Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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Defendant, a member of the University of California faculty, was prosecuted under Government Code section 1090 for participating in a decision to hire his wife as a program assistant for a four-week summer study abroad course. The trial court dismissed the information under Penal Code section 995. The district attorney, on behalf of the People, argued that defendant committed a felony under section 1090 because he was "financially interested" in a contract made by him in his official capacity to hire his wife. Finding no grounds for forfeiture, the court concluded on the merits that neither the plain language nor the legislative history of section 1090 reflect an intent to include the University and its employees within the ambit of the statute; there is no case law applying section 1090 to the University; and the Williamson rule does not apply in this case. The court further concluded that this contract does not involve a matter of statewide concern and its application impinges upon exclusively internal University affairs and municipal home rule cases do not apply. Allowing the People to prosecute defendant under section 1090 would impair the Regents' ability to govern and would contravene article IX section 9 of the California Constitution. Accordingly, the court affirmed the order dismissing the information. View "People v. Lofchie" on Justia Law

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Eddie Yau filed a complaint against his former employer, Santa Margarita Ford, alleging he was wrongfully terminated in violation of public policy. Yau alleged he was terminated after complaining to Santa Margarita Ford's management about fraudulent warranty repair claims being submitted to Ford Motor Company. Yau also alleged an intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action against individual defendants who were his coworkers and supervisors, and the owner of Santa Margarita Ford. The trial court sustained demurrers without leave to amend and dismissed the action, entering separate judgments for Santa Margarita Ford and the individual defendants. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded Yau adequately pleaded his wrongful termination cause of action and therefore the judgment in favor of Santa Margarita Ford was granted in error. The Court concluded that the trial court correctly dismissed the intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action, and the judgment in favor of the individual defendants was affirmed. View "Yau v. Santa Margarita Ford" on Justia Law

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Police officers contacted and detained not only an individual in the driveway in front of a house, whom they observed stripping copper wire from an air conditioner, but also the occupant of the house, suspecting that "maybe possibly" a burglary was in progress. The officers were aware of no facts particular to the occupant of the house suggesting that he was a burglar, rather than a resident. And they made no reasonable attempt to ascertain such facts until after he was detained. It was later determined he was in fact a resident. "The Fourth Amendment does not countenance warrantless intrusion by police into a private home and detention of a resident under the circumstances of this case. The police had no probable cause with respect to the resident of the house (who was the defendant in this case) so suspected exigent circumstances do not justify the officers' actions." As such, the detention was unlawful, and defendant's motion to suppress the fruits of that unlawful detention should have been granted. View "California v. Lujano" on Justia Law

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While imprisoned after being convicted of several offenses, defendant J.S. was declared a Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) pursuant to Penal Code1 section 2962. In Spring 2012, J.S. was placed on parole and began her initial one-year term of involuntary treatment. After the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) rejected her challenge to her MDO classification and initial commitment, she filed a petition requesting counsel and judicial review, pursuant to section 2966 (b). That petition, however, was not heard within the initial year of commitment. A year later, the trial court granted the People's motion to dismiss the petition as "moot" on that basis. Defendant argued on appeal to the Court of Appeal that she was entitled to have her petition heard on the merits, because it was filed during the initial year of commitment, and even though the initial term was already completed, her petition was not moot. The Court of Appeal agreed, and therefore reversed the order dismissing defendant's petition. View "California v. J.S." on Justia Law

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J.P. appealed an order denying her request for a hearing to suspend visitation with her father and/or terminate his reunification services under Welfare and Institutions Code section 388, subdivisions (a) and (c). Specifically, she argued the juvenile court erred when it ruled that: (1) the statutory framework of the dependency system as well as principles of due process required the juvenile court to hold a six-month status review hearing to determine whether reasonable services were offered or provided to the parent before it could consider a request to terminate reunification services under section 388, subdivision (c); and (2) the allegations in the child's section 388 petition did not state a prima facie case to show that the action or inaction of the parent created a substantial likelihood family reunification would not occur, or that a modification of the prior visitation order was in the child's best interests. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that the juvenile court misinterpreted section 388, subdivision (c) when it denied J.P.'s request for a hearing to terminate her father's reunification services: "section 388 (c) requires a reasonable services finding, the juvenile court is not required to hold a six-month review hearing to determine whether reasonable services have been offered or provided to a parent before it holds a hearing on a petition to terminate reunification services." In addition, the juvenile court erred when it found that J.P.'s petition to terminate her father's reunification services and/or suspend visitation did not state a prima facie case. The Court nevertheless concluded reversal was not necessary to avoid a miscarriage of justice. In view of the lack of any challenge on appeal to the juvenile court's findings at the six-month review hearing that visitation was not detrimental to the child, and the father was making progress with his case plan and it was likely that reunification would occur by the next review hearing, any error in not granting a hearing on the section 388 petition was harmless. Accordingly, the Court affirmed. View "In re J.P. CA/41" on Justia Law

