Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
by
Plaintiff appealed from a judgment denying his petition for writ of mandate, contending that the trial court misinterpreted the conditions placed on the approved vesting tentative map for a small subdivision he is attempting to develop. The trial court interpreted the conditions to require a fire suppression system, with functional fire hydrants to be in place, before the county would approve the final subdivision map. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that plaintiff's claims of misinterpretation are not barred by the 90-day period set forth in Government Code section 66499.37. The court held that a claim of misinterpretation is distinct from a claim challenging the validity of the condition of approval and the two types of claims accrue at different times. View "Honchariw v. County of Stanislaus" on Justia Law

by
On March 13, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in California, the Superior Court of Contra Costa County announced it would be closed to the public between March 16 and April 1 and ceased conducting most, but not all, proceedings. Bullock, charged with human trafficking and pimping, contends his custodial preliminary hearing should have occurred during the March closure period under Penal Code section 859b, which establishes a 10-court-day timeframe for a preliminary hearing. The court of appeal dismissed Bullock’s petition for a writ of mandate. Good cause to delay the hearing was not established: the Superior Court’s finding that “the unprecedented [COVID-19] pandemic conditions that California was facing directly impacted the court[] operations” is insufficient. In the absence of a particularized showing of a nexus between the pandemic and the Superior Court’s purported inability to conduct Bullock’s preliminary hearing in a timely fashion, the Superior Court abused its discretion in finding no violation of section 859b. However, Bullock recently pled no contest to one of the charges against him pursuant to a negotiated disposition. View "Bullock v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
Stanford Vina Ranch Irrigation Company (Stanford Vina) sued the California Water Resources Control Board (the Board), among other defendants, challenging the Board’s issuance of certain temporary emergency regulations in 2014 and 2015, during the height of one of the most severe droughts in California’s history. The challenged regulations established minimum flow requirements on three tributaries of the Sacramento River, including Deer Creek in Tehama County, in order to protect two threatened species of anadromous fish, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout, during their respective migratory cycles. Furthermore, Stanford Vina challenged the Board’s implementation of those regulations by issuing temporary curtailment orders limiting the company’s diversion of water from Deer Creek for certain periods of time during those years in order to maintain the required minimum flow of water. Judgment was entered in favor of the Board and other defendants. Stanford Vina appealed. Finding the Board possessed broad authority to regulate the unreasonable use of water in California by various means, including the adoption of regulations establishing minimum flow requirements protecting the migration of threatened fish species during drought conditions and declaring diversions of water unreasonable where such diversions would threaten to cause the flow of water in the creeks in question to drop below required levels, the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Board’s adoption of the challenged regulations was not arbitrary, capricious, or lacking in evidentiary support, nor did the Board fail to follow required procedures, and the Court declined to override the Board’s determination as to reasonableness set forth in the regulations. View "Stanford Vina Ranch Irrigation Co. v. State of Cal." on Justia Law

by
Objector, a conservatee subject to conservatorship under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, contested the petition to reappoint a public guardian as his conservator. On appeal, objector contends the trial court violated Welfare and Institutions Code section 5350, subdivision (d)(2), and denied him due process by failing to commence the jury trial within 10 days of his demand for trial. The Court of Appeal was deeply troubled by the significant delay of over four months in holding a trial on objector's petition, especially given the lack of any justification by the court for most of the delay. The court emphasized the statutory obligation of trial courts to hold a jury trial within 10 days, with only a limited exception for a 15-day continuance if requested by the proposed conservatee. However, the court held that the trial court's failure to commence trial within 10 days of the jury trial demand did not support dismissal of the petition. Rather, the time limit in section 5350, subdivision (d)(2), is directory, not mandatory, because the Legislature has not expressly provided for dismissal of the conservatorship petition if a trial is not held within 10 days. Furthermore, objector was not prejudiced and denied due process. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Conservatorship of Jose B." on Justia Law

