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Shauna R. appealed an order terminating parental rights to her son, Cody R., contending the order should have been reversed because the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) did not give preferential consideration to relatives when determining Cody's placement. After considering the parties' supplemental briefing on the issue of standing, the Court of Appeal concluded Shauna did not have standing to appeal the order terminating parental rights. "A parent's appeal from a judgment terminating parental rights confers standing to appeal an order concerning the dependent child's placement only if the placement order's reversal advances the parent's argument against terminating parental rights." Shauna overlooked the fact she did not challenge on appeal the court's finding there were no exceptions to termination of parental rights. "She alludes to the possibility that if Cody had been placed in the care of a relative, the relative would not have been able to adopt and the court would have ordered a permanency plan of guardianship, thus preserving Shauna's parental rights. Speculation about a hypothetical situation is not sufficient to support standing." Furthermore, the Court found the record did not support Shauna's claims there were relatives willing to provide a home to Cody and the Agency failed to apply the relative placement preference. In not bringing the placement issue to the juvenile court's attention at any time during Cody's dependency proceedings, Shauna has forfeited the issue on appeal. View "In re Cody R." on Justia Law

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Georgetown was a "quaint unincorporated Gold Rush-era hamlet" in rural El Dorado County (the County, including defendant Board of Supervisors). Developer SimonCRE Abbie, LLC and its principals wanted to erect a Dollar General chain discount store on three vacant Main Street lots. Local residents acting through plaintiff Georgetown Preservation Society (Society) objected, claiming this would impair the look of their town. After the real parties slightly modified the project, the County adopted a mitigated negative declaration, finding there was no basis to require an environmental impact report (EIR). In response to the Society’s mandamus petition, the trial court duly applied Pocket Protectors v. City of Sacramento, 124 Cal.App.4th 903 (2004), and found the Society’s evidence supported a fair argument that the project may have a significant aesthetic effect on the environment, but rejected the Society’s claims about traffic impacts and pedestrian safety, and declined to address the Society’s claim the project was inconsistent with planning and zoning norms. Accordingly, the court issued a writ of mandate compelling the County to require an EIR. On appeal, the County and real parties, supported by the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties (which together filed one amicus curiae brief), contended the trial court erred in finding an EIR was needed. They principally relied on the fact that the County applied its Historic Design Guide principles and found the project met aesthetic standards. The Court of Appeal disagreed with this proposed method of bypassing CEQA and instead reinforced Pocket Protectors, holding that the Society’s evidence of aesthetic impacts was sufficient to trigger the need for an EIR. "A planning or zoning decision may be entitled to greater deference than a mitigated negative declaration, but such a determination is no more than it purports to be and is not a CEQA determination." View "Georgetown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado" on Justia Law

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Attorney Beverly Gassner filed suit against her former client Loretta Stasa for unpaid fees. Gassner was represented by the Grossman firm. In 2016, Gassner voluntarily dismissed the action without prejudice. The trial court awarded costs - not only against the plaintiff, but also against the Grossman firm. The plaintiff moved to vacate the costs order, but the trial court denied that motion. The Grossman firm appealed. With regard to the order awarding costs, the Court of Appeal determined there was a split of authority as to whether such an order was appealable when it was made after a voluntary dismissal without prejudice. The Court followed the case law holding that it was appealable. The Grossman firm, however, failed to file a timely appeal of that order. With regard to the order denying the motion to vacate, ordinarily such an order was not appealable on grounds that could have been raised in an appeal from the underlying order. This bar does not apply, however, when the underlying order is void. "Moreover, the appeal is timely with respect to this order." On the merits, the Court held that the order awarding costs against the Grossman firm was indeed void, because the Grossman firm was not a party. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's order. View "Gassner v. Stasa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed a judgment confirming an arbitration award in favor of defendant, whom she sued for medical malpractice. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment, holding that the trial court properly granted the motion to compel arbitration where plaintiff failed to show error in the trial court's implicit finding that the Arbitration Agreement satisfied the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 1295, subdivision (b); plaintiff failed to show error in the trial court's implicit finding that plaintiff read and understood the Arbitration Agreements; and plaintiff failed to show error in the trial court's finding that defendant did not waive his right to arbitration. The court also held that the trial court properly confirmed the Arbitration Award where plaintiff's objection to the arbitrator's disclosures was untimely; the arbitrator's ex parte communications with defendant's counsel were insufficient to justify vacating the award; and plaintiff failed to present properly on appeal her additional arguments in support of vacating the award and they lacked merit. Finally, the court held that the trial court properly reconsidered the order vacating the award. View "Cox v. Bonni" on Justia Law

