by
The owner of Greenfield Ranch in Mendocino County subdivided the property into 25 parcels with a minimum acreage of 160 acres each. One of those parcels was divided by a 1975 partition judgment into three parcels. McLear-Gary owns the westernmost parcel (1-A). The Scotts own the easternmost parcel (1-C). The Brandon-Scotts own the center parcel (1-B). McLear-Gary claims an easement along a skid trail that passes through parcel 1-C, terminates at a creek and continues on a footpath over parcel 1-B to her parcel 1-A. In 2006, Scott replaced an old wooden gate with a metal gate across the easement route and kept it locked, blocking McLear-Gary from accessing the easement. McLearGary sued to quiet title. The Scotts had timely paid taxes on parcel 1-C; the taxes levied against parcel 1-B for the years 2005-2008 were not paid on time and remained delinquent until Scott made a lump sum payment in 2011. The court of appeal held that the covenants did not grant McLear-Gary an express easement and that McLear-Gary had not established a prescriptive easement for vehicular use. Scotts’ lump sum payment of several years’ worth of delinquent taxes did not constitute “timely” payment of taxes under Code of Civil Procedure section 325(b), so the Scotts did not extinguish her easement by adverse possession. View "McLear-Gary v. Scott" on Justia Law

by
In this wrongful death action, a jury found Deputy David Aviles liable for intentional battery by use of excessive force and Deputy Paul Beserra liable for negligence resulting in Darren Burley's death. The jury awarded plaintiffs $8 million in noneconomic damages and the trial court entered judgment against Aviles for the full amount of the award based on the jury's finding that he intentionally harmed Burley. The Court of Appeal agreed with defendants that Civil Code section 1431.2 mandates allocation of the noneconomic damages award in proportion to each defendant's comparative fault, notwithstanding the jury's finding of intentional misconduct. Therefore, the court directed the trial court to vacate the judgment and enter separate judgments for each of Deputies Beserra and Aviles, holding them liable for the noneconomic damages award in an amount proportionate to the jury's comparative fault determinations. The court also held that the summary adjudication order must be reversed because plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to raise a triable issue as to whether the deputies acted intentionally in interfering with Burley's right to be free from unreasonable seizures. View "B.B. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

by
Ahmed operated a business selling medical marijuana products in Livermore, which has an ordinance that prohibits marijuana dispensaries. The city issued an administrative citation and ordered him to cease operations. Undercover officers subsequently purchased a small quantity of marijuana from Ahmed after being required to sign a membership agreement and produce identification, state medical marijuana cards, and physicians’ recommendations. Police searched Ahmed’s business and seized financial records, approximately $26,000 in cash, 18 pounds of marijuana, and 37 ounces of marijuana oils, wax, and edibles. They executed search warrants for Ahmed’s bank records, which reflected several cash deposits of between $1,000 and $11,000 and several purchases for personal rather than business purposes. Ahmed was charged with possession of marijuana for sale, money laundering, and transportation of marijuana. The prosecution successfully moved to preclude Ahmed from raising a medical marijuana defense. The judge instructed the jury that “[t]he law allows local jurisdictions to enact ordinances to regulate use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders.” The court of appeal reversed Ahmed’s conviction. The court’s ruling barring Ahmed’s medical marijuana defense violated his constitutional right to present a defense. A local government's power over land use within its borders does not extend to, in effect, nullify a statutory defense to violations of state law. View "People v. Ahmed" on Justia Law

