Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Plaintiff challenged LACERA's forfeiture of his vested retirement benefits based on the determination by the County that plaintiff's gambling conduct was committed in the scope of his official duties pursuant to the Public Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013, Government Code 7522 et seq. The Court of Appeal held that section 7522.72 is constitutionally sound, but that LACERA, not the County, bears the burden to afford plaintiff the requisite due process protections in determining whether his conviction fell within the scope of the statute. Therefore, the court modified the judgment to require the County to provide the requisite due process. View "Hipsher v. Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Fourteen-year-old E.A. and her eleven-year old sister, M.A. (together minors or children) had been living in what the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) described as "deplorable" conditions. Minors, both United States citizens, were living with their parents in Tijuana in an abandoned home with no electricity, no potable water, and with cockroaches crawling near minors' bed. The children had not been to school for over a year. They looked anorexic because J.A. (Mother) and Z.A. (Father) (together parents) fed them only one meal a day. When ruling in dependency proceedings, "'the welfare of the minor is the paramount concern of the court.'" At the time of the dispositive hearing in this case, there was no evidence that the minors' living conditions had changed. However, misinterpreting Welfare and Institutions Code section 300(g), and misapplying Allen M. v. Superior Court (1992) 6 Cal.App.4th 1069, the juvenile court dismissed the dependency petitions. The minors appealed. The Agency conceded court erred, but claimed the Court of Appeal should affirm because the errors were harmless. The Court of Appeal concluded the court's errors were prejudicial and, therefore, reversed with directions to deny the Agency's motion to dismiss the petitions. View "In re E.A." on Justia Law

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Saint Francis surgical staff left a sponge in a patient during surgery. The Department of Public Health imposed a $50,000 fine for not having and assuring compliance with appropriate sponge-count policies. An ALJ found no basis for the fine, concluding that Saint Francis had adequate policies and procedures. The Department rejected the ALJ’s proposed decision and affirmed the fine. The decision, “effective immediately,” was served on Saint Francis by certified mail on December 16. On December 30, Saint Francis requested reconsideration. The Department answered without notifying Saint Francis that the request was invalid and denied it on January 14, 2016. Also on January 14, apparently not knowing that the request was denied, Saint Francis e-mailed a Department attorney that it intended to seek judicial review, indicating a proposed timeline. The Department attorney responded, “I believe you are correct.” Saint Francis filed its petition on January 26. The court dismissed the petition as not filed within 30 days (Government Code 11521). The court of appeal affirmed. The dismissal caused no grave injustice and applying estoppel would defeat the public policy of strictly construing the filing period for challenging an agency’s final decision. The Department made no affirmative representations to incite the mistake. The mistake was made in good faith and Saint Francis notified the Department of its intent to file a writ petition, but that is insufficient to toll the running of the 30-day period. View "Saint Francis Memorial Hospital v. California Department of Public.Health" on Justia Law

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Appellants Vincent Krolikowski and Connie Van Putten were former employees of the City of San Diego (the City) and members of the San Diego City Employees' Retirement System (SDCERS) who received monthly pension payments from SDCERS, the administrator of the City's pension plan. Krolikowski and Van Putten separately filed lawsuits against SDCERS after SDCERS discovered an error in calculating their monthly pension benefits and took action to recoup the past overpayments. In their consolidated lawsuits, Krolikowski and Van Putten claimed conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, writ of mandate and declaratory relief, all of which challenged SDCERS's ability to implement a recoupment procedure to collect the overpayments from Krolikowski and Van Putten. After a bench trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of SDCERS. Krolikowski and Van Putten argued on appeal the trial court erred in: (1) sustaining SDCERS's demurrer to the conversion and breach of fiduciary duty causes of action; and (2) finding in favor of SDCERS after conducting a bench trial on the remaining causes of action for writ of mandate and declaratory relief. The Court of Appeal found no merit to these arguments and affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Krolikowski v. San Diego City Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent Dawn Turnbull sued defendants-appellants the Lucerne Valley Unified School District (LVUSD), Tom Courtney, Suzette Davis, John Buchanan, and Keri Gasper. Turnbull brought causes of action for: (1) disclosing her private medical information; (2) invading her privacy; (3) interfering with her constitutional rights; (4) violating her civil rights; and (5) conspiring to deprive her of her right of privacy or right of free speech. Davis was the superintendent of LVUSD. Turnbull and Courtney were members of the LVUSD board. Although not explicit, it was inferred from the complaint that Buchanan was also a member of the LVUSD board. Gasper was an LVUSD volunteer. Turnbull opposed Davis’s alleged misappropriation of LVUSD funds. In retaliation for Turnbull’s opposition, Davis: (1) obtained confidential medical information about Turnbull from Turnbull’s employer; (2) generated false reports from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS), concerning school lunch program eligibility; and (3) on July 8, 2015, falsely told LVUSD board members that evidence strongly suggested Turnbull illegally accessed CALPADS. Shortly after a LVUSD board meeting, Courtney and Buchanan, as private citizens, called Turnbull’s employer to report Turnbull’s allegedly unlawful access of CALPADS. Turnbull had legally accessed CALPADS to obtain a report concerning her stepchild. Courtney used his position as a LVUSD board member to obtain access to Turnbull’s private medical information. Courtney, as a private citizen, caused Turnbull’s private medical information to be published on social media or gave the information to people who published it on social media. Courtney intended to intimidate Turnbull to stop her from opposing Davis’s acts of misappropriation. Gasper received Turnbull’s private medical information from Courtney, Davis, or Buchanan. Gasper published the information on social media. LVUSD, Courtney, and Davis brought an anti-SLAPP motion, which the trial court denied. LVUSD, Courtney, and Davis contended the trial court erred by denying their motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed the order denying the anti-SLAPP motion; defendants failed to establish that the allegations in the complaint arose from protected activities. View "Turnbull v. Lucerne Valley Unified School Dist." on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought an administrative writ and declaratory relief, contending that the lease replacement between PG&E and the Commission should not have been subject to the existing facilities exemption, and that even if it was, the unusual circumstances exception to the exemption should apply. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's rejection of petitioner's contentions and denied the writ and declaratory relief. The court held that the record supported the Commission's application of the existing facilities exemption where the lease replacement would not expand the existing use of the plant. In this case, PG&E has leased the same land from the Commission for nearly 50 years, and the lease replacement maintained rather than expanded the plant's current operational capacity. The court also held that the Commission properly applied the fair argument standard in considering possible effects on the environment due to any unusual circumstances. The court rejected petitioner's remaining arguments. View "World Business Academy v. California State Lands Commission" on Justia Law

