Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Shauna R. appealed an order terminating parental rights to her son, Cody R., contending the order should have been reversed because the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) did not give preferential consideration to relatives when determining Cody's placement. After considering the parties' supplemental briefing on the issue of standing, the Court of Appeal concluded Shauna did not have standing to appeal the order terminating parental rights. "A parent's appeal from a judgment terminating parental rights confers standing to appeal an order concerning the dependent child's placement only if the placement order's reversal advances the parent's argument against terminating parental rights." Shauna overlooked the fact she did not challenge on appeal the court's finding there were no exceptions to termination of parental rights. "She alludes to the possibility that if Cody had been placed in the care of a relative, the relative would not have been able to adopt and the court would have ordered a permanency plan of guardianship, thus preserving Shauna's parental rights. Speculation about a hypothetical situation is not sufficient to support standing." Furthermore, the Court found the record did not support Shauna's claims there were relatives willing to provide a home to Cody and the Agency failed to apply the relative placement preference. In not bringing the placement issue to the juvenile court's attention at any time during Cody's dependency proceedings, Shauna has forfeited the issue on appeal. View "In re Cody R." on Justia Law

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Georgetown was a "quaint unincorporated Gold Rush-era hamlet" in rural El Dorado County (the County, including defendant Board of Supervisors). Developer SimonCRE Abbie, LLC and its principals wanted to erect a Dollar General chain discount store on three vacant Main Street lots. Local residents acting through plaintiff Georgetown Preservation Society (Society) objected, claiming this would impair the look of their town. After the real parties slightly modified the project, the County adopted a mitigated negative declaration, finding there was no basis to require an environmental impact report (EIR). In response to the Society’s mandamus petition, the trial court duly applied Pocket Protectors v. City of Sacramento, 124 Cal.App.4th 903 (2004), and found the Society’s evidence supported a fair argument that the project may have a significant aesthetic effect on the environment, but rejected the Society’s claims about traffic impacts and pedestrian safety, and declined to address the Society’s claim the project was inconsistent with planning and zoning norms. Accordingly, the court issued a writ of mandate compelling the County to require an EIR. On appeal, the County and real parties, supported by the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties (which together filed one amicus curiae brief), contended the trial court erred in finding an EIR was needed. They principally relied on the fact that the County applied its Historic Design Guide principles and found the project met aesthetic standards. The Court of Appeal disagreed with this proposed method of bypassing CEQA and instead reinforced Pocket Protectors, holding that the Society’s evidence of aesthetic impacts was sufficient to trigger the need for an EIR. "A planning or zoning decision may be entitled to greater deference than a mitigated negative declaration, but such a determination is no more than it purports to be and is not a CEQA determination." View "Georgetown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado" on Justia Law

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The Salinas intersection's crosswalk, on city property, was painted in 1997 and never repainted. An ordinance provided that the city “shall . . . maintain crosswalks at intersections . . . by appropriate . . . marks . . . .” By 2013, the crosswalk had faded. Guernsey was in that crosswalk when a truck (driven by Capulin) struck and severely injured her. Guernsey sued the city and Capulin, alleging that city property was in a dangerous condition. (Gov. Code 835.) Over Guernsey’s objections, the court gave a special jury instruction, refused to give jury instructions requested by Guernsey on negligence per se and mandatory duty based on the ordinance, and provided a special verdict form containing two fact-specific questions on dangerous condition. The jury returned a multi-million dollar verdict against Capulin, but found for the city on the fact-specific questions. The court awarded the city its expert witness fees, finding that its $250,000 pretrial offer was reasonable. The court of appeal reversed. The court prejudicially erred in giving the city’s requested instruction, which read: “Plaintiffs have not alleged that the design of the Driveway created a dangerous condition. Instead, Plaintiffs have alleged that it was the City’s failure to maintain the crosswalk lines and the bushes that created a dangerous condition. To find that the Driveway presented a dangerous condition, you cannot rely on characteristics of the Driveway itself (e.g., the placement of the stop sign, the left turn pocket, and the presence of the pink cement). Although you can consider those elements of the Driveway when weighing whether or not the faded crosswalk lines and bushes created a dangerous condition, you cannot rely on those design elements of the intersection to find that a dangerous condition existed.” View "Guernsey v. City of Salinas" on Justia Law

