Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Sonia and Hector Ruiz's (together Ruiz) home flooded because their privately owned underground storm drain pipe rusted out after 50 years of use. They sued the County of San Diego (County) for inverse condemnation, and after a bench trial the court entered judgment in their favor (essentially the cost of replacing their metal pipe (the Ruiz pipe)) with a reinforced concrete pipe. The primary issue on appeal was whether a privately owned storm drain pipe located on private property, for which a public entity had rejected an offer of dedication, nevertheless became a public improvement because "public water" drained through it. After review of the trial court record, the Court of Appeal agreed with the County that under settled law, the answer is no. The County also contended the trial court's alternative basis for imposing liability, that the County acted unreasonably in discharging water through a public drainage system that connects to the Ruiz pipe, also failed. "Even viewing the evidence most favorably to Ruiz, the evidence is insufficient to sustain the judgment on this theory." Accordingly, judgment was reversed with directions to enter judgment for the County. View "Ruiz v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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This case involved claims for subvention by community college districts pertaining to 27 Education Code sections and 141 regulations. The regulations includes “minimum conditions” that, if satisfied, entitles the community college districts to receive state financial support. As to the minimum conditions, the Commission on State Mandates generally determined that reimbursement from the state qA not required because, among other things, the state did not compel the community college districts to comply with the minimum conditions. Coast Community College District, North Orange County Community College District, San Mateo County Community College District, Santa Monica Community College District, and State Center Community College District (the Community Colleges) filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the Commission’s decision. The trial court denied the petition and entered judgment, and the Community Colleges appealed. The Court of Appeal concluded the minimum condition regulations imposed requirements on a community college district in connection with underlying programs legally compelled by the state. The Court surmised the Commission was. Suggesting the minimum conditions were not legally compelled because the Community Colleges were free to decline state aid, but the Court concluded that argument was inconsistent with the statutory scheme and the appellate record. Based on a detailed review of the statutes and regulations at issue, the Court reversed judgment with regard to Cal. Code Regs., tit. 5, regs. 51000, 51006, 51014, 51016, 51018, 51020, 51025, 54626, subdivision (a), 55825 through 55831, regulation 55760 in cases involving mistake, fraud, bad faith or incompetency, and the Handbook of Accreditation and Policy Manual. The Court affirmed as to Education code sections 66738, subdivision (b), 66741, 66743, 78210 through 78218, paragraphs 2, 4 and 5 of section 66740, the portion of regulation 51008 dealing with education master plans, regulations 51024, 54626, subdivisions (b) and (c), 55005, 55100, 51012, 55130, 55150, 55170, 55182, 55205 through 55219, 55300, 55316, 55316.5, 55320 through 55322, 55340, 55350, 55500 through 55534, 55600, 55602, 55602.5, 55603, 55605, 55607, 55620, 55630, 55752, 55753, 55753.5, 55758.5, 55761, 55764, 55800.5, 55805, 55806, 55807, 55808, 55809, 58102, 58107, 58108, 59404, the portion of regulation 55000 et seq. relating to community service classes, and pages A-1 to A-54 of the Chancellor’s Program and Course Approval Handbook. The matter was remanded for further further proceedings on additional challenges. View "Coast Community College Dist. v. Com. on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of three limited liability companies' writ of mandate to vacate the California Coastal Commission's decision certifying a local coastal program for the Santa Monica Mountains that prohibits any new vineyards in the Santa Monica Mountains coastal zone. The court held that the Commission proceeded properly under Public Resources Code section 30514, and therefore was not required to make the "substantial issue" determination otherwise required by section 30512; there was no error in the Commission's construction and application of the agricultural protections embodied in sections 30241 and 30242; the Commission properly considered sections 30241 and 30242, finding that section 30241 does not apply, and appropriately protecting other lands suitable for agriculture; the April 10 hearing did not deny plaintiffs due process; and substantial evidence supported the Commission's decision to ban new vineyards. View "Mountainlands Conservancy, LLC v. California Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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Oakland requested proposals for franchise contracts regarding garbage and residential recycling services. Following a lawsuit, a settlement provided that WMAC would receive garbage and mixed materials and organics contracts; CWS would receive the residential recycling contract. WMAC and CWS agreed to pay franchise fees to the city, which redesignated part of WMAC’s franchise fee as a fee to compensate the city for the cost of implementing the Alameda County Waste Management Plan, under Public Resource Code 41901. Plaintiffs challenged the fees as improperly imposed taxes under the California Constitution, article XIIIC. