Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs filed suit challenging a resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors to levy an annual assessment of $80 upon certain real property to fund expenditures related to firefighting services. After the County prevailed on all issues, plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeal held that it lacked jurisdiction to review the trial court's judgment and dismissed the appeal. In this case, plaintiffs were obligated to comply with the procedural requirements of Government Code section 50078.17 and failed to do so, because they filed their appeal after the 30 day deadline under the validation statutes, which govern the judicial proceedings in section 50078. Independent of the validation statutes, the court held that section 5008.17 requires that any appeal from a final judgment be filed within 30 days after entry of the judgment. View "Davis v. Mariposa County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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In 2016, petitioner Darren Williams sought extraordinary writ relief from the Court of Appeal. He sought to appeal a superior court order denying his Penal Code section 995 motion to dismiss an indictment issued by a grand jury charging him with a series of cell phone store robberies. Petitioner moved to dismiss the indictment on the basis that the deputy district attorney’s excusal of a juror for hardship violated the grand jury’s independence and rendered it improperly constituted. Petitioner also challenged the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to the gang allegations and counts regarding a March 10, 2014, robbery. In a published opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded the superior court should have granted the motion to dismiss the indictment because the deputy district attorney’s exercise of authority he did not have over the grand jury, in front of the grand jurors, substantially impaired the independence and impartiality of the grand jury. As such, the Court did not reach the sufficiency of the evidence claims. The Court issued a peremptory writ of mandate vacating the superior court’s order denying petitioner’s motion to dismiss the indictment and directing the court to enter a new order granting the motion. View "Williams v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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A public entity is not liable for an injury caused by a dangerous condition of public property unless the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition and the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred. After a motorist with a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others, recklessly tried to pass a tour bus on State Route 1, he struck a car driven by plaintiff head-on. Plaintiff was severely injured and his wife was killed. The jury returned a special verdict that a dangerous condition of public property existed but did not "create a reasonably foreseeable risk that this kind of incident would occur." The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in favor of defendants, holding that the special verdicts were not fatally or hopelessly inconsistent. The court explained that the jury could find that there was one and/or two dangerous conditions, but it had nothing to do with the collision or the collision was caused by a reckless driver. The court rejected plaintiff's contention that once the jury finds an unsafe condition of public property, the public entity was at least 1 percent at fault and a reckless driver could not be 100 percent at fault. The court also rejected plaintiff's remaining claims of error. View "Fuller v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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After prison officials found Rigsby guilty of possessing contraband, they imposed disciplinary actions which resulted in a 30-day loss of inmate privileges and early release credits. The superior court granted Rigsby habeas corpus relief and the Warden appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed the order granting habeas relief and held that the superior court's analysis conflicted with In re Zepeda (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 1493, 1498. In this case, Rigsby and another inmate jointly occupied a prison cell that was six feet by eleven feet in size; during a search of the cell, prison officials discovered a prohibited item located in a common area accessible to both men; and these facts were not materially distinguishable from those in Zepeda and thus permit an inference that Rigsby was in possession of the contraband. View "In re Rigsby" on Justia Law

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In 2005, defendant-appellant Jorge Rodriguez pled guilty to unlawful intercourse by a person over 21 under Penal Code1 section 261.5(d). Defendant, as a person over 21, admitted to having sex with a person under the age of 16. The trial court sentenced defendant to formal probation for 36 months. Days later, defendant was taken into custody by the Immigration and Naturalization Service pending resolution by an immigration judge whether defendant would be removed from the United States. That same year, defendant was ordered removed. In 2007, defendant admitted to violating his probation. The trial court added 60 days to defendant’s sentence, to be served on a work release program to commence December 14, 2007, and reinstated defendant’s probation. On September 10, 2008, defendant admitted a violation of a term of his probation requiring defendant to report to probation. The court then reinstated probation. In 2016, filed a petition for dismissal under Penal Code section 1203.4, and a petition for a reduction of his felony conviction to a misdemeanor under section 17(b). As mitigation, defendant provided in his petition that he married the victim and had two children with her. Moreover, defendant noted that both violations of probation occurred because he was in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and was deported so he was unable to meet his probation officer or check in for his weekend custody obligation. Both motions were denied, and defendant appealed. On January 1, 2017, Penal Code section 1473.7 went into effect. Among other things, section 1473.7 permitted a defendant to challenge a conviction based on a guilty plea where prejudicial error affected the defendant’s ability to understand the immigration consequences of the plea. On July 10, 2017, following the filing of the Court of APpeal's opinion in defendant’s first appeal, defendant, in pro. per., filed a motion to vacate his conviction under section 1473.7. The trial court denied defendant’s motion without defendant or defense counsel present. