Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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After a spree of San Pablo parking lot robberies and purse snatchings, officers found the victims' property in a vehicle occupied by 17-year-old Alonzo and two others. Alonzo admitted to grand theft of a person, taking property valued at more than $950, The court dismissed the other charges, ordered that Alonzo be placed on GPS monitoring and released to his mother's custody, and transferred the case to Contra Costa County. That court ordered that Alonzo was to have no contact with his “co-responsibles.” A supplemental petition alleged that Alonzo committed three additional felonies during the crime spree. Alonzo expressed remorse, blamed peer pressure, denied using alcohol and reported that he had been smoking marijuana once a day for chronic migraines. This was Alonzo’s first referral. The disposition order placed him on probation. Alonzo challenged a probation condition: In light of ... concern about your association in Oakland, … you must submit your cell phone or any other electronic device under your control to a search of any medium of communication reasonably likely to reveal whether you’re complying with the terms of your probation with or without a search warrant at any time ... text messages, voicemail messages, photographs, e-mail accounts, and other social media accounts and applications. You shall provide access codes ... upon request .” The court of appeal upheld the decision to impose an electronic search condition but concluded the condition sweeps too broadly and remanded. View "In re Alonzo M." on Justia Law

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A deputy noticed an SUV parked illegally near a popular overlook with three people in it. Bay, whom the deputy knew from prior contacts, stated that he did not have identification and provided a false name. Knowing that Bay was on postrelease community supervision, subject to search terms, the deputy asked him whether he had any guns, knives, drugs, or any other weapons. Bay said, “Not that I know of.” The deputy conducted a pat search and felt a wallet in Bay's pocket. Bay admitted that the wallet contained identification in his real name. Before searching the SUV, the deputy asked Bay again whether there was any contraband. Bay admitted there was marijuana in a backpack. The backpack was directly behind the center console, accessible by all occupants of the car. The deputy found marijuana, a loaded gun in a case, ammunition, a lock pick set, a bong, and a hypodermic needle. A knife was in the driver's door console. An evidence technician found no usable fingerprints. The SUV belonged to a passenger's recently-deceased boyfriend. Bay was convicted as a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition and of possessing burglary tools and giving false information to a peace officer. The court of appeal reversed Bay’s conviction for possession of burglary tools because the special jury instruction on that offense prejudicially omitted the element of felonious intent. The court otherwise affirmed; the contraband was in Bay’s constructive possession. View "People v. Bay" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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S.L. was 15 years old at the time of the murder. The prosecution charged S.L. with murder and attempted murder and filed a juvenile wardship petition, alleging that S.L. personally and intentionally discharged a firearm in the commission of the offense and that S.L. was a principal in the offense. Proposition 57 requires prosecutors charging a minor aged 14 or older at the time of the offense to seek juvenile court approval to transfer the minor to adult criminal court. In 2018, SB 1391 prohibited the transfer of 14- and 15-year-old minors to criminal court in most cases. After the court refused to hold a transfer hearing concerning S.L., the prosecution challenged SB 1391 as impermissibly eliminating a court’s ability to transfer jurisdiction over a 15-year-old charged with murder to adult criminal court. The court ruled that SB 1391 is constitutional and did impact S.L.’s case. The court of appeal denied the District Attorney’s petition for mandamus relief. SB 1391 is constitutional; it is consistent with and furthers the intent of Proposition 57. “[T]he intent of the electorate in approving Proposition 57 was to broaden the number of minors who could potentially stay within the juvenile justice system, with its primary emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment.” View "People v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In the context of a demurrer by defendant Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London Subscribing To Policy Number 11EPL-20208, the trial court interpreted the term “wage and hour or overtime law(s)” to encompass all provisions of the Labor Code. Plaintiff owned and operated over 250 Pizza Hut and Wing Street restaurants. Defendant provided to plaintiff Southern California Pizza Company, LLC, an employment practices liability insurance policy, which covered certain losses arising from specified employment-related claims brought against plaintiff. The trial court sustained defendant’s demurrer, concluding all causes of action in the underlying employment lawsuit against plaintiff fell within the scope of the Policy exclusion. Using well-established insurance policy interpretation principles, the Court of Appeal found the wage and hour law language of the exclusion was more narrow in scope than stated by the trial court: it concerned laws regarding duration worked and/or remuneration received in exchange for work. Applying that interpretation, and taking into account the Policy’s general coverage, the Court concluded many of the disputed underlying lawsuit claims were potentially subject to coverage. Thus, the trial court erred in sustaining defendant’s demurrer. View "Southern Cal. Pizza Co., LLC v. Certain Underwriters, etc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction for first degree burglary, assault with a firearm, and kidnapping. The court held that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of kidnapping and rejected defendant's contention that making the victim move 190 feet, from her bedroom to the front of her house, was a trivial distance; the trial court had no duty to give an attempted kidnapping instruction where there was no evidence that defendant committed anything less than kidnapping; and defendant forfeited his claim under People v. Dueñas (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1157, because he did not object to the fines and fees at issue. View "People v. Newman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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At issue in this appeal and cross appeal of a the trial court's ruling on a petition for writ of administrative mandate James and Karla Lindstrom (the Lindstroms) filed against the California Coastal Commission (the Commission) was a challenge to certain special conditions the Commission placed on its approval of the Lindstroms' plan to build a house on a vacant oceanfront lot on a bluff in Encinitas. The Commission appealed the trial court's disapproval of the special conditions requiring: (1) the home to be set back 60 to 62 feet from the edge of the bluff, instead of the 40-foot setback approved by the City of Encinitas (the City); and (2) a waiver by the Lindstroms of any right to construct a shoreline protective device, such as a seawall, to protect the home from damage or destruction from natural hazards at any time in the future. The Lindstroms cross-appealed the trial court's approval of the special conditions requiring: (1) removal of the home from the parcel if any government agency ordered it not be occupied due to a natural hazard; and (2) performance of remediation or removal of any threatened portion of the home if a geotechnical report prepared in the event the edge of the bluff recedes to within 10 feet of the home concludes that the home is unsafe for occupancy. The Court of Appeal concluded that with one exception, the Commission's imposition of the special conditions identified by the parties was within its discretion. Specifically, the condition requiring removal of the home from the parcel if any government agency orders that it not be occupied due to a natural hazard, including erosion or a landslide, as currently drafted, was overbroad, unreasonable and did not achieve the Commission's stated purpose in drafting it. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment and directed the trial court to enter a new judgment ordering the Commission to either delete the special condition or to revise it to more narrowly focus on its intended purpose. View "Lindstrom v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Jesus Humberto Mejia of attempted premeditated murder, burglary, robbery, street terrorism, and firearm possession. The jury also returned true findings on associated weapon and street gang allegations. In bifurcated proceedings, the trial court made true findings on prior conviction allegations. Mejia contended the court improperly instructed the jury on premeditated attempted murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine. Mejia also raised sentencing issues, which the Attorney General conceded. The Court of Appeal agreed the premeditation and deliberation special finding had to be reversed. With respect to sentencing, the Court first agreed with the parties that the trial court erred in imposing the full 10-year sentence for the gun-use enhancement. Second, the Court acknowledged and agreed with the parties that a recent change in the law required this case be remanded to allow the trial court to exercise its discretion to strike the five-year prior conviction enhancement imposed pursuant to Penal Code section 667(a)(1). Finally, the Court ordered the trial court to correct numerous clerical errors on the abstract of judgment and minute order (brought to our attention by the Attorney General). In all other respects, the Court affirmed judgment. View "California v. Mejia" on Justia Law

