connection between Zehia and California sufficient to support the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over him. Therefore, the trial court correctly denied the motion to quash. Zehia's writ petition was denied. View "Zehia v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal reversed defendant's convictions for assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, and their accompanying enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury. The court held that, if the trial court erred by not instructing the jury on the lesser included offense, defendant waived the error; sufficient evidence supported each verdict; but the prosecutor's closing argument, which relied on and quoted CALCRIM's great bodily injury definition, prejudicially misstated the law. View "People v. Medellin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
by
The parties were married for 21 years before seeking dissolution. Both are physicians; they met in medical school. The trial court denied Wife’s request for spousal support orders because she suffered criminal convictions for acts of domestic violence against Husband and had not overcome the rebuttable presumption set forth in Family Code section 43251 against an award of support to a spouse convicted of domestic violence. The court of appeal affirmed, finding substantial evidence to support the trial court’s factual determinations, The court also upheld the characterization of post-separation payments Husband made to Wife by depositing $10,000 into a joint account for Wife’s use in lieu of temporary spousal support, pursuant to the agreement of the parties. The court of appeal rejected an argument that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over temporary spousal support at the time of the trial and did not have jurisdiction to make retroactive orders and that the trial court erred when it found the deposits taxable to Wife and deductible by Husband. View "In re: Marriage of Brewster and Clevenger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law