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The state formed BBGHAD to restore 46 acres of Malibu's Broad Beach. The project requires 300,000 cubic yards of sand initially, with subsequent deposits at five-year intervals, and supplemental deposits as needed. Each of the five major deposits will generate 44,000 one-way truck trips, primarily from quarries adjacent to State Highway 23 between Fillmore and Moorpark. Moorpark officials expressed concern that truck traffic would negatively impact residents. A settlement prohibited sand trucks from using certain roads and from stopping in specific areas. The Coastal Commission approved a coastal development permit, including the settlement agreement. The trial court found the project exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code, 21000(a) but that BBGHAD improperly contracted away to Moorpark its police power in prohibiting BBGHAD from modifying haul routes in response to changed circumstances. The court of appeal held that the beach restoration, including the agreement, is a single “project” that is exempt from CEQA review as an “improvement” (section 26505) undertaken by a geologic hazard abatement district “necessary to prevent or mitigate an emergency.” The agreement's traffic restrictions are not preempted by the Vehicle Code, nor do they constitute extraterritorial regulations; they represent a valid exercise of Moorpark’s contracting authority. The court agreed that BBGHAD abdicated its police power in portions of the agreement. View "County of Ventura v. City of Moorpark" on Justia Law

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The California Court of Appeal consolidated cases to address a novel question regarding jurisdiction under the unique and complex cooperative federalism scheme of the federal Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.) (Act). The Act authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Agency) to promulgate national primary and secondary ambient air quality standards. States, however, have the “primary responsibility for assuring air quality” and must each devise, adopt, and implement a state implementation plan (SIP) specifying how the state will achieve and maintain the national air quality standards. The SIP is submitted to the Agency’s administrator (Administrator) for approval. The cases here sought the same relief and practical objective: to invalidate and render unenforceable, in whole or in part (albeit on different grounds), a state regulation known as the Truck and Bus Regulation (Regulation), which was approved by the Administrator as part of and incorporated into California’s SIP. Plaintiff Jack Cody argued the Regulation violated the dormant commerce clause of the United States Constitution because it discriminated against out-of-state truckers by imposing a disproportionate compliance burden on them. Plaintiff Alliance for California Business (Alliance) argued the Regulation was unlawful because part of its mandate conflicted with state and federal safety laws. Defendants, including the California Air Resources Board (Board), raised lack of subject matter jurisdiction under section 307(b)(1) of the Act in both cases on appeal. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether section 307(b)(1) vested exclusive and original jurisdiction over these challenges to the Regulation incorporated into and approved as part of California’s SIP in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court concluded it did and affirmed the judgments for lack of jurisdiction. View "Alliance for Calif. Business v. State Air Resources Bd." on Justia Law

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California’s Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), as opposed to the board that administers the system, filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief regarding the proper interpretation of the effect of Government Code section 7522.02 (a)(3) on the pension benefits of transit workers. The CalPERS executive office had announced its own interpretation, which resulted in over 400 pending administrative appeals. As representative parties, the CalPERS executive office named as defendants a transit agency (the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (Santa Clara Transit)) and an employee representative for a different Bay Area transit agency (the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555), which had been supporting the arguments of their employees and members, and had filed administrative appeals of their own. Santa Clara Transit filed a demurrer, which the trial court sustained, entering judgment in its behalf. Local 1555 then filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, which the trial court granted, entering a separate judgment in its behalf. In each ruling, the trial court concluded that the CalPERS executive office was subject to the procedural prerequisite of the exhaustion of administrative remedies, as the issue was pending in the appeals before the CalPERS board, and the CalPERS executive office had not established any exception to exhaustion in its allegations. The CalPERS executive office separately appealed each judgment. The Court of Appeals consolidated the appeals. The CalPERS executive office asserted it could bypass the process in CalPERS regulations for administrative appeals to the CalPERS board and proceed directly to the trial court to obtain a declaratory judgment on its interpretation of section 7522.02(a)(3). It also contended that it was not subject to the general rule that an action for declaratory relief was not appropriate for the review of administrative decisions in lieu of a petition for a writ of mandate. The Court of Appeal found neither position was tenable and affirmed the judgments. View "CalPERS v. Santa Clara Valley Transp. etc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Yvonne Reid and Serena Wong sued defendants the City of San Diego (City) and the San Diego Tourism Marketing District (TMD) in a putative class action complaint, challenging what they allege is "an illegal hotel tax." The trial court sustained Defendants' demurrer without leave to amend on statute of limitations and other grounds. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding some of the causes of action were time-barred and the remainder failed to state facts constituting a cause of action. View "Reid v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law