Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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Defendants-respondents the City of Davis (City) and the City Council of the City of Davis (City Council) approved a conditional use permit authorizing the use of a single family home in a residential zoning district as professional office space for three therapists. Petitioner-appellant and next door neighbor Michael Harrington, filed a petition for an administrative writ of mandate asking the trial court to set aside the conditional use permit. The trial court denied the petition. Harrington appealed, arguing: (1) the conditional use permit violated an ordinance prohibiting parking in the front yard setback; (2) the issuance of the conditional use permit resulted in a change in occupancy triggering accessible parking requirements under the California Building Standards Code (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 24, pt. 2); (3) the conditional use permit contemplated alterations triggering the accessible parking requirements; (4) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that compliance with accessible parking requirements would be technically infeasible, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence; and (5) the City Council failed to make sufficient findings to support a conclusion that the permitted use is consistent with the zoning designation, and the findings are not supported by substantial evidence. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the conditional use permit did not require parking in the front yard setback; (2) the City’s reasonable construction of the Building Code is entitled to deference, and its determination that the issuance of the conditional use permit did not result in a change in occupancy is supported by substantial evidence; (3) Harrington forfeited the argument that the conditional use permit contemplated alterations within the meaning of the Building Code; (4) technical infeasibility findings were not necessary, as the City Council did not rely on that theory; and (5) the City Council’s consistency findings were legally sufficient and supported by substantial evidence. View "Harrington v. City of Davis" on Justia Law

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Mainstay Business Solutions (Mainstay), a division of the Blue Lake Rancheria Economic Development Corporation, was a tribal government-sponsored entity of Blue Lake Rancheria, a federally recognized Indian tribe. Mainstay operated a temporary staffing business, assigning temporary workers to its clients. It also operated an employee leasing business in which employees of Mainstay’s clients were placed on Mainstay’s payroll and leased back to the clients. The California Self-Insurers’ Security Fund (SISF) assumed the workers’ compensation obligations when Mainstay defaulted on its obligations to self-insure. SISF then sued Mainstay, Mainstay’s clients and others to recover its costs and liabilities. Among other things, the trial court granted SISF’s motion for judgment on the pleadings against Mainstay’s clients. Mainstay’s clients filed a petition for writ of mandate and/or prohibition to challenge the trial court’s order. SISF argued on appeal: (1) writ review was not appropriate because the main issue presented was rendered moot by the enactment of Labor Code section 3701.9. On the merits, Mainstay’s clients argued: (2) SISF’s claim was subject to the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers Compensation Act and should have been brought before the Workers Compensation Appeals Board; and (3) their agreements with Mainstay in compliance with Labor Code section 3602(d) serve to bar SISF’s civil action. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "American Cargo Express v. Super Ct." on Justia Law

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Wiseman filed suit seeking to recover "carrying charges" it paid Southern on the theory that those charges were not permitted by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. The trial court ruled that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Department) has exclusive jurisdiction over Wiseman's claims because its allegations directly implicate the sale of alcohol. The Court of Appeal held that, although the Department does have exclusive jurisdiction to issue, deny, suspend and revoke alcoholic beverage licenses according to terms of the ABC Act and regulations adopted pursuant to it, the consequences of committing a violation of the ABC Act by imposing charges of the type collected by Southern from Wiseman in this case were not limited to those which the Department may impose on its licensees and did not bar the contract, unfair competition and declaratory relief claims alleged in Wiseman's complaint. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's order sustaining Southern's demurrer and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wiseman Park v. Southern Glazer's Wine and Spirits" on Justia Law

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Vallejo’s zoning code does not recognize medical marijuana dispensaries as a permitted land use. An unpermitted use is “a public nuisance.” Vallejo recently adopted Ordinance No. 1715 granting limited immunity to medical marijuana dispensaries that meet various requirements, including the past payment of local business taxes. NCORP4, a nonprofit corporation, operates a Vallejo medical marijuana dispensary. Vallejo denied NCORP4’s application for limited immunity for failure to pay taxes, among other reasons, but the dispensary continues to operate. The city sought to enjoin the dispensary as a public nuisance. The trial court denied the city a preliminary injunction, concluding that the ordinance improperly conditioned immunity upon past payment of business taxes. The court of appeal reversed. State law permitting medicinal marijuana use and distribution does not preempt “the authority of California cities and counties, under their traditional land use and police powers, to allow, restrict, limit, or entirely exclude facilities that distribute medical marijuana, and to enforce such policies by nuisance actions.” Local governments may rationally limit medical marijuana dispensaries to those already in operation and compliant with prior law as past compliance shows a willingness to follow the law, which suggests future lawful behavior. View "City of Vallejo v. NCORP4, Inc." on Justia Law

