Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between the parties as to how the County may tax Time Warner's possessory interests in using public rights-of-way. The trial court found that the Assessor may tax the possessory interests only on the franchise fee because anyone can obtain an identical franchise for five percent of television revenue. The Court of Appeal held that there was no legal restriction on the County valuing the possessory interests in providing television, broadband, and telephone services. The court agreed with the trial court that the Assessor's valuation was not supported by substantial evidence; that the County erred in taxing the entire five percent of revenue rather than the value of the possessory interests alone; and that substantial evidence supported the Los Angeles County Assessment Appeals Board's finding that the reasonably anticipated term of possession of Time Warner's rights-of-way was 10 years. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Time Warner Cable Inc. v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Plaintiff-appellant Kele Young, owner and operator of the Magic Jungle Wildlife Preserve, a wildlife sanctuary located in Lucerne Valley, appealed the denial of her petition for writ of mandate brought against respondents-defendants California Fish and Game Commission (Commisssion); California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department); Charlton H. Bonham, Director of California Department of Fish and Wildlife; and Sonke Mastrup, Director of California Fish and Game Commission (collectively, Wildlife Agencies). This appeal centered on a dispute over the refusal of the Wildlife Agencies to waive an approximately $300 inspection fee required pursuant to California Code of Regulations, title 14 (CCR) sections 671.1 and 703, required to be paid in order for Young to renew the permit for the Magic Jungle. Young raised eleven grounds on appeal. However, the COurt of Appeal found a majority of Young’s claims were waived by her making only conclusory allegations and providing no legal authority and/or by failing to provide any citation to the record. The only issues that were properly reviewed by the Court were whether the Wildlife Agencies could refuse to waive the inspection fee without consideration of the “justified reasons” or whether it was in the “best interests” of the public to waive the fee in light of Fish and Game Code section 2150(c), and CCR section 671.1(b)(1); and if reversal is warranted due to the trial court failing to issue a statement of decision. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying the petition for a writ of mandate. View "Young v. Cal. Fish & Game Com." on Justia Law

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Under the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (Gov. Code 3300), no punitive action may be taken against a public safety officer for any alleged act unless the investigation is completed within one year of “the public agency’s discovery by a person authorized to initiate an investigation,” subject to exceptions. One exception tolls the time period while the act is also the “subject” of a pending criminal investigation or prosecution. A criminal corruption investigation of SFPD officers began in 2011; search warrants of cellphone records led to the discovery in December 2012 of racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic text messages among SFPD officers. Two were convicted for conspiracy to commit theft, conspiracy against civil rights and wire fraud. Three days later (December 8, 2014), the texts were released to SFPD’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD-Admin). After IAD-Admin completed its investigation, the chief of police issued disciplinary charges against respondents in April 2015. The trial court concluded the limitations period began in December 2012 when the misconduct was discovered. The court of appeal reversed, concluding the limitations period did not begin until the text messages were released to IAD-Admin; before then, the alleged misconduct could not be discovered by the “person[s] authorized to initiate an investigation” under section 3304(d)(1). The limitations period was also tolled until the verdict in the criminal corruption case because the text messages were the “subject” of the criminal investigation under section 3304. View "Daugherty v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The South Orange County Community College District (the District) dismissed Carol Wassmann from employment as a tenured librarian at Irvine Valley College (IVC) in April 2011. Several years later, Wassmann obtained a right to sue notice from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) and brought this lawsuit against the District, Karima Feldhus, Robert Brumucci, Glenn Roquemore, Lewis Long, and Katherine Schmeidler. Wassmann, who is African-American, alleged causes of action for racial discrimination, age discrimination, and harassment in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), intentional infliction of emotional distress, and two other causes of action (not relevant here). The trial court granted two motions for summary judgment: one brought by the District Defendants and the other brought by Long and Schmeidler, on the ground the FEHA claims were barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, or failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress cause of action was barred by res judicata, collateral estoppel, or the statute of limitations. Wassmann appealed, but finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Wassmann v. South Orange County Community College Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs were 23 federally qualified health centers (FQHC’s) and rural health clinics (RHC’s) that served medically underserved populations (the Clinics). The dispute before the Court of Appeal centered on coverage for adult dental, chiropractic, and podiatric services the FQHC’s and RHC’s provided to Medi-Cal patients for a period between 2009 and 2013. Prior to July 1, 2009, the Department processed and paid claims for these services. In 2009, in a cost-cutting measure due to budget problems, the Legislature enacted Welfare and Institutions Code section 14131.101 to exclude coverage for these services (and others) “to the extent permitted by federal law.” After the Department stopped paying claims for these services, various FQHC’s and RHC’s challenged the validity of section 14131.10, claiming it conflicted with federal Medicaid law. In California Assn. of Rural Health Clinics v. Douglas, 738 F.3d 1007 (9th Cir. 2013), the Ninth Circuit held section 14131.10 was invalid to the extent it eliminated coverage for these services when provided by FQHC’s and RHC’s because the federal Medicaid Act imposed on participating states the obligation to cover these services by these providers. In response to CARHC, the Department announced it would reimburse FQHC’s and RHC’s for these services for dates of service only on or after September 26, 2013, the date of the Ninth Circuit’s mandate. Seeking reimbursement for services provided prior to September 26, 2103, the Clinics petitioned for a writ of mandate to compel the Department to accept, process, and pay claims for these services for the period July 1, 2009, to September 26, 2013. The trial court granted the petition in part and entered judgment for the Clinics. The Department appeals. Characterizing the Clinics’ writ petition as a suit for damages, it contended: (1) sovereign immunity barred the Clinics’ claims for retroactive payment; (2) the CARHC decision was retroactive because the Medicaid Act is spending clause legislation and its terms were not sufficiently clear as to the requirement to cover adult dental, chiropractic, and podiatric services provided by FQHC’s and RHC’s; and (3) retroactive relief violated the separation of powers doctrine because it forces the Legislature to appropriate money. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the Department’s characterization of the Clinics’ lawsuit. "Rather than a suit for damages, the lawsuit seeks an order to compel performance of a mandatory duty and did not result in a money judgment. Under well-settled California law, such a mandamus proceeding is not barred by sovereign immunity. The Department’s contentions based on spending clause legislation and separation of powers are new arguments raised for the first time on appeal. We exercise our discretion to consider only the spending clause argument. We reject it because the Department has not shown its obligations under Medicaid law, as determined by CARHC, came as a surprise. The separation of powers argument raises factual issues about appropriations that should have been presented in the trial court and we decline to consider this new argument." Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "American Indian Health etc. v. Kent" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff challenged LACERA's forfeiture of his vested retirement benefits based on the determination by the County that plaintiff's gambling conduct was committed in the scope of his official duties pursuant to the Public Employees' Pension Reform Act of 2013, Government Code 7522 et seq. The Court of Appeal held that section 7522.72 is constitutionally sound, but that LACERA, not the County, bears the burden to afford plaintiff the requisite due process protections in determining whether his conviction fell within the scope of the statute. Therefore, the court modified the judgment to require the County to provide the requisite due process. View "Hipsher v. Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Ass'n" on Justia Law