Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office processes and maintains public records, including documents affecting real property, business records, and marriage, birth and death certificates, so that copies can be made available when requested. In 2010, Alameda County adopted an ordinance increasing various fees charged by the Office, including an increase of the fee for copies of records from $1.50 per page to $3.50 per page, based on fee studies conducted in 2009-2010. Considering its direct and indirect costs, the total cost to the County to copy a recorded document was calculated at $3.60 per page, 10 cents more than the amount it decided to charge. Fees charged by neighboring counties “ranged from $1.00 per page to $7.00 per page.” Government Code section 27366 provides that the fee “shall be set . . . in an amount necessary to recover the direct and indirect costs of providing the product or service.” California Public Records Research successfully challenged the fee increase. The court of appeal reversed. CPRR failed to establish the County’s calculation of recoverable “indirect costs” violated section 27366. The County did not act arbitrarily or otherwise abuse its discretion when it determined that charging $3.50 per page was necessary to recover the direct and indirect costs of making copies. View "California Public Records Research, Inc. v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law

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North River posted a $50,000 bail bond for Chirinos’s release from custody. Chirinos appeared in court on February 3 and March 3. The district attorney filed a “notice of motion for release of documents pursuant to subpoena.” The proof of service states that the public defender was served. Chirinos did not appear at the March 28 hearing; his attorney asked that Chirinos’s appearance be excused. The court did not respond but the “judge’s notes” state, “waived.” The court released the subpoenaed records and continued the matter until April 7 for the preliminary hearing. Judge’s notes indicate that the preliminary hearing was held and the case was set for arraignment. Chirinos was arraigned on April 18; the matter was continued until June 27. Chirinos failed to appear on June 27. The court ordered the bond forfeited, to be final in 180 days. North River unsuccessfully moved to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bail bond based on the court’s failure to order bail forfeited on March 28, 2016. The court of appeal reversed, exonerating the bond. The March 28 hearing was a “case-related proceeding[] that occur[red] in open court,” under Penal Code section 977(b), so Chirinos’s appearance was required. Although there is no evidence that Chirinos had actual notice of the hearing date, notice to him can be inferred from the notice to defense counsel, who was served and appeared. The record provides no rational basis for the court’s implicit finding of sufficient excuse. View "People v. North River Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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HERO appealed the trial court's denial of their petition for writ of mandate, seeking to set aside actions taken by the City in approving a proposal by the owner to convert a vacant 18-unit apartment building into a boutique hotel. At issue was whether the City erred in failing to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) to assess the loss of affordable housing and displacement of tenants that would result from the conversion of the former apartment building into a hotel. The Court of Appeal held that there were no housing-related impacts or displacement of tenants for the City to address in an EIR, because the building at issue had been withdrawn from the rental market years before the City commenced environmental review for the hotel project. The court also rejected HERO's other contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "Hollywoodians Encouraging Rental Opportunities v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on whether a solar energy project proposed by a local agency, the Lake Arrowhead Community Services District (District), was exempt from, or whether the District must comply with, the zoning ordinances of the city in which the project is to be developed, the City of Hesperia (City). The District adopted a resolution that its proposed solar energy project was both (1) absolutely exempt from the City's zoning ordinances under Government Code section 53091(e) and (2) qualifiedly exempt under section 53096(a), following the requisite determination that there was no feasible alternative to the proposed location of the project. The City successfully challenged the resolution in the underlying superior court proceedings, where the court issued a judgment in favor of the City and a related writ of mandate directing that the District and its board comply with the City's zoning ordinance prior to implementing the project. The Court of Appeal affirmed: because the District's proposed project included the transmission of electrical energy, the exemption contained in section 53091(e) did not apply to the project; and because the administrative record did not contain substantial evidence to support the District's board's finding that there was no feasible alternative to the proposed location of the project, the District prejudicially abused its discretion in determining that the exemption contained in section 53096(a) applied to the project. View "City of Hesperia v. Lake Arrowead Comm. Serv. Dist." on Justia Law

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Rubio entered a no-contest plea to possession of a controlled substance with a firearm (Health & Saf. Code 12305) after the trial court denied his motion to suppress evidence found in his converted garage apartment (Pen. Code 1538.5). Police had forcefully entered the apartment after responding to the scene where 11 gunshots had just been fired. The officers found spent shell casings in the driveway and had arrested one person acting aggressively in the yard and another, acting erratically, in the house to which the apartment was attached. The officers thought that the exterior door to the apartment might be barricaded. They were concerned that a shooting victim or suspect might be inside. The court of appeal agreed with the lower court that under the circumstances the warrantless entry was justified under the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. Although the officers were not aware of a specific, known individual who might be in danger or might pose an imminent threat to others, if the circumstances suggest that such a person may be inside a dwelling, the police may reasonably enter to determine whether, in fact, such a person is present. View "People v. Rubio" on Justia Law

