Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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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

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In January 2013, the family court ordered respondent C.P. to pay monthly child support. From September 2013, through August 2017, C.P. was incarcerated in federal prison. Less than a month after his release, C.P. promptly filed a request for the court to adjust the child support arrears that accrued during his incarceration—which the parties and the family court handled under the then-current Family Code section 4007.5. (Stats. 2015, ch. 629, sec. 2, eff. Oct. 8, 2015). The court granted C.P.'s request over the objection of appellant San Diego County Department of Child Support Services (Department) The Court of Appeal determined the family court erred as a matter of law in granting C.P.'s request: “Given the unambiguous language in current section 4007.5 and the timing of C.P.'s child support order, incarceration, and request for adjustment of arrears, the statutory relief awarded is unavailable to C.P. under current section 4007.5.” Subdivision (f) expressly provided that the statute applied only to child support orders issued on or after October 8, 2015, and C.P.'s child support order under consideration was issued in January 2013. Furthermore, contrary to the family court's stated reasons, at the time of the repeal of former section 4007.5 (Stats. 2010, ch. 495, sec. 1), C.P. did not have a vested statutory right to have his support order adjusted, and current section 4007.5 did not contain a saving clause pursuant to which former section 4007.5 could have provided statutory protection for incarcerated child support obligors like C.P. However, the Court determined C.P.'s request could be read to have sought the adjustment in child support arrears under former section 4007.5, which was repealed as of July 1, 2015; but the parties did not brief and the trial court did not consider whether former section 4007.5 contains a saving clause that provides C.P. with a statutory basis on which to have obtained the requested relief. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal reversed the order granting C.P.'s request and remanded with directions to consider, as appropriate based on briefing to be requested, whether former section 4007.5 included a saving clause that allowed its application to C.P.'s request and, if so, whether C.P. made a sufficient showing for relief. View "County of San Diego Dept. of Child Support Services v. C.P." on Justia Law

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The Public Employees Retirement Law, Government Code section 21156, defines disability as being “incapacitated physically or mentally.” A governmental employee loses the right to claim disability benefits if terminated for cause. The Third Appellate District identified exceptions: under “Haywood,” a terminated-for-cause employee can qualify for disability retirement when the conduct which prompted the termination was the result of the disability; under “Smith,” a terminated employee may qualify for disability retirement if he had a “matured right” to a disability retirement before that conduct; Smith further recognized that “a court, applying principles of equity,” could deem an employee’s right to a disability retirement to be matured to survive a dismissal for cause. The Board of Administration of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) adopted a precedential decision (Vandergoot) that an employee settling a pending termination for cause and agreeing not to seek reemployment is “tantamount to a dismissal,” precluding a disability retirement. Martinez, a former state employee, settled the termination for cause action against her and agreed to resign and not re-apply for employment. CalPERS denied her application for disability retirement. The trial court and court of appeal concluded that Haywood and Smith were binding as stare decisis and that “Vandergoot is a reasonable extension.” The courts rejected an argument that a 2008 enactment tacitly “superseded” Haywood and Smith. View "Martinez v. Public Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law

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An association (plaintiff, Friends of Spring Street) filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief at superior court, challenging a determination by defendant Nevada City (the City) that real parties in interest Mollie Poe and Declan Hickey had the right to resume operation of a bed and breakfast facility in a residential district of the City despite the fact that, years earlier, voters had passed an initiative measure repealing the provisions in the City’s municipal code allowing such facilities. Plaintiff also challenged a 2015 City ordinance relating to the discontinuance of nonconforming uses subject to conditional use permits. The trial court upheld the City’s ruling with respect to the bed and breakfast and upheld the 2015 ordinance. In Friends I, the Court of Appeal concluded that "while the trial court did not err in upholding the 2015 ordinance, the court did err in upholding the [C]ity’s ruling with respect to the bed and breakfast." On remand, the trial court vacated its prior decision on the bed and breakfast issue and entered judgment in favor of plaintiff on that issue with respect to its petition for writ of mandate. The trial court further directed the City to file a return to the writ, indicating it had set aside its challenged decision. The City complied. Plaintiff then moved for costs under Code of Civil Procedure section 1032 and attorney fees under section 1021.5; the City and Real Parties opposed. The trial court granted the City’s and Real Parties’ motions to strike plaintiff’s memorandum of costs and denied plaintiff’s motion for attorney fees. Plaintiff appealed, but finding plaintiff was entitled to fees, the Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for : (1) a determination of the amount of costs to be awarded to plaintiff, if any, in accordance with section 1032 and the applicable legal principles; and (2) a determination whether the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement renders an attorney fee award appropriate and, if so, the amount to be awarded. View "Friends of Spring Street v. Nevada City" on Justia Law

