Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights
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Minton, a transgender man diagnosed with gender dysphoria, sued under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code 51(b), which guarantees “full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind.” Minton’s physician, Dr. Dawson, scheduled Minton's hysterectomy at Mercy, which is part of Dignity Health. Minton told a Mercy nurse that he is transgender. The following day, Mercy notified Dawson that the procedure was canceled. Mercy’s president, Ivie, informed Dawson that she would “never” be allowed to perform Minton's hysterectomy at Mercy because it was “part of a course of treatment for gender dysphoria, as opposed to any other medical diagnosis.” At Ivie's suggestion, Dawson was able to get emergency admitting privileges at Methodist Hospital, a non-Catholic Dignity hospital about 30 minutes away. Dawson performed Minton’s hysterectomy at Methodist three days later. Dignity argued that as a Catholic hospital, Mercy is bound to follow its facially neutral “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which prohibit direct sterilization and require that bodily and functional integrity be preserved. The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of Minton’s complaint. Without determining the right of Dignity to provide its services in such cases at alternative facilities, the complaint alleges that Dignity initially failed to do so and that the subsequent rectification of its denial, while likely mitigating plaintiff’s damages, did not extinguish his discrimination claim. View "Minton v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

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A warrant issued for the search of Klugman’s residence and his dental practice, authorizing the seizure evidence of child pornography. Officers seized extensive electronic evidence contained on multiple devices. Klugman was charged with knowingly possessing images of minors engaging in or simulating sexual conduct. In a motion to suppress, Klugman cited the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, sections 1538.5 and 1546.4(a), asserting that the warrant lacked particularity and probable cause and “contained no limiting time periods, specific accounts, precise descriptions of the types of information, or particular electronic devices that could be seized. Nor did it contain any safeguards such as sealing or the appointment of a referee to preserve the privacy of seized information unrelated to the purpose of the warrant. Instead, it authorized a ‘complete dump’ of all electronic devices ... including thousands of patient records.” The court of appeal affirmed. Even disregarding timeliness issues, the trial court did not err. The reports based on information derived from third parties were not conclusory, were not stale, and were reliable and corroborative; inferences from tips were reinforced by the opinion of the affiant, a 20-year veteran who relied on his training, experience, and conversations with other officers and with the computer forensics expert. While the warrant for Klugman’s equipment did not dictate that medical information about Klugman’s patients be sealed in compliance with HIPAA, investigating officers previewed material at the scene, “thus addressing the issue noted in the statute.” View "Klugman v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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After defendant was convicted of violent felonies in three different cases, he received a 51 year aggregate sentence in 2005 pursuant to a plea agreement. After his petition for habeas corpus was granted in 2017, he was resentenced to an aggregate sentence of 45 years and eight months. Defendant argued that his two consecutive one year sentences imposed as part of the resentencing should be vacated because they were unlawful under California Rules of Court, rule 4.452. The Court of Appeal held that the habeas order was not void, because defendant was entitled to petition the superior court for a writ of habeas corpus without first obtaining a certificate of probable cause, the superior court could change an unlawful sentence at any time, and the court could reconsider the sentence upon notice from California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation of its possible illegality. The court also held that defendant may raise his Rule 4.452 claim without a certificate of probable cause, and the two sentences he challenged must be vacated as unlawful. The court agreed with the People that remand regarding the firearm sentencing enhancements would be futile and therefore affirmed those sentences. View "People v. Allison" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who is blind and uses a screen reader, filed suit alleging that defendant violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act by violating the federal American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Plaintiff's claims stemmed from her being unable to access defendant's restaurant website with her screen reader. The Court of Appeal held that Title III of the ADA applies to defendant's website; at a minimum, Title III covers a website with a nexus to a physical place of public accommodation; and the undisputed facts show a sufficient nexus between defendant's website and its restaurant. The court also held that plaintiff's and the trial court's references to nongovernmental guidelines did not violate defendant's due process rights; the trial court could and did disregard surplus comments plaintiff made about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0; and the specification of WCAG 2.0 guidelines in the injunction did not support or show a due process violation. Finally, the court held that whether defendant's alternative means of communication would be effective was not a triable issue of fact; plaintiff had standing to obtain an injunction; and the injunction mandating compliance with WCAG 2.0 was not overbroad or uncertain. View "Thurston v. Midvale Corp." on Justia Law