by
Dembowsky repeatedly hit a parked car in 2011; Santa Rosa police requested that the DMV perform a regular reexamination. Dembowsky passed the written test, and vision and physical examinations but failed to appear for her driving test. The DMV suspended Dembowsky’s license in May 2011. In February 2012, Dembowsky caused another accident in which both vehicles sustained major damage and Dembowsky’s ankle was injured. In May 2012, Dembowsky submitted updated medical and vision evaluations, which again revealed no condition that would affect her ability to drive safely during the day. Dembowsky took her behind-the-wheel driving test in July and received an unsatisfactory score with seven critical errors. The DMV continued Dembowsky’s license suspension. Dembowsky enrolled in a private driving school and later took the driving test and received a satisfactory score, ending her license suspension. On July 3, 2013, Dembowsky, then age 93, unlawfully turned into oncoming traffic and collided with Richardson’s motorcycle. The accident severed Richardson’s leg, broke his other leg and pelvis, damaged his spine, and left him paralyzed from the waist down. Richardson sued Dembowsky, the state, and the DMV. The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment for the DMV, finding that there was no material disputed fact that the DMV’s decision to lift Dembowsky’s license suspension was a discretionary act, so that the DMV was entitled to immunity under Government Code section 818.4. View "Richardson v. Department of Motor Vehicles" on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose out of the 2007 subprime mortgage crisis. In March 2014, the National Asian American Coalition, COR Community Development Corporation, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Governor, the Director of Finance, and the Controller, seeking the immediate return of approximately $350 million they alleged was unlawfully diverted from the National Mortgage Settlement (“NMS”) Deposit Fund to the General Fund in contravention of both Government Code section 12531 and the federal consent judgments. The trial court concluded section 12531 was intended to effectuate the terms of the federal consent judgments, which required compliance with the instructions provided by former Attorney General Harris in Exhibit B-2 to the National Mortgage Settlement designating the permissible uses of the $410 million direct payment. The court determined defendants’ contention subdivision (e) permitted the Director of Finance to use the NMS Deposit Fund to offset General Fund expenditures regardless of whether such offsets were consistent with these instructions, the trial court reasoned such a reading of the statute would “raise serious doubts about the legality of the statute, not only as to whether the Legislature may override a federal judgment, but also whether the Legislature constitutionally may delegate to an agency the authority to decide how millions of dollars of state funds shall be spent with virtually no guidance or direction from the Legislature.” Turning to the question of whether the particular offsets were consistent with the former Attorney General’s instructions, the trial court concluded $331,044,084 was unlawfully appropriated from the NMS Deposit Fund for purposes inconsistent with these instructions. Nevertheless, pointing out that it lacked the constitutional authority to order the Legislature to appropriate funds, the trial court declared an obligation to restore the unlawfully diverted funds and ordered such restoration “as soon as there is a sufficient appropriation ‘reasonably’ and ‘generally’ available for such purpose.” The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) plaintiffs had public interest standing to seek a writ of mandate; (2) section 12531 was intended by the Legislature to effectuate the terms of the NMS regarding the proper uses of the money; (3) $331 million was unlawfully appropriated from the NMS Deposit Fund for purposes inconsistent with the NMS; however, (4) because the unlawfully diverted funds were “in law still in the [NMS Deposit Fund],” separation of powers principles did not preclude the Court of Appeal from ordering the immediate return of these funds. The Court therefore reversed judgment in part and remanded the matter to the trial court with directions to issue a writ of mandate directing the immediate retransfer from the General Fund to the NMS Deposit Fund the sum of $331,044,084. View "National Asian American Coalition v. Brown" on Justia Law

by
In this appeal, the issue the Court of Appeal was asked to determine whether a state entity whose employees were exempt from state law requiring the payment of overtime compensation was nevertheless required to pay overtime compensation to such employees when the state entity jointly employed the employees with a non-state employer. Although the Court concluded in a prior appeal in this case that the matter should have been remanded to the trial court to permit the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to attempt to state a cause of action premised on such a theory, the Court now concluded such a cause of action would not be legally viable. Furthermore, the Court concluded the law-of-the-case doctrine did not require the Court reverse the trial court's order sustaining a demurrer to the plaintiffs' second amended complaint. View "Moreles v. 22nd District Agricultural Assn." on Justia Law

by
A certificate of probable cause is not required where the defendant's challenge to the agreed-upon sentence is based on the Legislature's enactment of a statute that retroactively grants a trial court the discretion to waive a sentencing enhancement that was mandatory at the time it was incorporated into the agreed-upon sentence. In this case, defendant argued that he was entitled to ask the trial court to exercise its newfound discretion to strike the 20-year firearm enhancement. The Court of Appeal held that it was unable to say that there was no reasonable possibility that the trial court would decline to exercise its newfound sentencing discretion. Therefore, the court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new sentencing hearing to decide whether to exercise that discretion. View "People v. Hurlic" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Augustine Caldera was a correctional officer at a state prison with a stutter. The prison’s employees mocked or mimicked Caldera’s stutter at least a dozen times over a period of about two years. Sergeant James Grove, a supervisor, participated in the mocking and mimicking of Caldera’s stutter. Such conduct reflected the prison’s culture, according to a senior prison official. Caldera sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and Grove (collectively defendants) for disability harassment, failure to prevent the harassment, and related claims. A jury found the harassment to be both severe and pervasive and awarded Caldera $500,000 in noneconomic damages. The trial court found the damage award to be excessive and granted defendants’ motion for a new trial solely as to that issue. Defendants appealed and Caldera cross-appealed. Defendants claimed there was insufficient evidence the harassment was either severe or pervasive. Defendants also claimed the trial court committed two instructional and one evidentiary error. The Court of Appeal found substantial evidence to support the jury’s factual findings. The Court of Appeal also found no prejudicial instructional errors and the claimed evidentiary error was forfeited. Caldera claimed the trial court failed to file a timely statement of reasons after granting defendants’ motion for a new trial. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed the trial court’s new trial order as to the damage award. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed. View "Caldera v. Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation" on Justia Law

