Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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In February 2017, students at Rubidoux High School (RHS) participated in a protest; approximately one quarter of the student body boycotted school for a day. Plaintiff-appellant, Patricia Crawford, a guidance counselor at RHS, criticized the students who boycotted in an e-mail to a colleague and by leaving several comments on a RHS teacher’s public Facebook post that was similarly critical of the boycotting students. Some students and others considered the post and Crawford’s comments on the post to be offensive. The Facebook post “went viral,” and a public outcry against Crawford and other RHS teachers’ comments ensued, resulting in nationwide media attention, a RHS student protest against the teachers, and a flurry of e-mails to RHS administration from the public. Real party in interest, Jurupa Unified School District (the District), dismissed Crawford on the grounds that her conduct was “immoral” and showed that she was “evidently unfit for service” under Education Code section 44932. Defendant-respondent, the Commission on Public Competence of the Jurupa Unified School District (CPC), upheld Crawford’s dismissal, as did the trial court. On appeal, Crawford suggested there were three fixed categories of conduct that constituted "immoral conduct" as a matter of law, and her conduct did not fit into any of them. To this, the Court of Appeal disagreed: "A teacher’s conduct is therefore 'immoral' under [Education Code] section 44932 (a)(1) when it negatively affects the school community in a way that demonstrates the teacher is 'unfit to teach.'" The Court affirmed the trial court's finding that the weight of the evidence supported CPC's finding that Crawford engaged in immoral conduct and was evidently unfit to serve. View "Crawford v. Comm. on Prof. Competence etc." on Justia Law

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This case began when, in December 2016, plaintiff-respondent San Bernardino Children and Family Services (CFS) learned that Mother threatened to physically abuse J.W., the youngest of her two daughters, then one year old. Mother had called 911 and threatened to stab herself and J.W. Police officers detained Mother and temporarily committed her pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150. CFS’s detention reports stated that, a few weeks prior, Mother had moved to California from Louisiana, where she had been living with A.W., J.W.'s father. According to a family friend, Mother was spiraling into depression in Louisiana and had mentioned relinquishing her children to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. The family friend urged Mother to come live with her in California, which she did. The family friend also informed CFS that in 2010 Mother had suffered traumatic brain injuries requiring dozens of surgeries, from a car accident that killed Mother’s mother and sister. Since the accident, Mother had suffered from grand mal seizures and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. CFS petitioned for J.W. and her older half-sister L.M. After the detention hearing, the juvenile court found a prima facie case and detained the children. Although the detention reports noted Mother’s recent move from Louisiana, CFS did not address whether there was jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, and the juvenile court made no finding concerning the UCCJEA. Ultimately Mother's rights to the children were terminated. A.W. challenged the termination, contending the juvenile court failed to comply with the UCCJEA, such that Louisiana should have been the forum for the case. Mother contended the juvenile court failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The Court of Appeal determined that, even assuming the juvenile court lacked UCCJEA jurisdiction, A.W. forfeited the ability to raise his argument on appeal. "Forfeiture would not apply if the UCCJEA provisions governing jurisdiction implicated the courts’ fundamental jurisdiction, but...they do not." The Court determined there was no failure to apply the ICWA, “ICWA does not obligate the court or [child protective agencies] ‘to cast about’ for investigative leads.” View "In re J.W." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant, David Lippert, filed a petition under Penal Code section 1170.95 to vacate his 2003 murder conviction. The parties stipulated that defendant made a prima facie showing that he “fall[s] within the parameters for resentencing” under the statute. Plaintiff-respondent, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office (the State), however, moved to strike the petition on the ground that Senate Bill No. 1437 was unconstitutional because it: (1) impermissibly amended Proposition 7; (2) impermissibly amended Proposition 115; (3) violated separation of powers principles; and (4) violated Victims’ Bill of Rights of 2008 (Marsy’s Law). The trial court agreed Senate Bill No. 1437 unconstitutionally amended Propositions 7 and 115, and struck defendant’s petition without addressing the State's remaining arguments. The Court of Appeal agreed with defendant that the trial court erred in concluding Senate Bill No. 1437 was unconstitutional, and reversed. View "California v. Lippert" on Justia Law

