Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 1085 and 1094.5. Plaintiff alleged that the Department improperly extended his probation; he became a permanent employee 12 months after his hire date; and as a permanent employee, he was entitled to a hearing before discharge. The court held that there was no prohibition against the Department acting unilaterally so long as the other requirements of rule 12.02(B) of the Los Angeles County Civil Service Rules were met; rule 12.02 expressly permits the Department to exclude from the calculation of the probationary period, those times when an employee is absent from duty, and makes no reference as to whether that absence is paid or unpaid; the court interpreted the term "absent from duty" to mean that an employee is missing from his or her obligatory tasks, conduct, service, or functions, arising from his or her position, here, the position of deputy sheriff; and plaintiff failed to articulate what, if any, duties he was required to perform during the period he was on Relieved of Duty status. View "Amezcua v. L.A. County Civil Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that sufficient evidence supported defendant's conviction for mayhem where the victim's scarring from the stabbing attack constituted sufficient evidence to support defendant's conviction. The court also held that the abstract of judgment must be corrected to reflect a conviction for mayhem; the trial court did not infringe on defendant's constitutional rights by finding that his prior juvenile adjudication constituted a strike; and remand was necessary for the trial court to impose a sentence on the count 3 great bodily injury enhancement. View "People v. Romero" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Defendant appealed from the trial court's order imposing a $100 fine under Penal Code section 29810 for failure to complete a firearms disclosure form. The Court of Appeal reversed the order, holding that the statutory procedures for prosecuting an infraction were not followed. In this case, the trial court essentially charged defendant with an infraction, conducted a trial, found him guilty, and imposed the $100 fine on him for violating section 29810—all in the presence of the district attorney. However, the district attorney did not charge or approve the charging of an infraction. Therefore, the trial court had no authority to impose punishment for committing an infraction in these circumstances. View "People v. Villatoro" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In 2011, Dominick Humphrey pled guilty to four counts of robbery (counts 2, 3, 4 and 24). For three of these counts (counts 2, 3, and 4), Humphrey admitted that he used a deadly weapon (a knife) during the commission of the offenses, and used a firearm during the commission of one of the counts (count 24). Humphrey also admitted that he was 16 years old when he committed the crimes within the meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code section 707. The trial court sentenced Humphrey to prison for 19 years. Five years into Humphrey's sentence, an employee of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) wrote a letter to the superior court, stating that the abstract of judgment "may be in error, or incomplete[.]" In 2018, the trial court clarified that Humphrey was sentenced to 15 years for count 24 and the associated firearm enhancement and consecutive 16-month terms for counts 2, 3, and 4 (including their deadly weapon enhancements). An amended abstract of judgment was issued showing a sentence of 19 years in state prison. Thereafter, Humphrey moved to strike the firearm enhancement under Senate Bill No. 620. The trial court denied the motion because Humphrey's conviction became final before the enactment of Senate Bill No. 620. Appellate counsel filed a "Wende" brief, indicating that he had not been able to identify any arguable issue for reversal on appeal, but asked the Court of Appeal to review the record for error as Wende mandated. In reviewing the record, the Court discovered an issue to be briefed, and the parties were requested to brief whether the trial court erred in finding Humphrey ineligible for relief under Senate Bill 620 after the trial court acted to correct the abstract of judgment. Find that the trial court only made plain how the original sentence should have appeared on the amended abstract of judgment, the Court of Appeal determined Humphrey did not file a notice of appeal following the original 2011 sentence. His case became final in 2011. Senate Bill 620 took effect January 1, 2018, and Humphrey's was not entitled to retroactive application of the law to his sentence. Therefore the trial court did not err in denying his motion for resentencing. View "California v. Humphrey" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal rejected defendant's argument that the superior court lacked jurisdiction to deny his Penal Code section 1170.95 petition on the merits without first appointing counsel and allowing the prosecutor and appointed counsel to brief the issue of his entitlement to relief and affirmed the trial court's summary denial of defendant's petition, which was properly based on its ruling that defendant was ineligible for relief as a matter of law. The court held that the relevant statutory language, viewed in context, makes plain the Legislature's intent to permit the sentencing court, before counsel must be appointed, to examine readily available portions of the record of conviction to determine whether a prima facie showing has been made that the petitioner falls within the provisions of section 1170.95. The court explained that petitioner must make a prima facie showing that petitioner may be eligible for relief because he or she could not be convicted of first or second degree murder following the changes made by SB 1437 to the definition of murder in sections 188 and 189. View "People v. Verdugo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Following