by
Officer Walker, responding to a reported hit and run collision, found the vehicle. Delgado was standing by the driver’s door and acknowledged that she had been driving during the collision, that she had had “ ‘two, maybe three’ ” beers during the evening, and that she was still feeling the alcohol's effects. Delgado showed signs of intoxication. Walker administered two breath tests. Both showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit. Walker certified that he was “qualified to operate this equipment and that the test was administered pursuant to the requirements" of the California Code of Regulations. Walker signed a checklist for carrying out the test on the machine. At a continued DMV hearing, Walker did not appear. In response to Delgado's subpoena, the Contra Costa County Laboratory replied that it found no training record for Walker. The hearing officer ordered Delgado’s license suspended for four months. The DMV submitted evidence that Walker had been trained in another county but the trial court ruled in favor of Delgado. The court of appeal reversed. DMV met its initial burden by submitting the pertinent reports. There was no affirmative evidence that the test was not conducted or reported properly, so the burden did not shift to the DMV to show whether official standards were observed. View "Delgado v. California Department of Motor Vehicles" on Justia Law

by
The Orange County Department of Child Support Services (Department) has withdrawn money from Daniel Lak’s (Father) Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI) to pay for child/spousal support arrears since 2015. Father disputed the Department's authority to withdraw money, and at a hearing, sought reimbursement for overpayments and maintained the Department violated Family Code section 5246 (d)(3) by collecting more than five percent from his SSDI. The court denied Father’s requests and determined the Department could continue withdrawing money from SSDI for support arrears. On appeal, Father maintaned the court misinterpreted the law and failed to properly consider his motion for sanctions. Finding his contentions lack merit, the Court of Appeal affirmed the court’s order the Department did not overdraw money for arrears, Father failed to demonstrate he qualified for section 5246(d)(3)’s five percent rule, and sanctions were not warranted. View "Lak v. Lak" on Justia Law

by
San Diego County (County) challenged a judgment, writ of mandate, and injunction directing it to set aside its approvals of a Climate Action Plan (2018 CAP or CAP), Guidelines for Determining Significance of Climate Change, and supplemental environmental impact report (SEIR). The primary issue was whether a greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation measure in the SEIR, called M-GHG-1, was California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)-compliant. The superior court ordered the County to vacate its approvals of the CAP, Guidelines for Determining Significance, and the certification of the SEIR. The court also enjoined the County from relying on M-GHG-1 during review of greenhouse gas emissions impacts of development proposals on unincorporated County land. The Court of Appeal limited its holding to the facts of this case, particularly M-GHG-1. "Our decision is not intended to be, and should not be construed as blanket prohibition on using carbon offsets—even those originating outside of California—to mitigate GHG emissions under CEQA." The Court held: (1) M-GHG-1 violated CEQA because it contained unenforceable performance standards and improperly defers and delegates mitigation; (2) the CAP was not inconsistent with the County's General Plan; however (3) the County abused its discretion in approving the CAP because the CAP's projected additional greenhouse gas emissions from projects requiring a general plan amendment was not supported by substantial evidence; (4) the SEIR violated CEQA because its discussion of cumulative impacts ignores foreseeable impacts from probable future projects, (b) finding of consistency with the Regional Transportation Plan was not supported by substantial evidence, and (c) analysis of alternatives ignored a smart-growth alternative. The judgment requiring the County to set aside and vacate its approval of the CAP was affirmed because the CAP's greenhouse gas emission projections assumed effective implementation of M-GHG-1, and M-GHG-1 was itself unlawful under CEQA. Except to the extent that (1) the CAP is impacted by its reliance on M-GHG-1; and (2) the CAP's inventory of greenhouse gases was inconsistent with the SEIR, the Court found the CAP was CEQA-compliant. View "Golden Door Properties, LLC v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