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After father sexually abused A.M., a minor, the juvenile court issued a two-year restraining order prohibiting father from having any visitation or contact with minor. Father appealed the portion of the restraining order denying him any contact, claiming it was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the evidence established that father groomed and sexually abused minor over many years, and that the nature of the sexual abuse progressed. Furthermore, there was sufficient evidence that any contact between father and minor would jeopardize her emotional and psychological safety regardless of whether she has been resilient. Therefore, there was a sufficient basis to also conclude that her physical safety would be at risk but for the restraining order proscribing all contact. View "In re A.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury within 10 years of a prior driving under the influence offense. Defendant alleged that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress statements she made to police during field sobriety tests administered at the police station, in violation of her Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda v. Arizona. The court held that Pennsylvania v. Muniz, (1990) 496 U.S. 582, foreclosed defendant's argument as to the first four of the six statements at issue. The court held that asking a DUI suspect to perform physical tests is not an "interrogation." Likewise, defendant's challenge to the fifth statement failed for similar reasons. Furthermore, any error in denying defendant's challenge to the sixth statement -- her estimate of 23 seconds on the modified Romberg test when in fact 30 seconds had elapsed -- was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "People v. Cooper" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A jury convicted petitioner Tony Arroyo of one count of attempted second degree robbery and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. It also found true two prior serious felony allegations, two strike allegations, and four one-year prior prison commitment allegations. The trial court imposed an indeterminate 35-years-to-life sentence: 25 years to life under the Three-Strikes law on the attempted robbery charge, plus a 10-year sentence for the serious felony priors. Sentencing on the assault charge and the four one- year prison commitment allegations was stayed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment on direct appeal. Arroyo filed a habeas corpus petition in the superior court challenging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) regulations that at the time made three strike offenders serving an indeterminate sentence for a nonviolent offense ineligible for early parole consideration under Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016. The superior court denied the petition because Arroyo failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by not first seeking review through CDCR’s Inmate Appeal Process. Arroyo then filed a similar habeas corpus petition with the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal thereafter asked for an informal response from CDCR, the Attorney General responded, and Arroyo filed a reply. The Court issued an order to show cause why it should not grant the relief requested in the petition. The Attorney General filed a return and Arroyo, represented by counsel, filed a traverse. Thereafter, the Court received supplemental briefing from the parties. The Court discharged its order to show cause, and denied the petition as moot. View "In re Arroyo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sacramentans for Fair Planning contended the City of Sacramento violated zoning law and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved entitlements for real party 2500 J Owners, LLC, to construct a high-rise condominium building in the City’s Midtown area. The project was not consistent with the general plan and zoning code standards for building intensity and height. But the City approved it pursuant to a general plan policy authorizing more intense development than zoning otherwise allowed if the project provided a significant community benefit. The City also conducted a streamlined CEQA review. CEQA authorized the less intense review for a type of residential mixed-use development such as the proposed project which, because of its proximity to mass transit services, may help reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions by generating less use of motor vehicles. In a petition for writ of mandate, plaintiff argued that approving the project under the general plan policy violated constitutional law and an implied-in-law zoning contract that required identical uses in a zoning district to be treated uniformly and prohibited a delegation of legislative authority without sufficient standards to govern its use. Plaintiff also claimed the City violated CEQA because the streamlined review did not analyze all of the project’s environmental effects. The trial court denied plaintiff’s petition. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s order and judgment. View "Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against DCFS and a private foster care agency, alleging claims of negligence and failure to perform statutorily mandated duties which resulted in sexual abuse by her foster mother's two sons. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of nonsuit and postjudgment awards of attorney fees, but reduced costs by $6,988.37. The court held that the trial court properly granted nonsuit, because plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to permit the jury to find in her favor. In this case, there was no evidence Children's Institute owed plaintiff a duty to protect her from the brothers because their sexual abuse was not foreseeable or imminent. Furthermore, the evidence presented by plaintiff was insufficient to permit a jury to find the county's breach of three mandatory duties was a proximate cause of her injuries. The court also held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied leave to file a fifth amended complaint, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded attorney fees for unreasonably denied requests for admission. Finally, the court modified the postjudgment order to reflect trial costs are additionally taxed for disallowed costs for investigative expenses. View "Doe v. Department of Children & Family Services" on Justia Law