Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment denying plaintiff's request for leave to amend and granting Aerospace's motion for summary judgment, in an action alleging that plaintiff was selected for a company-wide reduction in force (RIF) because of his age.The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying leave to amend. In this case, plaintiff's original and first amended DFEH complaints cannot support class and disparate impact theories of recovery, and thus the new allegations in his second amended DFEH complaint are untimely. As a result, plaintiff cannot show he exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to his proposed class and disparate impact claims. The court also held that the trial court did not err in granting Aerospace's motion for summary judgment where the trial court properly sustained Aerospace's objections to certain exhibits and plaintiff failed to create a triable issue of fact to withstand summary judgment. Aerospace submitted evidence showing it instituted the company-wide RIF after learning it faced potentially severe cuts to its funding, and plaintiff failed to offer substantial evidence showing that Aerospace's reasons were untrue or pretextual. View "Foroudi v. The Aerospace Corp." on Justia Law

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In May 2014, George Gonzalez pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of using his premises without a permit or variance, and one count of maintaining an unauthorized encroachment. The trial court placed Gonzalez on probation for three years, subject to various stipulated conditions, including that he must bring all properties up to code. Gonzalez violated probation on five separate occasions; each time, the court revoked and then reinstated Gonzalez’s probation, with terms to which Gonzalez expressly agreed, including stayed terms of custody of increasing lengths. During a hearing on the third of these violations, Gonzalez agreed to additional specific probation conditions relating to property that he owned on Aldine Drive. Gonzalez specifically agreed to a probation condition that required he sell the Aldine Property for fair market value if he failed to comply with various probation conditions mandating that he undertake specified corrective work on the property. In March 2017, after admitting a fourth probation violation, Gonzalez agreed to an extension of the probationary period and to modify the stayed term of custod. After a hearing concerning the Aldine Property, the trial court found Gonzalez in violation of probation for a fifth time. Gonzalez was again given an opportunity to cure the violations prior to the next hearing; when conditions were not cured, the court ordered Gonzalez to sell the Aldine Property. Gonzalez challenged the order to sell the Aldine Property, arguing, among other things, the order to sell the Aldine Property was invalid because it was entered after the expiration of the maximum three-year probation period as authorized by his 2014 guilty plea, and an order directing the sale of real property was not specified as a potential punishment for municipal code violations in the San Diego Municipal Code. The Court of Appeal determined: (1) the order to sell the Aldine Property was a condition of probation, not a punishment; (2) Gonzalez’s takings claim was without merit; and (3) Gonzalez forfeited any challenge to the reasonableness of the probation condition by failing to raise such a challenge in the trial court or in his opening brief on appeal. The trial court’s order directing the sale of the Aldine Property was affirmed. View "California v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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After being informed he was not eligible for early parole consideration, Luther Haynes filed a petition for habeas corpus, alleging he was unlawfully precluded from Proposition 57 parole consideration because of his status as a sex offender registrant. Haynes was required to register as a sex offender due to: (1) two prior felony convictions for sex offenses committed in the 1980’s; and (2) a felony conviction for annoying or molesting a child, for which he presently was serving an indeterminate third strike sentence. The trial court granted the habeas petition, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) appealed. Whether the CDCR may exclude from Proposition 57 parole consideration otherwise eligible inmates, who have prior convictions requiring sex offender registration, was under review by the California Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal concluded that based on the language of article I, section 32 of the California Constitution, Proposition 57 parole consideration had to be based on Haynes' current offense, not past convictions. Haynes did not show the challenged regulations were unconstitutional as applied to an offender whose sole current offense was a Penal Code section 647.6 conviction. The Court declined to resolve the broader issue of whether the CDCR could categorically exclude from eligibility for early parole consideration of all inmates currently serving sentences of having prior convictions for any offense requiring sex offender registration "because there are unquestionably violent crimes which require sex offender registration." The Court reversed the trial court's order granting Haynes' habeas petition. View "In re Haynes" on Justia Law

