Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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After plaintiff, Edward Joseph Mahoney's drummer, was terminated, plaintiff filed suit against Mahoney and others for discrimination on the basis of age, disability, and medical condition. In this appeal, defendants challenged the trial court's denial of a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP motion). The Court of Appeal held that defendants met their burden to establish that Mahoney's decision to terminate plaintiff was protected conduct. The court held that Mahoney's selection of musicians to perform with him was an act in furtherance of the exercise of the right of free speech, an act in connection with an issue of public interest, and plaintiff's first cause of action arose from Mahoney's decision to terminate him. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for the trial court to determine whether plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the merits of his claim. View "Symmonds v. Mahoney" on Justia Law

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Five African-American women on the basketball team at California State University at San Marcos (CSUSM) sued their head coach and the Board of Trustees of the California State University, claiming the coach engaged in race-based discrimination and retaliation: derogatorily referring to them as "the group," reduced their playing time, afforded them fewer opportunities, punished them more severely and generally singled them out for harsher treatment as compared to their non-African-American teammates. The trial court granted both motions for summary judgment filed by the Board, concluding plaintiff Danielle Cooper's claims were untimely and that the remaining plaintiffs could not show a triable issue on the merits. The Court of Appeal reversed summary judgment and directed the court to enter a new order granting summary adjudication on some, but not all, of plaintiffs' claims: plaintiffs cannot sue the Board under 42 United States Code sections 1981 and 1983 because CSUSM was not a "person" subject to suit under those statutes. With regard to the remaining claims brought by the four "freshmen plaintiffs," summary adjudication was improper as to their racial discrimination claims under title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The Board did not meet its moving burden to show the lack of a triable issue as to whether these plaintiffs suffered a materially adverse action under circumstances suggesting a racially discriminatory motive. For similar reasons, summary adjudication was improper on title VI retaliation claims brought by three of the four freshmen plaintiffs, Lynette Mackey, Kianna Williams, and Sierra Smith: each of these women complained about the coach's discriminatory treatment and indicated how they suffered adverse consequences as a result. The Court reached a different conclusion as to plaintiff Crystal Hicks, who never made a complaint and denied facing any consequences as a result of complaints made by her peers. View "Mackey v. Bd. of Trustees of the Cal. State University" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that recording secret business conversations and using the recordings in an arbitration were not in connection with a judicial or official proceeding authorized by law, and therefore they were not protected activities under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute). In this case, after defendant, the president of Tang Energy Corp., secretly recorded conversations with Sherman Xuming Zhang, president of AVIC International USA, defendant introduced the recordings as evidence in contractual arbitration. When the arbitrators decided the issue in favor of Tang Energy, Zhang and AVIC filed suit against defendant for invasion of privacy and eavesdropping on or recording confidential communications in violation of Penal Code sections 632 and 637.2. The court affirmed the trial court's denial of defendant's special motion to strike under section 425.16. View "Zhang v. Jenevein" on Justia Law

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Frederick Theodore Rall III, a political cartoonist and blogger, filed suit against the Los Angeles Times after it published a "note to readers" and a later more detailed report questioning the accuracy of a blog post plaintiff wrote for The Times. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendants' anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motions to strike the complaint. The court held that The Times' articles were published in a public forum and concerned issues of public interest, and thus the written statements were protected free speech activity. Furthermore, the articles were absolutely privileged under Civil Code section 47, subdivision (d), because they were a fair and true report of an LAPD investigation that was central to the substance of the articles. Therefore, plaintiff failed to produce evidence demonstrating a probability of prevailing on his defamation claims. In regard to plaintiff's wrongful termination claims, the court held that plaintiff's employment claims arose directly from The Times's protected First Amendment conduct: deciding not to publish plaintiff's work. Therefore, plaintiff failed to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits of his employment claims. View "Rall v. Tribune 365 LLC" on Justia Law

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When a student accused of sexual misconduct faces severe disciplinary sanctions, and the credibility of witnesses (whether the accusing student, other witnesses, or both) is central to the adjudication of the allegation, fundamental fairness requires, at a minimum, that the university provide a mechanism by which the accused may cross–examine those witnesses, directly or indirectly, at a hearing in which the witnesses appear in person or by other means (such as means provided by technology like videoconferencing) before a neutral adjudicator with the power independently to find facts and make credibility assessments. A former USC undergraduate student appealed the trial court's denial of his petition for writ of administrative mandate seeking to set aside his expulsion. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that, although the student failed to meet his burden of proving that defendants were actually biased against him, USC's disciplinary procedure failed to provide the student with a fair hearing. In this case, USC's disciplinary review process failed to provide fundamental fairness protections after it expelled the student based on allegations of nonconsensual sexual misconduct. View "Doe v. Allee" on Justia Law