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The superior court challenged the Board's decision that certain court personnel rules and regulations violated the Trial Court Employment Protection and Governance Act, and therefore constituted unfair practices. The Court of Appeal affirmed the Board's decision invalidating the rule prohibiting the distribution of literature during nonworking time in working areas, because the rule was ambiguous. Furthermore, the invalidation of the ambiguous rule did not violate the separation of powers doctrine. The court otherwise set aside the Board's remaining conclusions where the remaining workplace rules were consistent with the state of the law. The court held that a trial court's interest in appearing impartial constitutes special circumstances justifying restrictions on clothing and adornments worn by court employees. The court also held that the solicitation during working hours rule was not ambiguous; and the restriction on displaying writings and images was appropriate. View "Fresno Superior Court v. PERB" on Justia Law

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By a stipulated decree issued in 1920, the Tehama County Superior Court adjudicated water rights in Mill Creek. It declared the natural flow of the water up to a total rate of 203 cfs had been appropriated by the parties appearing before it for use upon their and other persons’ lands. The decree entitled these original owners of the water rights and their successors to continue diverting from Mill Creek a total of 203 cfs of water, and it allotted them shares in the amount of water each could divert. It entitled the owners to use or dispose of their share of water in any manner, at any place, or for any purpose, or in accordance with whatever agreement the owners may make with any other person or entity. As part of the decree, the court also appointed a water master of Mill Creek to implement its order. The decree gave the water master exclusive authority to divert and apportion the water during the irrigation season according to the decree’s terms, measure the diversions, and control and superintend the diversions and the gates and ditches used to divert the water. The owner of an appropriative right to water in Mill Creek sought declaratory relief to determine whether, under the judicial decree that established the right, it could: (1) use water appropriated to it on a year around basis and not only during the irrigation season; (2) use or transfer its water outside of the creek’s watershed; and (3) make these changes in the use and location of use without obtaining prior approval of the creek’s water master or the superior court. The trial court declared the decree did not give the owner these rights. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Orange Grove Irrigation District that the trial court’s holding was incorrect: the court created a condition that did not exist in the decree, and it did so based on a misunderstanding of the extent of control the decree granted to Los Molinos Mutual Water Company and of the operation of Water Code section 1706. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Orange Cove Irrigation Dist. v. Los Molinos Mutual Water Co." on Justia Law

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Moustafa applied for a license to be a registered nurse and disclosed she had been convicted of four misdemeanors that were subsequently dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4. The Board of Registered Nursing her a probationary license as a result of three of those convictions—two for petty theft and one for vandalism--and the conduct underlying the convictions. Moustafa opposed the restriction. The trial court, relying on Business and Professions Code section 480(c), which bars a licensing board from denying a license “solely on the basis of a conviction that has been dismissed pursuant to Section 1203.4,” ruled in favor of Moustafa. The court of appeal reversed, reasoning that until July 2020, when legislation amending section 480 takes effect, the Board may deny or restrict a license based on the conduct underlying a dismissed conviction, but only when the conduct independently qualifies as a basis for denying a license. Conduct does not necessarily so qualify merely because it involves some act of theft, dishonesty, fraud, or deceit. Conduct qualifies only if it substantially relates to the applicant’s fitness to practice nursing. Applying this standard, the Board could restrict Moustafa’s license based on the conduct underlying the petty thefts, but not on the conduct underlying the vandalism. View "Moustafa v. Board of Registered Nursing" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are four parents and their children residing throughout California and a California nonprofit corporation, A Voice for Choice, Inc. This case rose constitutional challenges to Senate Bill No. 277, which repealed the personal belief exemption to California’s immunization requirements for children attending public and private educational and child care facilities. Plaintiffs sued claiming Senate Bill No. 277 violated their rights under California’s Constitution to substantive due process, privacy, and a public education. The trial court sustained the defendants’ demurrer to plaintiffs’ complaint without leave to amend and plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, plaintiffs also raised an additional argument that Senate Bill No. 277 violated their constitutional right to free exercise of religion, although they did not allege a separate cause of action on that basis in their complaint. The Court of Appeal found "[p]laintiffs' arguments are strong on hyperbole and scant on authority." Finding no violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Love v. California Dept. of Education" on Justia Law