by
Defendant ReadyLink Healthcare, Inc. (ReadyLink) was a nurse staffing company that placed nurses in hospitals, typically on a short-term basis. Plaintiff State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) was a public enterprise fund created by statute as a workers' compensation insurer. Premiums that SCIF charged were based in part on the employer's payroll for a particular insurance year. SCIF and ReadyLink disputed the final amount of premium ReadyLink owed to SCIF for the 2005 policy year (September 1, 2005 to September 1, 2006). ReadyLink considered certain payments made to its nurses as per diem payments; SCIF felt those should have been considered as payroll under the relevant workers' compensation regulations. The Insurance Commissioner concurred with SCIF's characterization of the payments. A trial court rejected ReadyLink's petition for a writ of administrative mandamus to prohibit the Insurance Commissioner from enforcing its decision, and an appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment. SCIF subsequently filed the action underlying this appeal, later moving for a judgment on the pleadings, claiming the issue of the premium ReadyLink owed for the 2005 policy year had been previously determined in the administrative proceedings, which was then affirmed after judicial review. The trial court granted SCIF's motion for judgment on the pleadings. On appeal, ReadyLink conceded it previously litigated and lost its challenge to SCIF's decision to include per diem amounts as payroll for the 2005 insurance year, but argued it never had the opportunity to challenge whether SCIF otherwise properly calculated the premium amount that it claims was due pursuant to the terms of the contract between the parties, or whether SCIF's past conduct, which ReadyLink alleged included SCIF's acceptance of ReadyLink's exclusions of its per diem payments from payroll in prior policy years and SCIF's exclusion of per diem amounts in paying out on workers' compensation claims filed by ReadyLink employees, might bar SCIF from being entitled to collect that premium amount under the contract. To this, the Court of Appeal concurred the trial court erred in granting SCIF's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Judgment was reversed, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "State Comp. Ins. Fund v. ReadyLink Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

by
When the Los Angeles County Civil Service Rules 2.01 and 12.02(B) are read together, their plain meaning is that so long as the probationer is engaged in the duties of "a position or positions" she is not "absent from duty." Plaintiff, a deputy sheriff, challenges his employer's practice of extending probation while investigating the deputy's claimed misconduct as violating the rules. The Court of Appeal upheld the trial court's issuance of a writ of mandate directing the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to reinstate the deputy as a permanent civil service employee. The court held that the plain language of the rules does not authorize the department's practice of extending probation by re-assigning deputies under investigation to administrative duty. In this case, plaintiff became a permanent civil service employee 12 months after his probation began. Furthermore, the County's arguments premised upon avoiding absurd and impractical interpretations are unpersuasive. The court also agreed that plaintiff did not fail to exhaust administrative remedies. View "Trejo v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

by
Appellant, North Murrieta Community, LLC (North Murrieta), was the master developer of a large development project in the City of Murrieta (the City) called the Golden City Project. North Murrieta sought to take advantage of certain statutory land use planning tools that enabled builders to lock in place regulations, conditions, and fees municipalities could enforce against them while a project proceeds. In July 1999, North Murrieta obtained approval for a vesting tentative map on part of the Golden City Project property. In March 2001, four months before the map would expire, North Murrieta and the City entered a development agreement covering the entire Golden City Project property. The agreement extended the term of the vesting tentative map for 15 years and also locked in place regulations and fees the City could enforce against the developer on the entire project for the same period. The development agreement explicitly allowed the City to impose new fees on North Murrieta to mitigate the effects of development, provided the new fees were generally applicable and designed to address effects not fully mitigated by fees or exactions in place when the parties entered the development agreement. The City subsequently passed the Western Riverside County Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee Program Ordinance (the TUMF ordinance), which was designed for just that purpose. In 2017, the City charged the new mitigation fees to a subsequent purchaser and developer of a subset of the affected properties. The builder made $541,497 in TUMF payments from July to October 2017, and the City transferred the bulk of those funds to respondent, Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG). Both the developer and North Murrieta protested the fees. North Murrieta asked the trial court to order return of the TUMF payments and requested declarations that the City couldn’t impose the new mitigation fees under the extended vesting tentative map until it expired in 2019 and can’t impose those fees under the development agreement until it expires in 2021. The trial court held the development agreement established the parties’ rights and permitted the City to impose the new fees under the TUMF ordinance. North Murrieta appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed, agreeing with the trial court. Though the vesting tentative map limited the fees the City could collect to those in place when the City approved the map, North Murrieta agreed to modify those rights by entering the development agreement with the City. The development agreement was a contract, which the trial court correctly enforced. View "North Murrieta Community, LLC v. City of Murrieta" on Justia Law