protracted postjudgment litigation over the transfer of title of real property from Natache Menezes (Wife) to Tim McDaniel (Husband), the trial court issued $200,000 in sanctions against Wife, pursuant to Family Code section 271. Wife challenged the sanctions, contending they improperly included anticipated attorney fees and costs, and the amount was not supported by substantial evidence showing they were tethered to attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeal concluded the superior court did not abuse its discretion by awarding the sanctions, including the anticipated fees and costs. However, the matter was remanded for the trial court to ensure that the bases for the $200,000 award included only expenses tethered to attorney fees and costs. View "Menezes v. McDaniel" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Hipolito Morales was charged with two counts of oral copulation or sexual penetration of a child under 10, and seven counts of committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14. During his trial, the trial court admitted into evidence, after jury deliberations began and without any limiting instructions, a video and transcript of Morales’s police interrogation. In a pre-Miranda portion of that interrogation, an officer made statements to the effect that children had informed law enforcement that Morales had molested them; the officer knew Morales was lying; the officer could tell Morales was lying from his experience as an investigator; and Morales committed the crimes. Although the officer testified at trial, the parties had agreed to limit questioning to the post-Miranda portion of the interrogation only. The jury found Morales guilty, and he was sentenced to 175 years to life. Morales appealed, contending that because the full interrogation was admitted only after the officer was excused and the jury began its deliberations, he was deprived of the right to confront the officer about the pre-Miranda statements described above, none of which were repeated after Morales was read his Miranda rights. The Court of Appeal found no confrontation clause violation. "In order to implicate the confrontation clause, a statement must be testimonial, meaning that it must be made with sufficient formality and with the primary purpose of creating a substitute for trial testimony. Accusatory statements made by law enforcement in an interrogation will, absent unusual circumstances, satisfy neither of these requirements." The Court addressed Morales’s other contentions in the unpublished portion of its opinion, found them without merit and therefore affirmed conviction and sentencing. View "California v. Morales" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Carla St. Myers worked as a nurse practitioner at a rural clinic that was part of a medical center owned and operated by defendant Dignity Health. During the three years she worked there, she submitted over 50 complaints about working conditions and was also the subject of several investigations based on anonymous complaints. All the investigations concluded the complaints against St. Myers were unsubstantiated and no action was taken against her. She found another job and resigned. But claiming her resignation was a constructive termination due to intolerable working conditions, St. Myers sued Dignity Health and Optum360 Services, Inc., setting forth three causes of action for retaliation under various statutory provisions and constructive discharge in violation of public policy. The complaint sought both general and punitive damages. The trial court granted the separate motions of Dignity Health and Optum360 for summary judgment and St. Myers appealed those judgments. As to Optum360, the Court of Appeal found St. Myers failed to establish a triable issue of material fact that Optum360 was her employer, a prerequisite under the pleadings for all her claims. As to Dignity Health, the Court found St. Myers failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to any adverse employment action. Accordingly, the Court affirmed summary judgment. View "St. Myers v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying defendant's motion to (1) vacate entry of a $3.825 million Kansas judgment, and (2) post a $5,737,500 undertaking to stay enforcement of the sister-state judgment. The court held that, based on the doctrines of res judicata and issue preclusion, defendant was precluded from arguing that Blizzard was guilty of misconduct or that the Santa Barbara Superior Court was misled when it dismissed the 2015 action for breach of oral agreement, conversion, and accounting. The court also held that defendant's argument that the trial court erred in ordering him to post a $5,737,500 undertaking to stay enforcement of the judgment was without merit. The court explained that the superior court has broad discretion in fashioning the terms and conditions of a Sister State Money Judgment Act stay order, and there was no abuse of discretion in this case. View "Blizzard Energy, Inc. v. Schaefers" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The treatment during an extension of a prisoner's custodial time to complete a psychiatrist's evaluation may be included in the required 90 days of treatment under the Mentally Disordered Offender Act (MDO Act). In this case, the Attorney General appealed from the trial court's order finding that defendant did not meet the criteria to be treated as an MDO because he did not receive 90 days of treatment before his scheduled parole date. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Attorney General's contention that treatment during the additional 45-day custody period authorized by the Board of Parole Hearings under Penal Code 2963 should have counted toward the 90 days of treatment required by section 2962, subdivisions (c) and (d)(1). Therefore, the court reversed the trial court's order vacating the Board's MDO determination. View "People v. Parker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law