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CSEA filed two unfair practice charges against the District in 2010 and 2013 under the Education Employment Relations Act (EERA). The Board then issued two decisions and orders requiring, among other things, that the District post two specific notices to its employees. After the decisions and orders became final, the District refused to post the notices. The Board filed the underlying enforcement proceeding, and the trial court issued a writ of mandate instructing the District to comply. The Court of Appeal held that substantial evidence supported the trial court's conclusion that the decisions and orders were issued pursuant to the Board's procedures. The court explained that, to the extent the District suggested procedural irregularities occurred, it failed to support the argument with citations to specific examples and thus waived any such contention. Furthermore, there was no abuse of discretion on the part of the General Counsel under California Code of Regulations, title 8, section 32980. View "Public Employment Relations Board v. Bellflower Unified School District" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the California Governor issued a proclamation convening a special session of the Legislature for certain specified purposes, including to “[i]mprove the efficiency and efficacy of the health care system, reduce the cost of providing health care services, and improve the health of Californians.” Pertinent to this appeal, the Legislature enacted the End of Life Option act, which legalized physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill. During a special session, the Legislature passed the Act. Plaintiffs were five individual physicians along with a professional organization that promoted ethical standards in the medical profession (collectively the Ahn parties), who asserted causes of action for violations of due process, of equal protection, and of California constitutional limitations on the power of the Legislature to act in special session. In February 2018, the Ahn parties filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. After hearing argument, the trial court ruled that it would grant the motion, without leave to amend. On May 24, 2018, the trial court entered judgment in favor of the Ahn parties, and enjoined enforcement of the Act. Days later, three nonparties5 (collectively the Fairchild parties) filed an ex parte application to vacate the judgment, which was denied. The State filed a petition for writ of mandate to the Court of Appeal along with a request for an immediate stay. The Court granted a temporary stay, during which the Fairchild parties filed an appeal of the judgment, contending that, as a result of the denial of their ex parte application to vacate the judgment, they had standing to appeal and, in that appeal, to challenge the judgment on the merits. The Ahn parties disputed this. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal’s review was not whether the Fairchild parties are parties to the appeal, but only whether they were parties to this writ proceeding. Admittedly, the State’s writ petition did not name the Fairchild parties, nor did the Fairchild parties formally move to intervene. “However, a person can become a party to an action, even if not named in the complaint, by appearing and participating without any objection by the other parties. We see no reason why this principle should not also apply to a writ proceeding. This is not to say that they are necessarily proper parties.” The Court ultimately concluded the Ahn parties lacked standing on any of the theories they asserted in this appeal. The Court was unclear whether, on remand, they would be able to amend their complaint so as to allege standing, whether the trial court will grant them leave to do so, or whether they will be able to prove up their amended allegations. “It is possible (though by no means certain) that we will see this case again; if so, however, at least we will be sure that the constitutional issue is properly presented.” The Court issued a writ of mandate to direct the superior court to vacate its order granting the motion for judgment on the pleadings and to vacate the judgment. View "California v. Superior Court (Ahn)" on Justia Law

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The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (the Department) petitioned for a writ of review to annul the decision of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board (the Appeals Board) and reinstate the Department’s decision sustaining four accusations against licensee Kajla Petroleum, Inc. and suspending Kajla’s license to sell alcoholic beverages. The Department argued Kajla violated two conditions of its license relating to prohibitions on the sale of single beer or malt beverages and exterior advertising of alcoholic beverages. The Department contended the Appeals Board improperly substituted its own interpretation of one of the conditions (condition three, the single beverage condition) and relied on decisions of the Appeals Board that were not precedential and that misinterpreted that condition. Furthermore, the Department argued the other condition at issue here (condition two, the advertising ban) was reasonable and argued that a disciplinary hearing is not the proper venue for challenging the reasonableness of a license condition in any event. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Department only as to the impropriety of the reasonableness challenge. The Court annulled the decision of the Appeals Board and reinstated the decision of the Department as to the violation of the license condition pertaining to the advertising ban. View "Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) v. ABC Appeals Bd." on Justia Law