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After Jasim Al-Kuraishi was killed in a car accident, Al-Kuraishi's wife filed a wrongful death action against defendant and others. Defendant, while driving on the highway, changed lanes and passed a stopped vehicle in order to avoid crashing into the stopped vehicle. Al-Kuraishi's vehicle, which was behind defendant's vehicle, then crashed into the stopped vehicle.The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court's conclusion that the sudden emergency doctrine provides defendant with a complete defense and affirmed. The court held that an emergency or peril under the sudden emergency or imminent peril doctrine is a set of facts presented to the person alleged to have been negligent. Furthermore, it is irrelevant for purposes of the sudden emergency doctrine whether defendant's lane change created a dangerous situation for Al-Kuraishi or anyone else; the only relevant emergency is the one defendant faced. In this case, plaintiff's entire challenge to the trial court's order was that defendant created the emergency that resulted in Al-Kuraishi's death. However, the court explained that plaintiff's argument is focused on the wrong set of circumstances for application of the sudden emergency doctrine. View "Abdulkadhim v. Wu" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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Coinbase is an online digital currency platform that allows customers to send, receive, and store certain digital currencies. Archer opened a Coinbase account to purchase, trade, and store cryptocurrency. On October 23, 2017, a third party launched a new cryptocurrency, “Bitcoin Gold,” Coinbase monitored and evaluated Bitcoin Gold’s network and informed its customers via its website: “ ‘At this time, Coinbase cannot support Bitcoin Gold because its developers have not made the code available to the public to review. This is a major security risk.’ ” In 2018, the Bitcoin Gold network was attacked by hackers who stole millions of dollars of funds from trading platforms and individuals on its network.Archer sued Coinbase, based on Coinbase’s failure and refusal to allow him to receive his Bitcoin Gold currency and Coinbase’s retention of control over his Bitcoin Gold. The trial court rejected his claims of negligence, conversion, and breach of contract on summary judgment. The court of appeal affirmed. Archer failed to establish the existence of an agreement by Coinbase to provide the Bitcoin Gold to him and failed to demonstrate Coinbase acted in any way to deprive him of his Bitcoin Gold currency. View "Archer v. Coinbase, Inc." on Justia Law

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Fairfield Officer Anderson testified that, while patrolling a residential neighborhood, he noticed a BMW parked on the street without license plates. He approached the car and saw that Harrell was asleep in the driver’s seat. Anderson identified himself as police and asked Harrell to roll the window down or open the door to talk. Harrell did not comply nor would he show identification but gave his name and date of birth. A record check revealed that Harrell was on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS). Anderson removed Harrell from the car to conduct a PRCS compliance check. Anderson found notebooks and paperwork that contained personal identifying information for approximately 20 people. After arresting Harrell, Anderson contacted several of those people, who reported that Harrell did not have permission to have their personal information. The prosecution submitted documentary evidence regarding Harrell’s prior conviction for identity theft.Harrell was convicted of three felony counts of acquiring or keeping the personal identifying information of three individuals. after having previously suffered a conviction for this same crime. He was sentenced to 12 years and 8 months in prison. The court of appeal rejected Harrell’s contention that his convictions for felony fraudulent possession of personal identifying information must be reclassified under Penal Code 490.2 as misdemeanors and affirmed the denial of Harrell’s suppression motion, but concluded his section 667.5(b) enhancements must be stricken. View "People v. Harrell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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Daisy Arias suffered sustained, egregious sexual harassment for most of the time she was employed by defendant-petitioner, Blue Fountain Pools & Spas, Inc. The primary culprit was defendant-petitioner, Sean Lagrave, a salesman who worked in the same office as Arias. Arias says Lagrave did everything from repeatedly asking her for dates to grabbing her and describing "his own sexual prowess." Arias complained about Lagrave’s conduct repeatedly over the course of her employment, but things came to a head on April 21, 2017: Lagrave yelled at Arias in front of coworkers, used gender slurs, and then physically assaulted her, bumping her chest with his own. Arias called the police and later left work. Arias told the owner, defendant-petitioner, Farhad Farhadian, she wasn’t comfortable returning to work with Lagrave. Farhadian did nothing initially, refused to remove Lagrave, then terminated Arias’s health insurance, and finally told Arias to pick up her final paycheck. Though Farhadian claimed Arias had quit, she says she was fired. Arias filed a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and received a right to sue letter on August 14, 2017. She then filed this lawsuit alleging, relevant to this appeal, hostile work environment sex discrimination and failure to prevent sexual harassment. Petitioners moved for summary judgment, seeking, among other things, to have the hostile work environment claim dismissed as time-barred and the failure to prevent harassment claim dismissed as having an insufficient basis after limiting the allegations to the conduct that wasn’t time-barred. The trial court concluded Arias had created a genuine issue of material fact as to all her causes of action and denied the motion. Petitioners brought a petition for writ of mandate, renewing their statute of limitations argument, claiming Arias could not establish a continuing violation because she admitted she had concluded further complaints were futile. The Court of Appeal concluded Arias has shown she could establish a continuing violation with respect to all the complained of conduct that occurred during Farhadian’s ownership of the company. Further, the Court determined there was a factual dispute over whether and when Arias’s employer made clear no action would be taken and whether a reasonable employee would have concluded complaining more was futile: "that question must be resolved by a jury." The Court denied petitioners' request for mandamus relief and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Blue Fountain Pools and Spas Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Ignacio Ogaz appealed a judgment sentencing him to prison for illegal drug activity. He contended his Sixth Amendment right to confront adverse witnesses was violated by the admission of certain drug testing evidence, and to this, the Court of Appeal agreed. Because appellant did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the analyst who conducted the drug testing, judgment was reversed. View "California v. Ogaz" on Justia Law