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When Hall was pulled over for a vehicle equipment violation in 2018, a police officer observed in the car “a clear plastic baggie” of what appeared to be marijuana. Based on this observation, two police officers searched Hall’s car and found a gun in a closed backpack, resulting in criminal charges against Hall for carrying a loaded firearm in a public place, carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle, and having no license plate lamp.The trial court denied Hall’s motion to suppress the evidence found in the search. The court of appeal reversed that denial. Since the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, it has been legal for persons 21 years of age and older to possess and transport small amounts (up to 28.5 grams) of marijuana, Health & Saf. Code 11362.1(a)(1). The lawful possession of marijuana in a vehicle does not provide probable cause to search the vehicle. Under Proposition 64, a driver is not permitted to “[p]ossess an open container or open package of cannabis or cannabis products” but there was no evidence in this case that the plastic baggie observed by the officers was an “open container.” View "People v. Hall" on Justia Law

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Environmental groups challenged the constitutionality of Public Resources Code section 25531, which limits judicial review of decisions by the Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission on the siting of thermal power plants. Section 25531(a) provides that an Energy Commission siting decision is “subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court of California.” The plaintiffs contend this provision abridges the original jurisdiction of the superior courts and courts of appeal over mandate petitions, as conferred by California Constitution Article VI, section 10. Section 25531(b) provides that findings of fact in support of a Commission siting determination “are final,” allegedly violating the separation of powers doctrine by depriving courts of their essential power to review administrative agency findings (Cal. Const., Art. III, section 3; Art. VI, section 1).The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. The Article VI grant of original jurisdiction includes the superior courts and courts of appeal and may not be circumscribed by statute, absent some other constitutional provision. Legislative amendments to section 25531 have broken the once-tight link between the regulatory authority of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and Energy Commission power plant siting decisions, such that the plenary power Article XII grants the Legislature over PUC activities no longer authorizes section 25531(a). Section 25531(b) violates the judicial powers clause by preventing courts from reviewing whether substantial evidence supports the Commission’s factual findings. View "Communities for a Better Environment v. Energy Resources Conservation & Development Commission" on Justia Law

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After receiving a citizen’s tip that Black males in a Mercedes were “acting shady,” four San Diego Police Department (SDPD) officers drove to the scene in two marked vehicles, activating emergency lights in one. Parking behind the Mercedes, the officers positioned themselves beside each of its four doors and asked the three teenagers inside for their names and identification. A records check later indicated that the driver was on probation subject to a Fourth Amendment waiver. The officers searched the vehicle and recovered a loaded firearm and sneakers linking the minors to a recent robbery. The minors moved to suppress the evidence found in the car, claiming their initial detention was not supported by reasonable suspicion. Finding the encounter was consensual rather than a detention, the juvenile court denied the motions. Two of the minors pleaded guilty to a subset of the charges originally filed. In a consolidated appeal, two of the minors, Edgerrin J. and Jamar D. challenged the denial of their motions to suppress, arguing the juvenile court erred in finding the encounter consensual, and claimed the citizen’s tip did not establish reasonable suspicion to detain them. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed on both points. However, the Court found conflicting evidence as to whether officers knew other facts that might furnish reasonable suspicion for the stop, or justify the detention and search pursuant to Edgerrin’s active Fourth Amendment waiver. Because the rationale for its ruling made it unnecessary for the juvenile court to address these other issues, judgment was reversed and remanded for a new hearing to permit it to assess witness credibility and reach factual findings in the first instance. View "In re Edgerrin J." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Gerard Gallo was charged by information with elder abuse under Penal Code section 368(b)(1) (count 1) and murder under section 187(a) (count 2). He was convicted by jury as charged, for which the trial court sentenced him to a total indeterminate term of 15 years to life on count 2. The court also imposed a determinate term of three years on count 1, but stayed the sentence pursuant to section 654. After defendant appealed, in an unpublished opinion the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. Almost seven years later, defendant petitioned for resentencing under section 1170.95 in pro. per. The State moved to dismiss the petition, arguing defendant was the actual killer, thus, not entitle do relief. The State stated that defendant punched his father in the face and his father died. When the trial court asked if this was a “single-defendant murder case,” the prosecutor responded, “Yes.” Thereafter, the trial court denied defendant’s petition for resentencing. Defendant was appointed counsel for appealing that denial. Counsel filed a "Wende" brief; defendant did not file a supplemental brief. The Court of Appeal determined "Wende's constitutional underpinnings do not apply to appeals from the denial of postconviction relief," and it had no independent duty to review the record for reasonably arguable issues, but could undertake review "in the interests of justice." Because defendant was the sole killer, and a jury found defendant guilty of second degree murder under section 187 (a), section 1170.95 did not apply to defendant. Thus, the Court independently reviewed the record for potential error, and was satisfied appointed counsel fully complied with their responsibilities as counsel, and no arguable issue was presented. View "California v. Gallo" on Justia Law

