Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Hany Dimitry obtained a coastal development permit (CDP) from the City of Laguna Beach (the City) to demolish his Laguna Beach house. Mark Fudge challenged the permit, appealing to the California Coastal Commission (the Commission), and at court, to attach the merits of the City’s decision to grant Dimitry the CDP. The Commission accepted Fudge’s appeal, which meant it would hear that appeal “de novo.” Because the Commission’s hearing would be “de novo,” the trial court followed Kaczorowski v. Mendocino County Bd. of Supervisors, 88 Cal.App.4th 564 (2001) and McAllister v. County of Monterey, 147 Cal.App.4th 253 (2007) in concluding that there was no relief that Fudge might be able to obtain in his court action. The trial court concluded Fudge’s challenge to Dimitry’s CDP was entirely in the hands of the Commission, and dismissed the civil action. Fudge appealed, arguing the Commission’s hearing was not going to be truly “de novo” because the Commission would use different rules and procedures than the City used. When it comes to a local coastal entity’s decision on a CDP, the Court of Appeal determined the Legislature constructed a system in which appeals to the Commission would be heard de novo under the Coastal Act even though the original local decision was decided under CEQA. “Fudge’s mistake lies in his belief the Legislature was bound by the Collier court’s observation about de novo hearings being conducted in ‘the same manner’ as the original. We must disagree. It’s the other way around.” The Court determined the Legislature was not bound by the California Supreme Court’s observation about the common law nature of “de novo” hearings. Rather the courts were bound by the intent of the Legislature as to what the hearings would look like – plainly expressed in Public Resources Code section 21080.5. Therefore, the Court affirmed dismissal of the state court action. View "Fudge v. City of Laguna Beach" on Justia Law

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In a prior appeal, the Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment denying A.K. Anderson’s petition for writ of mandate challenging the suspension of his driver’s license by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In that opinion, the Court concluded the record contained substantial evidence that Anderson had been diagnosed by a neurologist with a seizure disorder, and that he had voluntarily discontinued taking anti-seizure medication. After the first decision became final, Anderson submitted to the DMV a report prepared by a family practice physician that purported to demonstrate Anderson suffered from no medical ailments whatsoever, and that he required no medications. A traffic safety officer concluded the report did not demonstrate Anderson no longer suffered from a seizure disorder, and the officer ordered that Anderson’s license remain suspended. Anderson once again unsuccessfully petitioned the superior court for a writ of mandate challenging his original license suspension and the order refusing to lift the suspension. On appeal, Anderson again challenged the original suspension of his driver’s license, arguing the DMV could not refuse to reinstate his driver’s license under Vehicle Code section 12806 (c) because there was no evidence he suffered a seizure or a lapse of consciousness within the last three years. Because the Court of Appeal concluded the record contained substantial evidence that Anderson suffered from “a disorder characterized by lapses of consciousness” as in the plain language of the statute, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Anderson v. Shiomoto" on Justia Law

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M.F., the son of Nicole W. and Stephen C., appealed orders at the 12-month review hearing under Welfare & Institutions Code section 366.21 (f) directing the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency to extend the reunification period for an additional six-month period and setting the 18-month review hearing more than 23 months from the date he first entered foster care. M.F. challenged the juvenile court's finding that Agency did not provide reasonable services to his father. He also contended the juvenile court lacked authority to order continued services beyond the 18-month review date absent special circumstances not present here. The Court of Appeal concluded there was substantial evidence to support the juvenile court's finding that reasonable services were not provided or offered to the parent, that the juvenile court was authorized to extend reunification services up to the 24-month review date if the court determined reasonable services were not provided or offered to the parent, and the juvenile court was not required to consider the need for a continuance under section 352 when extending services. View "In re M.F." on Justia Law

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Respondent San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) did not oppose termination of the dependency of N.O., rather, the Agency recommended it. N.O.'s counsel opposed termination of dependency jurisdiction over the objection of N.O.'s parents. Mexico declined to exercise jurisdiction over Minor, who was detained in California when Minor's mother A.R. (Mother) was arrested at the international border for transporting a large amount of marijuana. Minor was ultimately placed by a California juvenile court with maternal grandmother in Mexico. A few months after her arrest, Mother was released from custody and returned to Mexico, where she participated in services through the agency Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), which services were ordered and overseen by the juvenile court and Agency. Because Mother made substantial progress in services under her Agency care plan, Minor was returned to Mother's care. After a domestic violence (DV) incident between Mother and Minor's father S.G. (Father) in late December 2016 came to light in February 2017, Agency recommended Mother receive DV services, which were to be administered through DIF because Mother could no longer cross the border into the United States. When the court terminated jurisdiction in May 2018 it was unclear whether Mother had participated in such DV services. However, perhaps more important for purposes of this appeal, it also was unclear whether DIF had offered Mother such services, or believed they were even necessary. After multiple continuances of the section 364 review hearing, the juvenile court on March 8, 2018, granted Minor's counsel one last continuance, noting that it was "comfortable" closing the case based on the information then available to it and that it did not appear additional information regarding Minor would be forthcoming from DIF. On appeal, Minor contends the juvenile court's finding that conditions no longer existed in May 2018 that would justify the initial assumption of dependency over Minor in August 2015 was not supported by substantial evidence; that the court abused its discretion in not continuing the family maintenance review hearing until Minor was found and assessed; and that the juvenile court violated Minor's statutory right to counsel. The Court of Appeal determined Minor did not meet her burden of showing conditions still existed to justify the Agency's jurisdiction over her, and affirmed termination. View "In re N.O." 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 denied a petition for writ of mandate seeking an order directing the trial court to vacate its order and enter a new order directing the City to produce electronically-stored data relating to vehicles that private towing companies had impounded at the direction of the police department. The City argued that it did not possess or control the requested data, and thus the California Public Records Act was inapplicable in this case. The court held that the City's right to access the Vehicle Information Impound Center and Laserfiche data was insufficient to establish constructive possession. Furthermore, nothing in City of San Jose v. Superior Court, (2017) 2 Cal.5th 609, 623, supported the view that an agency's contractual right to access a private entity's records qualified as a form of "possession" of those records within the meaning of section 6252, subdivision (e) of the CPRA. View "Anderson-Barker v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA) provides the court with discretionary authority to involuntarily medicate an incompetent person placed with the State Hospital pre-commitment. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order finding that defendant lacked the capacity to refuse treatment and compelling him to undergo the involuntary administration of antipsychotic medication by the State Department of State Hospitals. In this case, although defendant has not been committed to the State Hospital, the trial court had the discretionary authority under Welfare and Institutions Code section 6602.5 to order his involuntary medication upon a proper finding he was incompetent to refuse medical treatment. Defendant was represented by counsel, provided with a full evidentiary hearing on request, and the trial court expressly found that defendant lacked the capacity to refuse treatment. View "State Department of State Hospitals v. J.W." on Justia Law

