Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Plaintiff-appellant Patrick Barber's second appeal in this case raised an issue of first impression for the Court of Appeal's review. Upon remand from Barber’s first appeal (Barber I), defendant-respondent, the California State Personnel Board (SPB), awarded Barber a lump sum back pay award, which resulted in Barber incurring increased income tax liability. SPB denied Barber’s motion for recovery for increased tax liability. The trial court upheld SPB’s decision and denied Barber’s petition for writ of mandamus. Barber appealed the denial of his writ petition and motion for increased tax liability recovery, contending he was entitled to recover damages for incurring increased tax liability because his increased tax liability was caused by real party in interest and respondent, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) improperly terminating his employment. Barber argued awarding him such relief was consistent with the remedial statutory purpose of Government Code section 19584,2 of making an improperly terminated employee whole by restoring the employee to the financial position he or she would otherwise have occupied had employment not been wrongfully interrupted. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding Barber was not entitled to increased tax liability recovery under section 19584 or to such recovery as equitable relief, because such relief was not statutorily authorized. View "Barber v. CA State Personnel Bd." on Justia Law

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The Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission's special and limited jurisdiction does not extend to matters not delegated to it by the Charter of the County of Los Angeles. Real party in interest, who worked for the County for 30 years, challenged the trial court's judgment reversing the Commission's order entitling her to a medical reevaluation under Civil Service Rule 9.07B. The Court of Appeal held that the Commission lacked jurisdiction over real party's appeal where there is no Charter provision or rule permitting the Commission to hear appeals related to Rule 9.07. In the interests of justice and because the purely legal issue may arise again, the court held that an employee is not entitled by law to a medical reevaluation under Rule 9.07B. Accordingly, the court vacated the judgment and remanded. View "County of Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services v. Civil Service Commission of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Gomes, a Mendocino County homeowner, sought to invalidate an ordinance of the Mendocino City Community Services District, limiting the quantity of groundwater he may extract from his property. He contends that the statute authorizing the district to establish groundwater-management programs did not authorize extraction limits but that, if it did, the District failed to adopt the present program in accordance with the procedures specified in the statute. The District was created pursuant to the 1987 enactment of Division 6 of the Water Code, part 2.7 (Wat. Code, 10700), which provides that the district “may, by ordinance, . . . establish programs for the management of groundwater resources.” The court of appeal concluded that the statute does authorize the imposition of extraction limitations but that the District did not adopt its program as the statute requires. The District acknowledged that the 2007 water shortage contingency plan enactments were not adopted pursuant to the statutory procedures; the court rejected its argument that the 1990 enactment of the underlying ordinance in compliance with those procedures was sufficient, and that the subsequent enactments were merely amendments of the original program that need not have been adopted in conformity with those procedures. View "Gomes v. Mendocino City Community Services District" on Justia Law

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In two unrelated transactions, Front Line Motor Cars (Dealer), a used car dealer licensed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), repossessed cars after the buyers failed to obtain financing. Dealer then refused to return the buyers’ down payments. The buyers complained to DMV. DMV instructed Dealer to refund the buyers’ down payments. Dealer refused, asserting its actions were proper under the Rees-Levering Motor Vehicles Sales and Finance Act and that DMV lacked the power to sanction Dealer. DMV then brought a disciplinary action against Dealer. DMV accused Dealer of violating Civil Code sections 2982.5, 2982.7, and 2982.9, which were the only sections of the Act which required a seller to refund a buyer’s down payment upon the buyer’s failure to obtain financing. After an administrative hearing, DMV adopted the administrative law judge’s proposed order that Dealer’s license be conditionally revoked for two years due to Dealer’s violation of the Act. Dealer petitioned the superior court for a writ of administrative mandate, which the superior court denied. On appeal Dealer repeated its earlier arguments. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the unique facts in this case (which revealed Dealer lacked a good faith intent to enter into bona fide credit sales with the buyers), revealed the transactions involved seller-assisted loans subject to section 2982.5 of the Act, which expressly required Dealer to return the buyers’ down payments. View "Front Line Motor Cars v. Webb" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Ricardo Lara, the California Insurance Commissioner, filed a notice of noncompliance against plaintiffs-respondents Mercury Insurance Company, Mercury Casualty Company, and California Automobile Insurance Company (collectively Mercury) alleging Mercury charged rates not approved by the California Department of Insurance (CDI) and that the rates were unfairly discriminatory in violation of Insurance Code sections 1861.01 (c) and 1861.05 (b). The allegedly unapproved rates were in the form of broker fees charged by Mercury agents, which should have been disclosed as premium. After prevailing at an administrative hearing, the Commissioner imposed civil penalties against Mercury totaling $27,593,550 for almost 184,000 unlawful acts. Mercury filed a petition for writ of mandate, which the court granted, reversing the Commissioner’s decision. The court found the “broker fees” were not premium because they were charged for separate services. The court also rejected the Commissioner’s interpretation of the term premium under the Insurance Code and regulations. In addition, the court ruled Mercury did not have proper notice it was subject to penalties, in violation of due process, and the action was barred by laches because CDI had unduly delayed in bringing the action. Commissioner and intervener-appellant, Consumer Watchdog (CWD), appealed on several grounds, among them: (1) the trial court did not use the proper standard of review; (2) failed to give the Commissioner’s findings a strong presumption of correctness and failed to put the burden of proof on Mercury to show the findings were against the weight of the evidence; (3) the trial court’s finding the fees were charged for separate services was precluded by collateral estoppel; (4) Mercury received proper notice of the potential imposition of a penalty; and (5) laches did not bar the action. The Court of Appeal agreed with Commissioner and CWD the writ was issued in error and reversed the judgment. View "Mercury Insurance Co. v. Lara" on Justia Law