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In June 2015, defendant William Roseberry began serving a five-year term in state prison for willfully inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant. While serving that time, defendant brought a controlled substance into prison. In December 2015, for defendant’s in-prison offense and pursuant to Penal Code section 1170.1(c), a trial court imposed a three-year prison term consecutive to the five-year term defendant was already serving for the corporal injury offense. Appealing that second sentence, defendant contended the trial court: (1) contravened Penal Code section 1170.1 (c) because only one-third of the base term should have been imposed; and (2) erred by failing to pronounce a single determinate term of imprisonment, “treat[ing] this case as a stand-alone case, which it was not.” Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's sentence. View "California v. Roseberry" on Justia Law

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The court of appeal upheld the dismissal of a claim against a school district under the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code 51), A school district is not a business establishment and cannot be sued under the Unruh Act even where, as in this case, the alleged discriminatory conduct is actionable under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 U.S.C. 12101).The California Supreme Court has not considered whether a government entity, specifically an agent of the state performing a state constitutional obligation is a business establishment within the meaning of the Act. The court of appeal examined the historical genesis of the Act and the Act’s limited legislative history. Public school districts are, nonetheless, subject to stringent anti-discrimination laws set forth in the Education Code and the comprehensive anti-discrimination provisions set forth in the Government Code and applicable to all government entities, as well as federal constitutional mandates (actionable under 42 U.S.C. 1983), and statutes such as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. 1681), Title II of the ADA (42 U.S.C. 12131), and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794). View "Brennon B. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kenneth Grant admittedly stole merchandise from a Wilsons Leather outlet store. Everything there was sold at a discount (as evidenced by a “comparable value” the store displays on tags attached to each product). At trial, the prosecution introduced evidence showing that the cumulative comparable values of the stolen merchandise exceeded the $950 felony theft threshold. However, the prosecution introduced: (1) no evidence establishing that the comparable values represented the merchandise’s actual fair market values; and (2) evidence of actual sales prices for only a few of the stolen products (totaling about $265). Presumably relying on the comparable values, the jury found the value of the stolen merchandise exceeded $950, and convicted Grant of grand theft and burglary. The trial court sentenced him to three years in local custody. On appeal, Grant contended his grand theft conviction must be reduced to petty theft, and his burglary conviction had be reversed, because: (1) the trial court erroneously instructed the jury regarding the definition of fair market value; (2) the trial court failed to instruct the jury regarding the distinction between burglary and misdemeanor shoplifting; and (3) substantial evidence did not support the finding that the value of the stolen merchandise exceeded $950. Even if the jury had been properly instructed, the Court of Appeal concluded its finding regarding the fair market value of the stolen merchandise was not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court reduced Grant’s grand theft conviction to petty theft, reversed his burglary conviction, and remanded for resentencing. View "California v. Grant" on Justia Law