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Labor Code section 226.2, a recently enacted law articulating wage requirements applicable where an employer uses a piece-rate method of compensating its employees, is not unconstitutionally vague. The Court of Appeal held that the demurrer was properly sustained as to constitutional challenges to the statute, and the statutory phrase "other nonproductive time" as "time under the employer's control, exclusive of rest and recovery periods, that is not directly related to the activity being compensated on a piece-rate basis" provides an adequately discernable standard that possesses a reasonable degree of specificity. Furthermore, because the substance of the declaratory relief cause of action, to the extent that it went beyond the basic issues the court has clarified, constituted a nonjusticiable request for an advisory opinion, the court concluded that it was properly dismissed. View "Nisei Farmers League v. California Labor & Workforce Development Agency" on Justia Law

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In 2010, plaintiff’s “chev” was towed and sold due to $841 in parking tickets and “boot fees.” Plaintiff was not notified that sales proceeds were used only to pay for towing and storage, not for the unpaid tickets. In 2015, plaintiff's 2002 Mercedes was towed due to $1244 in unpaid tickets and fees. Plaintiff was unable to recover the Mercedes and discovered the parking tickets associated with the “chev” remained unpaid. She sued, alleging conspiracy (42 U.S.C. 1985(3)), based on “hidden agreements to allow some defendants to keep proceeds from lien sales” in violation of Vehicle Code 22851.1; denial of due process and equal protection; and that defendants prevented her from recovering her Mercedes by failing to pay off the unpaid parking tickets in 2010. The court of appeal partially reversed the dismissal of the case. The conspiracy claim was properly dismissed; the “chev” was allegedly sold before the alleged formation of the conspiracy, so failure to pay the tickets in 2010 was not “an act in furtherance of the conspiracy.” However, section 22851.1(b), requires that proceeds from a sale of an impounded vehicle be used to pay unpaid parking tickets if funds remain after paying for towing and storage; the trial court wrongly concluded that a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 cannot be based on a violation of section 22851.1(b). Plaintiff had a property interest in the disposition of the proceeds, protected by the due process clause. View "Modacure v. B&B Vehicle Processing, Inc." on Justia Law

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California law provides that the death penalty shall be inflicted by either lethal gas or by “an intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death, by standards established under the direction of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.” (Pen. Code 3604 (a)). Death-row inmates and the ACLU challenged the law as impermissibly delegating the Legislature’s authority to nonelected agency officials. The court of appeal affirmed that section 3604 does not violate the doctrine of separation of powers. The statute’s purpose gives the Department adequate guidance. The Eighth Amendment prohibits governmental imposition of cruel and unusual punishments, and bars infliction of unnecessary pain in the execution of the death sentence. In developing a protocol for lethal injections, the Department must meet these standards: it may not inflict unnecessary pain and it must seek to avoid a lingering death. The Legislature did not need to provide more explicit standards and safeguards. View "Sims v. Kernan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the trial court's denial of his petition for a writ of administrative mandamus to set aside his expulsion from USC for unauthorized alcohol use, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and rape of another student. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that plaintiff was denied a fair hearing where three central witnesses were not interviewed and thus the Title IX investigator was not able to assess the credibility of these critical witnesses during the interviews. The court also held that USC did not comply with its own procedures to conduct a fair and thorough investigation by failing to request that the student provide her clothes from the morning of the incident and her consent to release her medical records from the rape treatment center. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Doe v. University of Southern California" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Wife was married to Andres Marin (the victim). Wife and the victim shared four children: Andres, Jazmyn, Christal, and Julyan. On March 1, 2014, at approximately 6:30 a.m., the victim left the Family’s residence in Corona to ride his mountain bike up Santiago Peak in the Cleveland National Forest. The bike ride would be approximately 55 miles. The victim was scheduled to arrive back home at 2:00 p.m. When he did not, his Wife called police. Wife was able to speak to her husband on the trail: he had been injured, and she was concerned about falling temperatures the later it took him to come home. Riverside County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Zachary Hall was the “Incident Commander” for the case. Lieutenant Hall was not trained in search and rescue techniques, and dismissed Wife’s concerns for her husband’s safety, particularly overnight when the temperatures dropped. The victim ultimately was found by volunteers trained to respond to wilderness emergencies; he died of hypothermia. The victim’s family sued the County of Riverside (the County) for: (1) wrongful death; (2) negligence; (3) negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (4) a deprivation of constitutional rights (42 U.S.C. 1983). The trial court sustained the County’s demurrer to the complaint without leave to amend. The Family contended on appeal the trial court erred. After review, the Court of Appeal reversed as to the causes of action for wrongful death, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed. View "Arista v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law