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Goldstein worked until March 2013. The Employment Development Department (EDD) granted him unemployment insurance benefits, which he received in March 2013 through August 10, 2013. In August 2013, he successfully applied for disability benefits, which he received until he exhausted his maximum benefit amount in September 2014. Goldstein filed another unemployment claim, which had an effective date of March 23, 2014. EDD determined that Goldstein’s second claim was invalid under Unemployment Insurance Code section 1277 because during the benefit year of his first claim he neither was paid sufficient wages nor performed any work. An ALJ and the Appeals Board agreed while acknowledging that disability benefits qualify as wages under section 1277.5. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the Board erred, but the error was not prejudicial. A claimant can establish a valid claim under section 1277(a) even if he received unemployment insurance benefits during the benefit year of the prior valid claim if both the earnings and work requirements are satisfied. Goldstein satisfied the earnings requirement and the Board erred in ruling otherwise but there is no evidence Goldstein performed services for pay during that time. View "Goldstein v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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Pacifica, a California non-profit corporation, owns and operates public radio stations, including KPFK in Los Angeles. Brown was elected to be a “Delegate” of KPFK and subsequently to a position on Pacifica’s National Board of Directors. Pacifica notified Brown she was ineligible for those positions because she was a Los Angeles Small Business Commissioner. Pacifica bylaws bar individuals from serving in board positions while they hold any public office. Claiming her removal was instigated by a rival faction of Pacifica’s National Board, Brown and others with similar complaints sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial court granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, finding that Brown’s position on the Commission is not a public office. The court of appeal reversed. The term “public office” has more than one legal definition. The common law definition has two elements: a fixed and permanent tenure of office in which incumbents succeed one another and delegation to the officer of some portion of the sovereign functions of government, either legislative, executive, or judicial. The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors has delegated tasks to the Commission that it would otherwise perform itself; the Commission clearly serves a function that aids the Board. The fact that a body serves an advisory function does not preclude it from being a public office. View "Brown v. Pacifica Foundation, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved issuance of a revised permit for the Potrero Hills Landfill in Solano County, pursuant to the California Integrated Waste Management Act. Appellant Sustainability, Parks, Recycling and Wildlife Defense Fund (SPRAWLDEF) contended the revised permit was improper because it allowed expanded operations not in conformance with the “countywide siting element” of Solano County’s countywide integrated waste management plan (CIWMP). SPRAWLDEF claimed the California Integrated Waste Management Board, as an administrative body, had no right to invoke the judicial doctrine of failure to exhaust administrative remedies to decline to hear SPRAWLDEF’s administrative appeal. SPRAWLDEF also contended the Board deliberated in closed session, in violation of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded SPRAWLDEF failed to preserve the conformance issue at all stages of the administrative proceedings. The Board was not required to entertain the administrative appeal. To the extent the Board nevertheless addressed the merits, given the statutory language, SPRAWLDEF failed to demonstrate reversible error. As to the open meeting law, the Court of Appeal concluded that even if closed session deliberations were improper, SPRAWLDEF failed to show prejudice warranting the nullification remedy it sought. View "SPRAWLDEF v. Dept. of Resources Recycling and Recovery" on Justia Law

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The Division of Recycling within the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) granted Carolina Poncio a probationary certificate to run a recycling center. CalRecycle revoked her probationary certificate after Poncio’s husband attempted to bribe a CalRecycle employee assigned to audit Poncio’s recycling center. After a CalRecycle hearing officer upheld the revocation, Poncio filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. Poncio included in her petition an assertion that she was entitled to a traditional writ of mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085. However, because she sought review of a quasi-judicial adjudication, her exclusive remedy was a petition for writ of administrative mandamus under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. The trial court denied the petition. On appeal to the Court of Appeal, Poncio argued: (1) the hearing officer and the trial court misapplied Public Resources Code section 14591.2 (the statute providing for disciplinary action against certificate holders); (2) CalRecycle violated Poncio’s constitutional and statutory due process rights; and (3) the evidence of the attempted bribe was insufficient to revoke Poncio’s probationary certificate for dishonesty. Concluding that each contention lacked merit, the Court affirmed judgment. View "Poncio v. Dept. of Resources Recycling & Recovery" on Justia Law

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The Novato City Council approved construction of a solar-panel carport and a bus-transfer facility. In December 2015, two new members were sworn in; the Council elected Eklund as mayor. The Council's first business meeting of the month, on December 15, primarily consisted of public comment about the projects. The policy manual allowed councilmembers to request orally that an item be placed on a future agenda. The Council discussed both projects during the council-comments portion of the meeting. Eklund asked that the bus project be placed on a future agenda; a majority disagreed. The Council voted to form a subcommittee to study the solar project. TransparentGov sent a letter claiming that the Council had violated the Brown Act (open meeting law, Gov. Code 54950) by discussing substantive aspects of the solar project and by voting to establish a subcommittee without public notice. The City responded that it would not in the future establish subcommittees without first placing the issue on the posted agenda. In 2016, the Council amended its policy to prohibit councilmembers from orally asking for an item to be placed on a future agenda. The new policy requires a written request that must be included in the agenda package for the meeting. TransparentGov sought a declaration that the 2015 meeting violated the Brown Act. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the petition for a writ of mandate and declaratory relief. TransparentGov failed to demonstrate a justiciable controversy warranting relief. Resolving whether the discussions that took place at the meeting violated the Brown Act is unnecessary to guide any future behavior that is likely to occur. View "TransparentGov Novato v. City of Novato" on Justia Law