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Sagin was sentenced to life without parole for a 1985 stabbing murder. After the murder, two Monterey County Jail inmates separately reported that Sagin (housed at the jail awaiting trial on other charges) confessed to the killing. More than 20 years later, the Northern California Innocence Project identified evidence that could be tested for DNA and obtained an order allowing that testing. (Pen. Code 1405). The victim’s bathrobe contained DNA from the man the victim was dating at the time and from an ex-boyfriend. Hair found on her couch was the ex-boyfriend’s. Towels contained DNA from the victim’s coworker and the ex-boyfriend. Fingernail scrapings contained DNA from an unknown male. Sagin sought habeas corpus relief, based on the newly-available DNA evidence. The court of appeal vacated the conviction The fingernail DNA does not, alone, prove someone other than Sagin committed the crime. The court employed the revised standard, requiring only that the new evidence would likely have changed the trial outcome. A jury would have considered the DNA results with the rest of the evidence, including the testimony of four alibi witnesses that, if credited, establishes Sagin is not the perpetrator. It was more likely than not the new evidence would have changed the outcome of Sagin’s trial. View "In re: Sagin" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the appointment of a conservator under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act after a jury found M.M. to be gravely disabled due to a mental disorder. M.M. contended that the trial court denied his right to begin a jury trial within 25 days of his jury trial demand; his trial began 61 days after his demand; and thus his conservatorship expires 36 days earlier than the date the trial court ordered. The court held that M.M. has forfeited the contention because the delay in beginning trial was mostly due to his own counsel's requests for a confidential expert report and to continue the trial to accommodate counsel's schedule. View "Conservatorship of M.M." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the appointment of a conservator under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act after a jury found D.C. to be gravely disabled due to a mental disorder. The court held that D.C.'s failure to timely appeal from the trial court's order granting the letters of conservatorship barred appellate review of the merits of that order. The court also held that ample evidence supported the order for involuntary medication and the order after the jury trial continuing that order. In this case, the medical expert testified that D.C. lacked insight about her mental condition, is unable to voluntarily accept meaningful treatment, and required medications to treat her schizophrenia. Although the trial court did not state in its order the specific factors it relied upon in finding by clear and convincing evidence that D.C. was incompetent to give or withhold informed consent, the court found no reversible error. View "Conservatorship of D.C." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs challenged the trial court's dismissal with prejudice of their claims brought against the state level defendants. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from their allegations that KHSD adopted and implemented a district-wide disciplinary program that was biased toward minority students, students who speak limited English, and others similarly situated. The Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of most of plaintiffs' claims against the state level defendants, either because such claims did not state a cause of action or because they were brought against the local level defendants but not the state level defendants. However, the court ultimately found that plaintiffs have stated a cause of action under the equal protection clause of the California Constitution and they have properly petitioned for a writ of mandate based on the state level defendants' ministerial duty to monitor the practices of local school districts for violations of federal law. Therefore, the court held that the trial court wrongly sustained the state level defendants' demurrer as to those claims, as well as plaintiffs' request for declaratory relief on the same issues. In a related conclusion, the court held that plaintiffs' complaint had sufficient allegations to demonstrate associational standing for one of the community organizations to pursue these claims against the state level defendants. View "Collins v. Thurmond" on Justia Law

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K.P. appealed from a judgment entered following a jury trial on the petition by the public guardian for reappointment as K.P.'s conservator under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPSA). The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err by instructing the jury as to the definition of "gravely disabled" in CACI No. 4000. Furthermore, even if the trial court had committed error in its instructions to the jury, any error would be harmless as a matter of law in this case because the evidence was overwhelming that K.P. was unwilling or unable to accept treatment. View "Conservatorship of K.P." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Rights
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Taeb’s attorney, Trigger, failed to appear for trial in Taeb’s dissolution case. The court entered a Code of Civil Procedure section 128.5 sanctions order. The court of appeal reversed as to Taeb and affirmed as to Trigger, abrogating a 2016 holding that an objective standard applied when determining whether a party’s or an attorney’s conduct is sanctionable under section 128.5, as it did under section 128.7 and that section 128.5 did not incorporate the safe harbor provisions of section 128.7. Section 128.5 has since been amended to specifically overrule the decision on those points. The law concerning the kind of conduct sanctionable under sections 128.5 and 128.7 has largely returned to its previous state; a more stringent standard requiring subjective bad faith applies to section 128.5, and a lesser standard, requiring only objective bad faith, applies to section 128.7. The conduct for which Trigger was sanctioned can support the requisite finding of bad faith. Taab, however, did appear on the scheduled trial date and only relayed what Trigger told him. There is no evidence Taab was even aware Trigger had misrepresented her readiness for trial or that she made no effort to correct what she had told the court. View "In re: Marriage of Sahafzadeh-Taeb & Taeb" on Justia Law