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San Diegans for Open Government (SDOG) appealed judgment against it in a lawsuit challenging an amended and restated lease that the City of San Diego (City) entered into with Symphony Asset Pool XVI, LLC (Symphony) to lease City-owned land containing an oceanfront amusement park in San Diego's Mission Beach neighborhood, and potentially extending the term of a prior lease of the premises for a significant additional period. Specifically, SDOG argued: (1) the City's approval of the amended and restated lease violated a proposition to limit commercial development on the premises; (2) the City improperly concluded that its decision to enter into the amended and restated lease was exempt from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act because it concerned an existing facility; and (3) the City violated section 99 of its charter (as it existed at the time) by failing to publish notice in the official City newspaper and pass an ordinance prior to entering into the amended and restated lease. Finding no merit to any of these arguments, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "San Diegans for Open Govt. v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Southwestern Community College District (District) and its governing board (Board) (together Southwestern) demoted Arlie Ricasa from an academic administrator position to a faculty position on the grounds of moral turpitude, immoral conduct, and unfitness to serve in her then-current role. While employed by Southwestern as the director of Student Development and Health Services (DSD), Ricasa also served as an elected board member of a separate entity, the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD). The largest number of incoming District students were from SUHSD, and the community viewed the school districts as having significant ties. As a SUHSD board member, Ricasa voted on million-dollar vendor contracts to construction companies, such as Seville Group, Inc. (SGI) and Gilbane Construction Company, who ultimately co-managed a bond project for the SUHSD. Before and after SGI received this contract, Ricasa went to dinners with SGI members that she did not disclose on her Form 700. Ricasa's daughter also received a scholarship from SGI to attend a student leadership conference that Ricasa did not report on her "Form 700." In December 2013, Ricasa pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Political Reform Act, which prohibited board members of local agencies from receiving gifts from a single source in excess of $420. Ricasa filed two petitions for writs of administrative mandamus in the trial court seeking, among other things, to set aside the demotion and reinstate her as an academic administrator. Ricasa appealed the denial of her petitions, arguing the demotion occurred in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act (the Brown Act) because Southwestern failed to provide her with 24 hours' notice of the hearing at which it heard charges against her, as required by Government Code section 54957. Alternatively, she argued the demotion was unconstitutional because no nexus existed between her alleged misconduct and her fitness to serve as academic administrator. Southwestern also appealed, arguing that the trial court made two legal errors when it: (1) held that Southwestern was required to give 24-hour notice under the Brown Act prior to conducting a closed session at which it voted to initiate disciplinary proceedings, and (2) enjoined Southwestern from committing future Brown Act violations. The Court of Appeal concluded Southwestern did not violate the Brown Act, and that substantial evidence supported Ricasa's demotion. However, the Court reversed that part of the judgment enjoining Southwestern from future Brown Act violations. View "Ricasa v. Office of Admin. Hearings" on Justia Law

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Loren Prout filed an inverse condemnation action alleging Department of Transportation (Caltrans) violated the Fifth Amendment in 2010 by physically occupying without compensation a long, narrow strip of Prout’s land fronting California Highway 12, to make highway improvements. The land taken was a 1.31-acre strip, 20 feet wide and about 6,095 feet long. Caltrans cross-complained for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and specific performance, alleging Prout agreed to dedicate the strip by deed for highway purposes 20 years earlier when he obtained an encroachment permit for a subdivision he was developing. Prout’s subdivision map stated the strip of land fronting Highway 12, shown by hash marks on the map, was “IN THE PROCESS OF BEING DEEDED TO CALTRANS FOR HIGHWAY PURPOSES.” No deed was ever signed or recorded. After a bench trial on the bifurcated issue of liability, the trial court found Caltrans validly accepted the offer of dedication by physically occupying the strip for its highway improvements, and the court awarded specific performance on Caltrans’s cross-complaint and ordered Prout to execute a deed. On appeal, Prout claims the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that he agreed to dedicate the entire strip of land, as opposed to just a small area needed to connect the subdivision’s private road to the state highway. The Court of Appeal concluded Prout’s challenge was barred by his failure to file a timely petition for writ of mandamus, and his inverse condemnation claim failed because substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that Prout made an offer to dedicate the entire strip of land in 1990 and did not revoke the offer before Caltrans accepted it by physically using the strip to make highway improvements in 2010-2011. View "Prout v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law