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of claims concerning the Redesignated Fee as not ripe for adjudication but reversed dismissal as to the franchise fees. A franchise fee, arguably subject to an article XIIIC, section 1(e) exemption, must still be reasonably related to the value of the franchise to be exempt from the “tax” definition. The court cited Proposition 26: To qualify as a nontax ‘fee’ under article XIII C, as amended, a charge must satisfy both the requirement that it be fixed in an amount that is ‘no more than necessary to cover the reasonable costs of the governmental activity,’ and the requirement that ‘the manner in which those costs are allocated to a payor bear a fair or reasonable relationship to the payor’s burdens on, or benefits received from, the governmental activity. View "Zolly v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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M.J. (Mother) appeals the order entered following the jurisdiction and disposition hearing in the juvenile dependency case of her minor child, D.S. D.S. was living with his paternal aunt (Aunt), later determined to be his presumed mother. The Agency alleged D.S.'s father was deceased, Mother had previously caused the death of another minor, and Aunt was no longer able to care for D.S. As discussed in the detention report, Mother's parental rights were terminated after she was charged and convicted of killing D.S.'s brother. D.S. had been placed in the care of his father, who subsequently died suddenly in March 2018. Aunt assumed care for D.S., but reported to the Agency that she could not currently care for D.S. due to her own health issues. In a report prepared for the jurisdiction and disposition hearing, the Agency detailed its inquiry into whether the Indian Child Welfare Act applied to the proceedings. The Agency stated: (1) Mother denied having any Indian heritage; (2) D.S.'s great-grandmother stated that her great-grandmother (D.S.'s great-great-great-great-grandmother) was "affiliated with the Sioux and Blackfeet tribes;" (3) Aunt denied that she or [her grandmother] have ever lived on an Indian reservation, have a tribal enrollment number or identification card indicating membership/citizenship in an Indian tribe; and (4) Aunt denied she has any reason to believe D.S. was an Indian child. Mother contended the court erred by not complying with the inquiry provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Court of Appeal concluded after review that the juvenile court's finding that the Agency completed its further inquiry was supported by the evidence. Similarly, there is substantial evidence supporting the juvenile court's conclusion that "there is no reason to believe or know that [ICWA] applies." View "In re D.S." on Justia Law

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In 2017, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) released a final environmental impact report (FEIR) for the construction of two freeway interchange ramps connecting Interstate 5 and State Route 56 (SR 56) (the Project). However, before the public comment period for the FEIR commenced and without issuing a notice of determination (NOD), Caltrans approved the Project a few days later and then filed a notice of exemption (NOE) two weeks later. The NOE stated that the Project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to Streets and Highways Code section 103,1 which was enacted January 1, 2012. Citizens for a Responsible Caltrans Decision (CRCD) did not become aware of the NOE filing until after the 35-day statute of limitations period for challenging the NOE had run. CRCD filed a petition for writ of mandate and declaratory relief alleging, inter alia, that Caltrans erroneously claimed the Project was exempt from CEQA under section 103 and that Caltrans is equitably estopped from relying on the 35-day statute of limitations for challenging notices of exemption. Caltrans demurred to the petition on the grounds that the causes of action were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the Project was exempt from CEQA under section 103. CRCD opposed the demurrer. On appeal, CRCD contended the trial court erred by sustaining Caltrans's demurrer to the petition because: (1) section 103 did not exempt Caltrans from complying with CEQA in its approval of the Project; and (2) the petition alleged facts showing equitable estoppel applies to preclude Caltrans from raising the 35-day statute of limitations. The Court of Appeal agreed that the court erred by sustaining Caltrans's demurrer and therefore reversed the judgment of dismissal. View "Citizens for Responsible Caltrans Decision. v. Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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This proceeding concerned three children, ages seven, four, and two. Their parents had an extensive history of drug abuse, treatments, and relapses. After one such relapse in 2018, after a hypodermic needle was found under a sofa cushion in the family home, Orange County Social Services Agency ("SSA") petitioned to take the children into protective custody.Both mother and father consistently drug tested over the protracted course of the jurisdictional/dispositional hearing, which did not finish up until late July 2019, ten months after the children were removed. Welfare and Institutions Code section 361.5 (b)(13), allowed a court to bypass reunification services to parents if they had “a history of extensive, abusive, and chronic use of drugs or alcohol and [have] resisted prior court-ordered treatment for this problem during a three-year period immediately prior to the filing of the petition . . . .” This appeal concerned the meaning of the word “resist.” The parents in this case indisputably had the sort of history that satisfied the first condition of subdivision (b)(13). They contended, however, and the court found, that they had not resisted a court-ordered treatment program: they simply relapsed. SSA and the children appealed, contending that the parents’ extensive history of relapses irrefutably demonstrated so-called passive resistance. The Court of Appeal found it was "compelled" to break with the line of cases that interpreted subdivision (b)(13) as encompassing passive resistance, where passive resistance simply means relapse. "The bypass provision was intended for parents who refuse to participate meaningfully in a court-ordered drug treatment program, not parents who slip up on their road to recovery." The Court determined the parents her did not "resist" treatment; thus the trial court correctly offered them reunification services. View "In re B.E." on Justia Law

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Mother, M.G., and Father, A.G., both petitioned for an extraordinary writ in the dependency cases of their children, A.G. and C.G. They challenged the juvenile court’s order after a contested review hearing. The court terminated family reunification services for Mother and Father and set a Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.261 hearing for March 19, 2020. Mother and Father assert the court erred by setting the .26 hearing because there was an insufficient evidentiary showing the children would be at risk in their care. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with the parents that Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) failed to present sufficient evidence the children would be at risk if returned to their parents. View "M.G. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Government Code section 53069.4 authorizes local governments to assess administrative fines or penalties for ordinance violations. Judicial review of a final administrative decision may be obtained either by petition for writ of mandate or by a limited de novo appeal to the superior court. Humboldt County brought an enforcement action against Quezada for conditions on his property which were deemed public nuisances in violation of county ordinance. Quezada sought review of the adverse agency determination through a de novo appeal to the superior court, which reduced his penalty from $88,800 to $59,200. Although the amount in controversy exceeded the $25,000 threshold for a limited civil case, the County appealed to the appellate division of the superior court based on section 53069.4(b)(1), which provides that “a proceeding under this subdivision is a limited civil case.” The appellate division dismissed, concluding that no right to appeal exists in a code enforcement proceeding beyond section 53069.4(b) and that a superior court order after a de novo appeal under section 53069.4 is final and nonreviewable. The court of appeal directed that the appellate division vacate its order. In an unlimited civil action such as this, a final judgment from a de novo appeal to the superior court under section 53069.4 is reviewable on appeal to an intermediate appellate court, Code Civil Procedure 904.1(a)(1). View "County of Humboldt v. Appellate Division of the Superior Court of Humboldt County" on Justia Law

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The Attorney General sought an accounting relating to the Trust, alleging that Shine, a trustee, failed to fulfill his duties and failed to create a charitable organization, the “Livewire Lindskog Foundation.” The court removed without prejudice Shine and the other trustees. The other trustees were later dismissed from the case. During his trial, Shine agreed to permanently step down. Addressing whether Shine should be disgorged of fees he was paid as trustee, the court found “that Shine violated most, if not all of his fiduciary responsibilities and duties.” The court nonetheless entered judgment in favor of Shine on many of the examples of his alleged breaches because the Attorney General either failed to prove that Shine was grossly negligent or failed to prove specific damages. Based on instances in which the Attorney General met its burden of proof, the court ordered Shine to reimburse the Trust for $1,421,598. The Attorney General sought (Government Code section 12598) reasonable attorney fees and costs of $1,929,757.50. The court of appeal affirmed an award of $1,654,083.65, finding that Shine is precluded from seeking indemnification from the Trust. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to reduce the award based on the difference between the Attorney General’s goals and its results. View "Becerra v. Shine" on Justia Law