Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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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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Defendant The Irvine Company owned various retail centers in California, including the Fashion Island Shopping Center in the City of Newport Beach, and the Irvine Spectrum Center in the City of Irvine. Both centers draw a large number of visitors each year, with the former visited by more than 13 million people annually and the latter by more than 15 million annually. Plaintiffs, self-proclaimed anti-abortion activists, wished to engage in certain picketing activity at the Centers, believing the parent companies of some of the stores in the Centers “permit[] business entities under [their] corporate control to donate money to Planned Parenthood, [an] abortion provider[,]” and, thus, they desired “to conduct boycott picketing in close proximity to [them.]” The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether certain restrictions applicable to noncommercial speech and expressive activities at two large outdoor retail centers owned by defendant were constitutional under the free speech protections established in article I, section 2 of the California Constitution. The trial court concluded some of the challenged restrictions were unconstitutional and enjoined their enforcement. But it upheld restrictions on: (1) “grisly or gruesome displays;” (2) the locations in which speech and expressive conduct may occur; and (3) the use of body-worn cameras while engaging in such activities. The Court of Appeal held there was "no constitutional deficiency" in the latter two restrictions, and the trial court did not err in denying the statutory damages requested by plaintiffs pursuant to Civil Code section 52.1. "The ban on grisly or gruesome displays is a different matter: it is a content-based restriction that does not survive strict scrutiny review." So the Court reversed the portion of the judgment finding the restriction on grisly or gruesome displays constitutional, and remanded to the trial court with directions to enter an amended judgment declaring it unconstitutional and enjoining its enforcement. View "Center for Bio-Ethical Reform v. The Irvine Co." on Justia Law

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JRE filed suit against defendants in an action stemming from a dispute concerning a television production based on the life of the Mexican-American celebrity Jenni Rivera. JRE filed suit against Rivera's former manager, the program's producers, and the program's broadcaster. JRE alleged that the manager breached a nondisclosure agreement by disclosing information to the producers and the broadcaster. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying the producers' special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, holding that JRE satisfied its burden to demonstrate a prima facie case, with reasonable inferences from admissible evidence, that the producers had knowledge of the nondisclosure agreement before taking actions substantially certain to induce the manager to breach the agreement. However, the court held that the First Amendment protected the broadcaster's use and broadcast of the information in the series, and the court reversed the trial court's order denying the broadcaster's special motion to strike. In this case, although First Amendment protection for newsgathering or broadcasting does not extend to defendants who commit a crime or an independent tort in gathering the information, it was undisputed that the broadcaster did not know of the nondisclosure agreement at the time it contracted with the producers to broadcast the series, and JRE did not show that the broadcaster engaged in sufficiently wrongful or unlawful conduct after it learned of the nondisclosure agreement to preclude First Amendment protection. View "Jenni Rivera Enterprises, LLC v. Latin World Entertainment Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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LeRoy Guillory and 11 other plaintiffs appealed the denial of their 42 U.S.C. 1988 motion for attorney fees as prevailing parties in their civil rights claim against defendant Orange County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Michele Hill. In 2007, following a huge Halloween party, 100 special weapons and tactics (SWAT) officers raided the mansion where the party had taken place. The SWAT team forcibly detained plaintiffs and restrained their hands behind their backs with zip ties. About an hour later, Hill and a team of around 40 officers entered the mansion to conduct a warrant-based search for evidence of illegal gaming. Hill coordinated the search. At various times that day, she interviewed and released each plaintiff separately. Plaintiffs sued Hill and other defendants for allegedly violating plaintiffs’ civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Eventually, “several defendants including the various SWAT teams, unnamed ‘Doe’ police officers, and County of Orange defendants dropped out, either by plaintiffs’ failure to name the ‘Doe’ defendants or by settlement or summary adjudication,” leaving Hill as the sole remaining defendant. At the close of evidence, the trial court granted Hill’s motion for a directed verdict. On appeal from the first trial, the Court of Appeal reversed the directed verdict solely as to plaintiffs’ “section 1983 claims based on the prolonged detention of the plaintiffs” after the search ended. The Court affirmed, however, the directed verdict on plaintiffs’ other constitutional claims, “including the SWAT team and other officers’ allegedly excessive force in entering and securing the premises” and “restraining the detainees with excessive force before Hill questioned them.” The jury awarded damages to nine plaintiffs; the jury found in Hill’s favor on the three remaining plaintiffs. Plaintiffs contended the trial court abused its discretion when it denied their request for attorney fees. The Court of appeal found, "in light of plaintiffs’ minimal success and inflated fee request," the trial court properly exercised its discretion to deny their section 1988 motion. Plaintiffs originally sought over $1 million in damages but ultimately obtained an award of less than $5,400. Plaintiffs then moved for almost $3.8 million in attorney fees in a 392-page motion containing, in the trial court’s words, “bloated, indiscriminate,” and sometimes “‘cringeworthy’” billing records. View "Guillory v. Hill" on Justia Law

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J.M., a minor, was adjudged a ward of the court and placed on probation with various terms and conditions after he made a false report that a bomb or other explosive device would be placed in his school. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that J.M.'s words were not protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Penal Code section 148.1, subdivision (c) is not unconstitutionally overbroad. The court held that subdivision (c) of section 148.1 criminalizes the malicious communication of knowingly false information about placement of a bomb or other explosive, and such utterances are not constitutionally protected speech. View "People v. J.M." on Justia Law