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A federal lawsuit, to which 49 states and the District of Columbia had joined, ended in a settlement agreement (the National Mortgage Settlement, or "NMS"), the terms of which the federal court formally entered as consent judgments in 2012. The NMS provided $2.5 billion to be paid to the states; California's share of the settlement funds was approximately $410 million. The California Legislature enacted Government Code section 12531, creating a special deposit in the treasury where 90 percent of the $410 million would be deposited. The director of finance received approval for various expenditures from the National Mortgage Special Deposit Fund “to offset General Fund costs of programs that support public protection, consumer fraud enforcement and litigation, and housing related programs” during specified fiscal years. In 2014, plaintiff community groups sued seeking 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 Special Deposit Fund to the General Fund in contravention of both section 12531 and the federal consent judgments. Rejecting defendants’ contention 12531(e) permitted the director of finance to use the National Mortgage Special Deposit Fund to offset General Fund expenditures, 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.” The trial court concluded $331,044,084 was unlawfully appropriated from the National Mortgage Special Deposit Fund. Nevertheless, noting it lacked authority to order the Legislature to appropriate funds, the trial court declared an obligation to restore the unlawfully diverted funds. After the Court of Appeal issued its original opinion in this case, defendants petitioned the California Supreme Court for review. While that petition was pending, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law Senate Bill No. 861 (2017 – 2018 Reg. Sess.) (Stats. 2018, ch. 331 (SB 861)), amending section 12531 to add subdivision (h). Thereafter, the Supreme Court transferred the matter to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration in light of the new 12531(h). Having done so, and giving SB 861 all due consideration, the Court confirmed the conclusions reached in its original opinion. View "National Asian American Coalition v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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These appeals arose from five dismissals entered against plaintiffs Roger Gifford and Kimberly Olson on their separately initiated litigation under the Ralph M. Brown Act (the Act) against the Hornbrook Community Services District (the District) and the resulting costs and attorney fee awards to the District. They contended the District’s Board of Directors violated the Act by failing to adequately describe several items it acted on over the course of three District meetings and for unreasonably limiting public comment. Plaintiffs sought to invalidate the Board’s resulting actions pursuant to Government Code section 54960.1, and also to obtain a declaration to determine the applicability of the Act to the Board’s actions pursuant to section 54960. The District contended that because it substantially complied with the Act, plaintiffs were barred from relief. The Court of Appeal agreed with this standard but only for causes of action under section 54960.1 and not for those under section 54960. On the merits of plaintiffs’ claims, the Court agreed the court erred in dismissing all but one of their complaints. Furthermore, the Court agreed the court erred in awarding costs and attorney fees to the District in all cases. View "Olson v. Hornbrook Community Services Dist." on Justia Law

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Minor Charlotte C. contended the juvenile court erred in denying her counsel's request for her relatives' RFA assessment information. She argued a number of statutory and regulatory exceptions allowed minor's counsel to access such information, including Welfare and Institutions Code section 317. Charlotte argued minor's counsel had an obligation to review her relative's RFA information due to allegations the relative had used methamphetamine and had engaged in an incident of domestic violence. Charlotte argued the error in denying minor's counsel access to RFA information was prejudicial because counsel was forced to make an uninformed decision concerning her best interests.In a second appeal, Charlotte argued her due process rights were violated at a hearing under section 361.3 in which she was not permitted to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses about information obtained during her relatives' RFA assessment. The Court of Appeal concluded minor's counsel was entitled to receive a copy of her client's case file, including any RFA-related information, upon request pursuant to sections 317(f) and 827. Here, minor's counsel's request for RFA information was overbroad and she would not have been entitled to the relatives' "RFA-related information" under the standard as defined today. With respect to the claim that her due process rights were violated at the section 361.3 hearing, because Charlotte did not request a new trial or a reversal of the order placing her with her relatives, and error was harmless. The Court reversed the juvenile court's finding it does not have the authority to review or release the relatives' RFA information that is pertinent to section 361.3 to minor's counsel. View "In re Charlotte C." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) finding that the City of San Diego (City) violated the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act when the City's mayor made a policy decision to advance a citizens' pension reform initiative without meeting and conferring with the affected employees' unions. The California Supreme Court upheld PERB's finding that the mayor's actions violated the City's meet and confer obligations, then remanded the matter to the Court of Appeal to "address the appropriate judicial remedy for the violation." The Court of Appeal declined the Unions' request to invalidate the Initiative as a judicial remedy because it concluded the Initiative's validity was more appropriately addressed in a separate quo warranto proceeding. Furthermore, the Court concluded it needed to modify PERB's compensatory and cease-and-desist remedies to prevent the remedies from impermissibly encroaching upon constitutional law, statutory law, and policy matters involving initiatives, elections, and the doctrine of preemption unrelated to the Act. As modified, the Court affirmed PERB's decision. View "Boling v. Public Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law

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The City of Merced (City) participated in the normal due diligence review (DDR) process to review what, if any, monies had to be disgorged when its former RDA was statutorily dissolved. The City did not initiate a judicial challenge to the amounts the Department of Finance (DOF) ultimately found had to be repaid and the reasons therefor. The DOF filed what amounted to a collection action, seeking mandamus compelling the City to transfer certain money to the RDA’s successor agency, and compelling that agency to transfer money to the relevant county’s auditor-controller. The City answered with a general denial and boilerplate affirmative defenses. The City then tried to challenge the merits of the DDR determinations, and later filed a belated cross-petition seeking to challenge the merits.The trial court struck the cross-complaint, declined to consider the City’s challenges to the merits of the disputed amounts, and ordered a writ compelling the monetary transfers. The City then appealed. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court properly declined to consider the merits of the dispute. However, the Court directed the trial court to modify the judgment to clarify a particular monetary amount. View "CA Dept. of Finance v. City of Merced" on Justia Law