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After the trial court granted defendant's petition for writ of habeas corpus and resentenced him to 50 years to life in state prison, defendant appealed. Defendant was originally sentenced to 94 years to life after he was convicted of multiple violent sex offenses when he was 17 years old. The Court of Appeal vacated the sentence under Proposition 57 and held that he was entitled to a hearing in juvenile court regarding whether his case should be transferred to adult criminal court. If the juvenile court determines it would not have transferred defendant to criminal court under current law, the juvenile court shall treat his convictions as juvenile adjudications and impose an appropriate disposition within its usual time frame. If, however, the juvenile court decides it would have transferred defendant to adult criminal court, the case shall be transferred to criminal court, which shall reinstate his convictions but conduct a resentencing hearing on the vacated sentence. In light of People v. Contreras (2018) 4 Cal.5th 349, 383, the criminal court shall consider mitigating circumstances. View "People v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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The Salinas intersection's crosswalk, on city property, was painted in 1997 and never repainted. An ordinance provided that the city “shall . . . maintain crosswalks at intersections . . . by appropriate . . . marks . . . .” By 2013, the crosswalk had faded. Guernsey was in that crosswalk when a truck (driven by Capulin) struck and severely injured her. Guernsey sued the city and Capulin, alleging that city property was in a dangerous condition. (Gov. Code 835.) Over Guernsey’s objections, the court gave a special jury instruction, refused to give jury instructions requested by Guernsey on negligence per se and mandatory duty based on the ordinance, and provided a special verdict form containing two fact-specific questions on dangerous condition. The jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict against Capulin, but found for the city on the fact-specific questions. The court awarded the city its expert witness fees, finding that its $250,000 pretrial offer was reasonable. The court of appeal reversed. The court prejudicially erred in giving the city’s requested instruction, which read: “Plaintiffs have not alleged that the design of the Driveway created a dangerous condition. Instead, Plaintiffs have alleged that it was the City’s failure to maintain the crosswalk lines and the bushes that created a dangerous condition. To find that the Driveway presented a dangerous condition, you cannot rely on characteristics of the Driveway itself (e.g., the placement of the stop sign, the left turn pocket, and the presence of the pink cement). Although you can consider those elements of the Driveway when weighing whether or not the faded crosswalk lines and bushes created a dangerous condition, you cannot rely on those design elements of the intersection to find that a dangerous condition existed.” View "Guernsey v. City of Salinas" on Justia Law

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K.P. was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a jury; he shot and killed his father. In this appeal, the issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the recent amendment to subdivision (h) of Penal Code section 12022.53, giving a trial court discretion to strike or dismiss a firearm enhancement, applied retroactively to a person - whose case is not yet final - committed to a state hospital after being found not guilty by reason of insanity. K.P. contended that denying an insanity acquittee the ability to have a firearm enhancement under section 12022.53 (d) dismissed based on a trial court's exercise of discretion under section 12022.53 (h) violated the equal protection clause of the state and federal constitutions. The Court concluded that amended section 12022.53 did not apply to an insanity acquittee, and there was no equal protection violation. View "California v. K.P." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment applying the Lamden judicial deference rule to the Board of Director's decision that defendants' operation of a vineyard was not a prohibited business or commercial use under the covenants, conditions, and restrictions of a homeowners association. In Lamden v. La Jolla Shores Clubdominium Homeowners Assn. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 249 (Lamden), the California Supreme Court cautioned courts to give judicial deference to certain discretionary decisions of duly constituted homeowners association boards. The court held that the trial court properly applied the judicial deference rule in this case. The court also affirmed the award of attorney fees and costs, and rejected claims of procedural error. View "Eith v. Ketelhut" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's restitution order requiring defendant to pay the victim $4,015.44 to compensate him for wire defendant stole. In this case, defendant stole 520 feet of underwater copper wire from Four Sisters Ranch winery. After defendant's arrest, the police recovered and returned some of the wire. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ordering restitution where the victim was in a far less favorable condition than before the theft occurred and further hearings only serve to further victimize the victim. View "People v. Erickson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The superior court challenged the Board's decision that certain court personnel rules and regulations violated the Trial Court Employment Protection and Governance Act, and therefore constituted unfair practices. The Court of Appeal affirmed the Board's decision invalidating the rule prohibiting the distribution of literature during nonworking time in working areas, because the rule was ambiguous. Furthermore, the invalidation of the ambiguous rule did not violate the separation of powers doctrine. The court otherwise set aside the Board's remaining conclusions where the remaining workplace rules were consistent with the state of the law. The court held that a trial court's interest in appearing impartial constitutes special circumstances justifying restrictions on clothing and adornments worn by court employees. The court also held that the solicitation during working hours rule was not ambiguous; and the restriction on displaying writings and images was appropriate. View "Fresno Superior Court v. PERB" on Justia Law