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Four consolidated appeals presented a question of whether medical providers who provided services under California’s Medi-Cal program were entitled to reimbursement for the costs of providing in-house medical services for their own employees through “nonqualifying” self-insurance programs. Even for nonqualifying self-insurance programs, however, the Provider Reimbursement Manual allowed providers to claim reimbursement for reasonable costs on a “claim-paid” basis. Oak Valley Hospital District (Oak Valley) and Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (Ridgecrest) had self-insurance programs providing health benefits to their employees. Claims for in-house medical services to their employees were included in cost reports submitted to the State Department of Health Care Services (DHS). DHS allowed the costs when Oak Valley and Ridgecrest employees received medical services from outside providers but denied costs when the medical services were provided in-house. DHS determined claims paid to Oak Valley and Ridgecrest out of their self-insurance plan for in-house medical services rendered to their employees were not allowable costs. The trial court granted Oak Valley and Ridgecrest's the writ petitions on grounds that costs of in-house medical services were reimbursable so long as they were “ ‘reasonable’ ” as defined by the Provider Reimbursement Manual. DHS appealed in each case. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Oak Valley’s and Ridgecrest’s self-insurance programs did not meet the requirements of a qualified plan under CMS guidelines and Provider Reimbursement Manual. The Court of Appeal rejected DHS’s contention that Oak Valley and Ridgecrest costs relating to in-house medical services for their employees were inherently unreasonable. To the extent DHS argued the cost reports were not per se unreasonable, but unreasonable under the circumstances of the actual treatments of Oak Valley and Ridgecrest employees, the Court determined the evidence in the record supports the trial court’s findings that expert testimony established Oak Valley and Ridgecrest incurred actual expenses in providing in-house medical services for their employees that were not otherwise reimbursed. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s granting of the petitions for writs of administrative mandate. View "Oak Valley Hospital Dist. v. Cal. Dept. of Health Care Services" on Justia Law

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In April 2010, a trial court sentenced defendant-appellant Richard Mirmon to 12 years in prison for attempted first degree burglary in Los Angeles County. On June 27, 2011, an information charged defendant with conspiracy to bring a controlled substance into prison, bringing a controlled substance into prison, possession of heroin, and possession of methamphetamine in Riverside. The Riverside information also alleged defendant had a prison prior and two strike priors. As charged in the information, defendant faced: (1) 101 years to life in prison with two strikes; or (2) 14 years four months with one strike. Pursuant to a plea agreement, on September 6, 2011, defendant pled guilty to all four counts in exchange for a sentence of eight years four months. On December 2, 2011, the trial court dismissed one of defendant’s two strikes and imposed the agreed-upon sentence of eight years four months. The court made no reference to defendant's Los Angeles case, but stated the sentence was to be served concurrent with any other sentences defendant was serving. On June 11, 2018, defendant filed a petition under Proposition 47 to reduce counts 3 and 4 in the Riverside Case to misdemeanor convictions. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) filed a letter with the Riverside County Superior Court on June 22, 2018. In the letter, CDCR stated that Penal Code section 667 (c)(8), mandated consecutive, not concurrent, sentences for defendant in the Los Angeles and Riverside cases. On June 22, 2018, defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges. On September 7, 2018, the trial court held a hearing. The court denied defendant’s petition to reduce counts 3 and 4 to misdemeanor convictions. The court then clarified its order on defendant’s sentence in the Riverside Case and ordered that the sentences in the two cases be served consecutively. Defendant appealed. The Court of Appeal found the Riverside trial judge had no discretion to sentence defendant to a concurrent term for his in-prison possession convictions in the original sentencing on the Riverside case, so the trial court properly sentenced defendant to a term to be fully served consecutively to the sentence defendant was already serving. View "California v. Mirmon" on Justia Law