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant's section 1473.3 motion and reversed. View "California v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his multiple convictions for the robbery of several stores and restaurants, raising numerous claims of error. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court properly admitted defendant's police-interrogation statement. However, the court held that the admission of a text exchange between his mother and him to show an adoptive admission of guilty on his part, and of the book and documents found in his car, was error. Furthermore, the court held that these errors taken together were prejudicial. The court found it unnecessary to address defendant's remaining contentions. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "People v. McDaniel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant, the beneficiary of a spendthrift trust created by his father, appealed the probate court's order directing the trustee to pay a portion of defendant's 2018 principal disbursement to four judgment creditors in partial satisfaction of their money judgment. The Court of Appeal affirmed and held that a judgment creditor may file a petition under Probate Code section 15301(b) before a debtor/trust beneficiary's trust distribution is "due and payable." The court also held that the probate court did not abuse its discretion by ordering the trustee to delay the payment of defendant's 2018 principal disbursement until after it issued its final ruling on the creditors' petitions. Finally, the court held that defendant's other arguments were unavailing, and because the trust was not a support trust, the personal receipt clause did not shield defendant from creditor claims. View "Blech v. Blech" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Taxpayers filed suit alleging that their dividends derived from interest on government bonds were unconstitutionally taxed. The Court of Appeal held that Article XIII of the California Constitution exempts interest on state and local bonds from personal taxable income. However, Article XIII is silent on exempt interest dividends paid to shareholders. Therefore, based on its plain language, the court held that there was no conflict between the constitutional exemption and California Revenue and Taxation Code section 17145, which purports to tax interest income on bonds exempted from taxation under Article XIII. Furthermore, the court held that Brown v. Franchise Tax Bd.'s suggestion that distributions to a shareholder made by a regulated investment company retain their tax-exempt status as interest was inapplicable here. View "Mass v. Franchise Tax Board" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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Santos was arrested in connection with a stolen vehicle report. He pleaded no contest to vehicle theft with a prior conviction, possession of methamphetamine, possession of burglary tools, and buying or receiving a stolen motor vehicle with a prior conviction, and admitted one prison prior. The trial court sentenced Santos to two years in state prison and imposed fees and fines. After an independent review of the record, the court of appeal analyzed recent cases that applied due process principles to prohibit the imposition of certain fees and a restitution fine upon an indigent defendant without first ascertaining the defendant’s ability to pay. The failure to object to the assessments did not forfeit the claim of error on appeal. While the Santos record does not reflect extreme circumstances, the principles articulated in those cases still apply. The court ordered a limited remand for the trial court to ascertain Santos’s ability to pay the court operations assessment (Penal Code 1465.8) and the criminal conviction assessment (Government Code 70373). The court noted the disproportionate burden that the accumulation of fines has on the very poor, at times transforming what might be merely “associated collateral consequences” for those who can pay into a form of additional punishment for those who cannot pay. View "People v. Santos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction for committing lewd and lascivious acts when she assaulted a 14 year old family member. The court held that "intent to sexually exploit" the minor is not a second element of the crime of committing lewd and lascivious acts against a minor. Therefore, there was no prosecutorial misconduct when the prosecutor's comment that there was no "intent to exploit" element was followed by his reaffirmation of an "intent to arouse, appeal or, or gratify the lust" element and his explanation of why the evidence in this case overwhelmingly established that defendant had such an intent. The court also held that it was not error for the trial court, when imposing a prison sentence but staying its execution, to impose but stay a probation revocation restitution fine and a parole revocation restitution fine. The court rejected defendant's remaining arguments on appeal as lacking merit. View "People v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law