by
This case arose from employment-related contract disputes. In 2013, petitioners, who were gastroenterologists, were recruited by GI Excellence, to work as physicians in GI Excellence’s gastroenterology service in Temecula, California. They each entered into separate physician recruitment agreements and physician employment agreements. The relationships did not last long: the two petitioners became dissatisfied with their conditions of employment and compensation and resigned in April and May 2014. GI Excellence sued them in separate actions for breach of the employment and recruitment contracts and other claims. Petitioners separately cross-complained for breach of contract, fraud, violation of Labor Code section 970, and other cross-claims. Litigation proceeded for about four years, with at least four continuances in the last year. Petitioners’ expert witness fell ill, and they asked for another continuance. GI Excellence filed an “opposition” which recognized the expert would likely not be available for trial. The superior court denied the ex parte application for continuance; petitioners filed this petition for writ of mandate and/or prohibition the next day, requesting an immediate stay of trial while the petition was being considered. GI Excellence filed an informal letter response. The Court of Appeal issued an order staying the trial and any proceeding requiring the participation of the expert pending determination of the petition. “A motion to postpone a trial on the ground of the absence of evidence can only be made upon affidavit showing the materiality of the evidence expected to be obtained, and that due diligence has been used to procure it. The court may require the moving party, where application is made on account of the absence of a material witness, to state upon affidavit the evidence which he expects to obtain; and if the adverse party thereupon admits that such evidence would be given, and that it be considered as actually given on the trial, or offered and overruled as improper, the trial must not be postponed.” Generally, a trial court abuses its discretion when it denies a request for continuance of trial due to the absence of a properly called and subpoenaed witness. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal determined the trial court abused its discretion in denying petitioners’ request for a continuance, and that the petition should have been granted. Therefore, the Court declared a peremptory writ of mandate issue, directing the Superior Court of Riverside County to vacate its order of May 16, 2018, in Riverside Superior Court case No. MCC1400959, denying petitioners’ ex parte application for a continuance of the trial, and to enter a new and different order granting the request. View "Padda v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

by
While serving as an administrative law judge for the State Personnel Board (SPB), Richard Fisher joined the law firm of Simas & Associates as “of counsel.” Simas & Associates specialized in representing clients facing administrative actions, including those heard by the SPB. The Simas law firm represented a CalTrans employee in a high-profile case that was being heard before the SPB while Fisher was serving his dual roles. Unaware Fisher was working for the law firm representing the CalTrans employee, the SPB administrative law judge hearing the high-profile case discussed the matter in a meeting attended by Fisher and even sent a draft opinion to her SPB colleagues, including Fisher. Fisher, however, never informed anyone at the SPB of his connection with the Simas law firm. Fisher’s connection with the law firm came to light only when another administrative law judge was asked about the matter during a local bar function. The SPB dismissed Fisher from his position as an administrative law judge. Fisher challenged the dismissal, which was affirmed after a hearing before the Office of Administrative Hearings. After a petition for mandamus relief was denied by the superior court, Fisher timely filed this appeal, arguing he should have been reinstated to his position because he was never personally served with notice that working for a law firm specializing in administrative matters constituted an impermissible activity for an SPB administrative law judge. Fisher additionally argued: (1) the 2013 incompatible activities statement adopted by the SPB was “an invalid ‘underground regulation;’ ” (2) conflicting evidence “fairly detracts from the findings” that he engaged in neglect of duty and other failures of good behavior; (3) the SPB’s decision “failed to address the Skelly[2] violation” of a missing document that was not disclosed to him prior to his hearing; and (4) his termination from employment at the SPB was not a just and proper penalty. The Court of Appeal rejected Fisher’s arguments that an SPB administrative law judge must expressly be informed it was impermissible to work for a law firm actively litigating cases before the SPB; Fisher’s conduct violated Government Code section 199903 and the SPB’s incompatibility activities statements that were in effect throughout his tenure as an SPB administrative law judge. The Court determined substantial evidence supported the findings of the administrative law judge who heard Fisher’s case that Fisher “displayed an appalling lack of judgment when he became of counsel with Simas & Associates” and “continued to demonstrate poor judgment when he failed to disclose his of counsel relationship to SPB.” The SPB did not abuse its discretion by dismissing Fisher. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Fisher v. State Personnel Bd." on Justia Law