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After the hospital terminated plaintiff's privileges and staff membership without giving him a hearing, he filed a complaint that included causes of action seeking a writ of administrative mandate, alleging, among other things, the hospital denied him the right to a hearing before terminating his privileges. After determining that the trial court's order denying the petition for writ of administrative mandate was appealable, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of the petition. The court held that the hospital failed to give plaintiff a hearing as required by Business and Professions Code section 809.1 when it terminated his privileges and membership for a medical disciplinary cause or reason. Accordingly, the trial court is directed to enter a new order granting plaintiff's petition for mandate requesting a hearing. View "Alaama v. Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital, Inc." on Justia Law

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Markeith Jenkins was convicted by jury of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, and battery with serious injury. Defendant subsequently admitted to having two prior strike convictions, two prior serious felony convictions, and two prior prison convictions. Before sentencing, defendant filed a motion based on California v. Superior Court (Romero), 13 Cal.4th 497 (1996) seeking in the interest of justice to have one or more of his strike priors set aside. The court denied that motion, imposed on defendant the term of 25 years to life on the assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury conviction; stayed pursuant to Penal Code section 654 (a)(1) his sentence on the conviction for battery with serious bodily injury; and imposed three consecutive years for the great bodily injury enhancement, and an additional 10 years for the two serious felony prior convictions, for a total sentence of 13 years plus 25 years to life. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, defendant argued for a remand for a pretrial diversion hearing, and to give the trial court an opportunity to exercise its newly provided discretion pursuant to Senate Bill No. 1393 (2017–2018 Reg. Sess., eff. January 1, 2019), to dismiss or strike one or more of his serious felony prior convictions. Defendant alternately contended the court abused its discretion when it refused under Romero to strike one or more of his prior strike convictions. The Court of Appeal agreed the newly enacted section 1001.36 and newly amended sections 667(b) and 1385(b) applied retroactively in this matter. Judgment was conditionally reversed and the case remanded for the trial court to exercise its discretion under these statutes. View "California v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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B.A. (Mother) and D.V. (Father) were the parents of six-year-old I.A.-V. (I.) and eight-year-old Is.A.-V. (Is.). Mother and Father had a history with child protective services due to ongoing domestic violence and neglect issues, resulting in the removal of their children from their care. I. and Is. were first removed from Mother in 2015. At the close of the first dependency, Mother’s reunification services were terminated, and Father received legal and physical custody. In 2017, I. and Is. were removed from Father’s custody and placed with Mother as a previously noncustodial parent. The second dependency resulted in Mother receiving legal and physical custody of the children and termination of Father’s reunification services. The third and current dependency commenced in 2018 after I., Is., and A.A. were removed from Mother’s care for the same reasons as previously. At the dispositional hearing, the San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) recommended to bypass reunification services pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5 (b)(10) as to all three children. The juvenile court agreed to bypass Mother’s services as to A.A. However, the court interpreted I. and Is. to be “the same child” under the statute and granted Mother reunification services as to I. and Is. Counsel for I. and Is. subsequently appealed, arguing the juvenile court erred in ordering reunification services for the parents in I. and Is.’s case after it found the bypass provision under section 361.5(b)(10) did not apply. The Court of Appeal agreed: the juvenile court’s finding that section 361.5(b)(10) did not apply to this case was reversed and the matter remanded to the juvenile court to enter an order denying reunification services to the parents in I. and Is.’s case, and to set a permanency planning hearing pursuant to section 366.26. View "In re I.A." on Justia Law