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The State of California sued to recover from various insurers the costs of cleaning up the Stringfellow hazardous waste site, pending since 1993. The only remaining insurers were the Continental Insurance Company and Continental Casualty Company (collectively Continental), and the only remaining issues related to prejudgment interest. In 2015, Continental paid the State its full policy limits of $12 million. The trial court ruled that the State was entitled to mandatory prejudgment interest on that amount at seven percent, dating back to 1998. In the alternative, it also ruled that the State was entitled to discretionary prejudgment interest, at seven percent, dating back to 2002. Continental appealed. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal addressed Continental’s contentions that the award of mandatory prejudgment interest was erroneous because: (1) the award was premised on the trial court’s erroneous ruling as to when Continental’s policies attached; and (2) the State was not entitled to mandatory prejudgment interest because the amount of its damages was uncertain. Continental further contended the award of discretionary prejudgment interest was erroneous because the trial court used an inapplicable interest rate. Finding no error affecting the award of mandatory prejudgment interest, the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court did not review the award of discretionary prejudgment interest. View "California v. Continental Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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This case involved citations issued to smog technician Marc Madison and his employer Davis Test Only Smog Testing (d/b/a Citrus Heights Star Smog (Star Smog)), after Madison passed an unpassable vehicle brought to the business by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Bureau of Automotive Repair (Bureau) for a smog inspection. The Bureau had replaced the working air injection system (part of the emissions control system) with a nonworking air injection system and did not attach a belt to the pulley to power the air injection system. Star Smog was assessed a $1,000 fine, and Madison was ordered to complete a Bureau training course. Star Smog and Madison appealed the citations, and the case was heard by an administrative law judge. Star Smog and Madison acknowledged that Madison passed a vehicle that should not have passed the smog inspection, but they argued that the relevant regulations and guidelines from the Bureau were vague and did not give Madison notice that he needed to determine whether a belt was attached to the air injection system. The administrative law judge issued a proposed decision upholding the citations, which proposed decision the Bureau adopted. Star Smog and Madison filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus, making the same arguments in the superior court. The superior court denied the petition, and Star Smog and Madison appealed, arguing the administrative decision was void because Star Smog and Madison were represented by a non-attorney. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that Star Smog’s decision to send its former secretary/treasurer to represent it in the administrative hearing did not render the decision void, and Madison properly represented himself. View "Davis Test Only Smog Testing v. Dept. of Consumer Affairs etc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and appellants Luz Solar Partners Ltd., III; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., IV; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., V; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VI; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VII; Luz Solar Partners Ltd., VIII and Harper Lake Company VIII; and Luz Solar Partners Ltd., IX and HLC IX (collectively “Luz Partners”) challenged the assessment of real property improved with solar energy generating systems (SEGS units) for tax years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. They contended that defendants-respondents San Bernardino County (County) and the Assessment Appeals Board of San Bernardino County (Appeals Board) erroneously relied on the State of California Board of Equalization’s (Board) incorrect interpretation of the applicable statutes governing the method of assessing the value of the property. Finding that the Board correctly interpreted the applicable law in setting forth the method of assessing the value of the solar properties, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Luz Solar Partners Ltd. v. San Bernardino County" on Justia Law

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Dr. Leah Levi, a neuro-ophthalmologist, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of her former employer, the Regents of the University of California (Regents), and Dr. Robert Weinreb, the chair of the department of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego (University). Levi asserted various causes of action against the Regents and Weinreb related to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and due process violations. The retaliation claims alleged protected conduct under both California's Whistleblower Protection Act, and Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Levi contended the trial court granted summary judgment based on its mistaken application of the law. The Court of Appeal concluded Levi raised triable issues of fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment on: whether she made a protected disclosure of improper governmental activity or a condition threatening the health and safety of the public to support her CWPA retaliation claim and whether the Regents and Weinreb denied her due process by failing to issue reports on grievances she had filed, failing to provide her notice before reducing her salary and appointment, and failing to provide her an opportunity to cure deficiencies and return to good standing. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's order granting summary judgment and directed the court to grant Weinreb and the Regents' alternative motion for summary adjudication on Levi's remaining causes of action for retaliation under the FEHA, gender discrimination, gender harassment, failure to prevent harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and Tom Bane Civil Rights Act violations. View "Levi v. Regents of the University of Calif." on Justia Law

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Vallejo filed a petition for bankruptcy relief in 2008. Under its existing labor agreement with the Vallejo Police Officers Association (VPOA), the city paid the full premium cost for retirees and employees of any medical plan offered through the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS or PERS) and paid the full premium for other city retirees, so it was subject to the Public Employees’ Medical and Hospital Care Act, Gov. Code, 22750. PEMHCA establishes a minimum level of employer contribution toward medical premiums. The city sought approval from the bankruptcy court to reject its labor agreements. While the motion was pending, VPOA and the city reached an agreement and the city voluntarily dismissed its motion to reject as to the VPOA. Under the 2009 Agreement, health insurance benefits were reduced. After months of negotiations toward a superseding agreement, the city declared an impasse in 2013. VPOA filed suit, alleging that the city was not bargaining in good faith, in violation of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act, Gov. Code, 3500. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the petition. VPOA did not show its members had a vested right to a full premium; substantial evidence supported findings that the city did not engage in surface bargaining or rush to declare an impasse. View "Vallejo Police Officers Association v. City of Vallejo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought a writ of mandate regarding their efforts to place a referendum on the ballot concerning a resolution passed by the City of San Bruno, approving the sale of real property, the former U.S. Navy facility, to a hotel developer. There has been previous redevelopment of the site and the hotel property is only one-and-one-half acres. The trial court held that the subject resolution constituted an administrative act and was therefore not subject to referendum. The court of appeal affirmed. The city is not acquiring land for any municipal purpose, and is not appropriating any of its own funds in connection with the real estate transaction; it sold land to a private developer for a profit and is not providing any subsidy to the developer. The property will not house any municipal buildings or be used to serve any municipal function. The sale simply implements prior legislative acts, amendments to the city’s Specific Plan to permit the development of the property. View "San Bruno Committee for Economic Justice v. City of San Bruno" on Justia Law