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Petitioner pled no contest to battery, a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code section 242, and subsequently filed a petition under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085. 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9) prohibits the possession of firearms by those convicted of a "misdemeanor crime of domestic violence." The court concluded that a Penal Code section 242 misdemeanor, which defines battery as "any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another," has, as an element, the use of physical force for purposes of the prohibition dictated by section 922(g)(9). Therefore, petitioner's conviction under California's battery statute, section 242, is a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence within the meaning of section 922(g)(9). Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's contrary finding. View "James v. St. of CA" on Justia Law

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Police Chief Beck charged Officer Pedro with misconduct: use of a city police vehicle for personal business on two occasions, making a discourteous statement to a member of the public, and making a misleading statement to a supervisor conducting an official investigation. A Board of Rights found that three counts were time-barred. Beck disagreed; the board found Pedro guilty on all counts and recommended a 22-day suspension without pay. Beck approved the recommendation. The trial court found in favor of Pedro, finding counts one and four barred by the statute of limitations and counts two and three not barred. It concluded that Pedro was not informed that he was being investigated for misconduct prior to his interrogation, as required, and suppressed Pedro’s statements and set aside the guilty finding on count four. Although the court found that counts two and three were not barred by the statute of limitations, it determined that the Board had found that those counts were barred, and that its finding was final and binding because the city failed to challenge the decision. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the Board failed to proceed as required by law by deferring to Beck’s determination on the statute of limitations rather than making a decision consistent with its own findings, and that its findings do not support its decision. Ignorance of the accused officer’s identity does not postpone the commencement of the one-year limitations period under Government Code section 3304. The discovery rule applies; the trial court properly determined that count four is time-barred. View "Pedro v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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UHC hired Haworth as a part-time physician in 2005. After UHC terminated her employment in 2010, she sued for retaliation and wrongful termination. UHC successfully moved to compel arbitration under a provision in Haworth’s employment contract. UHC’s counsel recommended to Haworth’s counsel, Smith, that they select either Retired Judge Broadman or Retired Justice Dibiaso as the arbitrator, stating that he had used both several times, and asked Smith to let him know if he agreed to either one or if he proposed an alternative. Smith agreed to Broadman. After a hearing and briefing, Broadman issued judgment in UHC’s favor, finding that UHC terminated Haworth’s position due to its financial distress, the impracticality of employing part-time physicians, and personnel issues, and that she was an at-will employee. The court vacated the award (Code of Civil Procedure section 1285.20, on the ground that Broadman failed to comply with the mandatory disclosure requirements of sections 1281.9 and 1281.85 and that those obligations cannot be waived. The court of appeal remanded, noting that Haworth’s attorneys had actual knowledge of a ground for disqualification before the arbitration commenced and that the failure to disclose could be waived. View "United Health Ctrs. of San Joaquin v. Superior Ct." on Justia Law

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Defendant, a founding member of a medical marijuana cooperative, was charged with a sale of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale. The first jury was unable to reach a verdict, splitting six to six on the sales charge and nine to three for not guilty on the possession for sale charge. Defendant was permitted a defense under the Medical Marijuana Program Act. On retrial, he was denied the defense. The second jury was still unable to reach a verdict on the sales charge, but convicted defendant of possessing marijuana for sale. Because the Court of Appeal found he was entitled to a defense under the MMPA and the error in precluding the defense was prejudicial, the Court reversed. View "California v. Baniani" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff S.A. appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendants Jan Maiden and Does 1 through 50 (together Maiden), after the trial court granted her Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 anti-SLAPP motion to strike his complaint alleging causes of action against Maiden for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. On appeal, he contended the trial court erred by granting Maiden's anti-SLAPP motions because he established there was a probability he would prevail on his causes of action. Wife N.A. retained attorney Jan Maiden to represent her in obtaining restraining orders against her husband, S.A. With regard to one such order, N.A. withdrew her request for a permanent restraining order against S.A. and the trial court accepted her voluntary dismissal of that request. Because N.A. had moved to Orange County and filed for legal separation, child custody, and child and spousal support in the Orange County Superior Court, she no longer believed a permanent restraining order against S.A. was necessary. S.A. filed an order to show cause (OSC) why he should not be awarded attorney fees and costs as sanctions against N.A. for her extensions of the temporary restraining order, which was based on false allegations, and her subsequent dismissal of her request for a permanent restraining order. The trial court granted the motion, finding S.A. was the prevailing party, and awarded him $3,500 in attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeal concluded that S.A. did not, and could not, establish there was a probability he would prevail on any of the causes of action he raised. Finding no reversible error otherwise, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "S.A. v. Maiden" on Justia Law