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Christopher Ross appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of the County of Riverside on Ross's claims for violation of Labor Code section 1102.5 and for violation of the provisions in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Gov. Code, sec. 12900 et seq.; FEHA) prohibiting disability discrimination, failure to reasonably accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process, and failure to prevent disability discrimination. Ross worked for the County as a deputy district attorney. He was assigned to the homicide prosecution unit and was "responsible for however many cases were assigned to [him] by [his] supervisor." In May 2013, Ross learned he was exhibiting neurological symptoms that required evaluation and testing to determine whether he had a serious neurological condition, and told his supervisor he might be very seriously ill with a neurodegenerative disease and needed to undergo medical testing. He requested a transfer to another assignment during the testing. His supervisor declined his request, telling him the district attorney's office would worry about his cases and transferring him if and when he found out he could not continue in his position. Ross also asked not to be assigned any new cases until after he completed the medical testing. His supervisor declined this request without explanation. In late September 2013, Ross met with his supervisor, the chief deputy district attorney, and the assistant district attorney to discuss transferring him from the Homicide Unit to the Filing Unit for the next three months because he was not able to go to trial or accept new cases. In the assistant district attorney's view, Ross's inability to accept new cases or go to trial in the near term made him insufficiently productive to be a member of the Homicide Unit. By April 2014, the County wrote Ross explaining that for the County to engage in a good faith interactive process and to evaluate his request for accommodation the County needed medical documentation from an appropriate healthcare professional or from the board-certified specialist selected to perform the fitness-for-duty examination. Through counsel, Ross deemed himself constructively terminated as of the date of the letter. By June 2014, the County considered Ross to have abandoned his job. The Court of Appeal concluded there were triable issues of material fact on the questions of whether Ross engaged in protected activity under Labor Code section 1102.5 and whether Ross had a physical disability under the FEHA. The Court therefore reversed judgment as to these claims and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Ross v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-petitioner Jane Doe, a student-employee in the campus police department at Southwestern College, brought claims relating to sexual harassment and sexual assault against defendants-real parties Southwestern Community College District and three District employees. Her complaint also alleged sexual harassment of two other female District employees, which was presumably relevant to Doe's allegations because it provided notice to the District regarding similar misconduct by at least one of the involved employees, campus police officer Ricardo Suarez. Before her deposition could take place, one of those female employees, Andrea P., was contacted by one of Doe's lawyers, Manuel Corrales, Jr. When they discovered this contact, defendants moved to disqualify Corrales for violating Rule 4.2 of the California State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct, which generally prohibits a lawyer from communicating with "a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter." The trial court granted the motion. Although the District offered to provide counsel for Andrea, the Court of Appeal found there was no evidence that at the time of the contact she had accepted the offer or otherwise retained counsel. The Court issued a writ directing the superior court to vacate its order disqualifying Corrales as Doe's counsel in this matter. View "Doe v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Christopher Ross appeals from a summary judgment granted in favor of the County of Riverside on Ross's claims for violation of Labor Code section 1102.5 and for violation of the provisions in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (Gov. Code, § 12900 et seq.; FEHA) prohibiting disability discrimination, failure to reasonably accommodate, failure to engage in the interactive process, and failure to prevent disability discrimination. Ross worked for the County as a deputy district attorney. He sought an accommodation with his work schedule based on a concussion syndrome he was experiencing from previous work in the Military. Supervisors there did not oblige, and Ross sued for violations of the Labor Code section 1102.5, but it was determined he could not establish his claim for disability discrimination because he could not prove he could perform the essential functions of his job. He could not establish his claim for failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for the same reasons as well as because he could not prove he had any functional limitations requiring accommodation and his requested accommodation was not reasonable. He could not establish his claim for failure to engage in the interactive process because he did not interact in good faith. And, he could not establish his claim for failure to prevent disability discrimination because he could establish his claims for disability discrimination. Because the Court of Appeal concluded there were triable issues of material fact of the questions of whether Ross engaged in protected activity under Labor Code section 1102.5 and whether Ross had a physical disability under the FEHA, it reversed the judgment as to these claims and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Ross v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law

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After the trial court awarded sanctions in the form of attorney fees against real parties in interest for filing a frivolous anti-SLAPP motion, real parties appealed the sanction order. The anti-SLAPP motion concerned allegations in a petition for writ of mandate against the Commission and City regarding a development in an area of Venice filed by several pro se petitioners. The Court of Appeal reversed the sanction order and held that there was a reasonable basis for real parties' anti-SLAPP motion. The court held that the anti-SLAPP motion was not devoid of merit where a reasonable attorney could have concluded that the petition asserted a claim against real parties, and a reasonable attorney could have concluded that the petition asserted claims against real parties arising from protected conduct. View "Rudisill v. California Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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In a third amended complaint, plaintiff-appellant Luis Shalabi sued defendants-respondents Fontana City Police Officer Jason Perniciaro and others for a deprivation of civil rights (42 U.S.C. 1983). Shalabi alleged that on May 14, 2011, Perniciaro wrongfully shot and killed Muhanad Shalabi, who was Shalabi’s father. Shalabi filed his original complaint on December 3, 2013. The trial court dismissed Shalabi’s lawsuit due to it being filed one day beyond the statute of limitations. Shalabi contends the trial court erred by dismissing his lawsuit. The Court of Appeal determined The California statute for calculating the last day of the statute of limitations provided, “The time in which any act provided by law is to be done is computed by excluding the first day, and including the last, unless the last day is a holiday, and then it is also excluded.” Shalabi’s 18th birthday was the triggering event because that was the first day he could file his lawsuit. Shalabi’s 18th birthday was on December 3, 2011. Excluding that day, the Court found the last day for Shalabi to file his complaint was December 3, 2013. Shalabi filed his complaint on December 3, 2013. Therefore, Shalabi’s complaint was timely. The Court reversed the trial court's judgment. View "Shalabi v. City of Fontana" on Justia Law