Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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In 1996, California voters adopted Proposition 218 (as approved by voters Gen. Elec. Nov. 5, 1996, eff. Nov. 6, 1996 [as of Nov. 14, 2018], archived at ) (Proposition 218) to add article XIII C to the California Constitution by which they expressly reserved their right to challenge local taxes, assessments, fees, and charges by initiative. At issue in this case was whether section 3 of article XIII C to the California Constitution silently repealed voters’ right to challenge by referendum the same local levies for which they expressly preserved their power of initiative. The City of Dunsmuir (City) rejected a referendum measure submitted by one its residents, Leslie Wilde. The City rejected the referendum even though there was no dispute Wilde gathered sufficient voter signatures to qualify the referendum for the ballot to repeal Resolution 2016-02 that established a new water rate master plan. The City’s concluded its resolution establishing new water rates was not subject to referendum, but only voter initiative. Wilde petitioned for a writ of mandate in superior court to place the referendum on the ballot. At the same time, Wilde gathered sufficient voter signatures to place an initiative on the ballot to establish a different water rate plan. The trial court denied Wilde’s petition, and the City’s voters rejected Wilde’s initiative, Measure W. On appeal, Wilde contended the trial court erred in refusing to order the City to place her referendum on the ballot. The Court of Appeal concluded this appeal was not moot, and that the voters’ rejection of Wilde’s initiative water rate plan did not establish that the voters would necessarily have rejected Wilde’s referendum on the City’s water rate plan. On the merits, the Court concluded the voters’ adoption of Proposition 218 did not abridge voters’ right to challenge local resolutions and ordinances by referendum. The trial court erred in finding the City’s water rate plan was an administrative decision not subject to voter referendum. The resolution adopting an extensive water upgrade project funded by a new water rate plan was legislative in nature and therefore subject to voter referendum. View "Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir" on Justia Law

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This case involved challenges by the High Sierra Rural Alliance (High Sierra) to the Plumas County’s general plan update and the final environmental impact report (EIR). All of High Sierra’s challenges related to these documents’ treatment of possible growth outside of the County’s planning areas. Specifically, High Sierra contended: (1) the County’s general plan update violated the California Timberland Productivity Act of 1982 (Timberland Act) by determining a residence or structure on a parcel zoned as a timberland production zone is necessarily compatible with timber operations; (2) the general plan update violated Government Code section 51104; (3) the County violated CEQA by failing to properly address the potentially significant impacts of allowing construction of multiple buildings covering up to two acres on a single parcel without any discretionary review or mitigation policies to protect the environment; (4) the County’s EIR was defective because it did not properly describe or disclose the potentially significant impacts of allowing new clustered subdivision development in rural areas under general plan update policy number LU1.1.4; and (5) the County should be required to recirculate the final EIR because the County added significant information regarding development after the close of the public comment period. The Court of Appeal concluded the County’s general plan update did not violate the Timberland Act by failing to recite the statutory language in Government Code section 51104. And the County’s EIR is not deficient for lack of study regarding the effects of section 51104 on the construction of residences and structures in timberland production zone parcels. The Court also concluded the EIR adequately analyzed reasonably foreseeable development within the County, including impacts that could be expected outside the planning areas. The Court agreed with the trial court that the County reasonably crafted the EIR as “a first-tier environmental document that assesses and documents the broad environmental impacts of a program with the understanding that a more detailed site-specific review may be required to asses future projects implemented under the program.” View "High Sierra Rural Alliance v. County of Plumas" on Justia Law

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Proposition L was enacted to prohibit the construction of additional billboards within the city limits of Pomona. Plaintiffs filed a petition for a writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory relief, alleging that the city council's adoption of the July 2014 "amendment" to a billboard advertising agreement was in fact a new agreement for new billboards enacted in violation of Prop. L. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of the petition. The court held that plaintiffs had public interest standing to pursue this action, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by finding that Regency was not indispensable to the litigation. On the merits, the court held that the trial court correctly concluded that Pomona violated its duty to comply with Prop. L by entering into a contract that directly violated its terms. In the alternative, Pomona's exercise of its discretion in such a way as to ignore Prop. L constituted an abuse of that discretion that the court properly could have found arbitrary, capricious, or lacking in evidentiary support. Finally, the court rejected Pomona's argument that the July 2014 agreement was a new contract; affirmed the trial court's award of attorney's fees; and denied sanctions. View "Citizens for Amending Proposition L v. City of Pomona" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Edward Manavian held a career executive assignment (CEA) position as chief of the Criminal Intelligence Bureau (Bureau), part of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Assignment by appointment to such a position does not confer any rights or status in the position other than provided in Article 9 . . . of [Government Code] Chapter 2.5 of Part 2.6.” The rights conferred by article 9 are the rights of all civil service employees relating to punitive actions, except that the termination of a CEA is not a punitive action. CEA positions are part of the general civil service system, but an employee enjoys no tenure. Manavian’s job description was to cooperate with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to prevent terrorism and related criminal activity. However, Manavian’s relationships with state and federal decisionmakers were not good. The director and deputy director of the state Office of Homeland Security refused to work with Manavian. Richard Oules, Manavian’s superior, decided to terminate Manavian’s CEA position because of his dysfunctional relationship with federal and state representatives, and because of Manavian’s hostility toward Oules. Manavian sued, his complaint contained a long list of grievances. Manavian also claims that certain actions he took in liaising with other state and federal homeland security representatives, then reporting potentially illegal policy proposals, were protected by the California whistleblower statutes. The Court of Appeal concluded that the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBRA) protections were not triggered by the termination of Manavian’s CEA position, and that he was not protected as a whistleblower. View "Manavian v. Dept. of Justice" on Justia Law

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Guerrero came from Mexico to the U.S. with his parents in 1990 at age 11. In 1995, he created a false Social Security number (SSN) to get a job. He secured a legitimate SSN in 2007. He became a U.S. citizen in 2011. He applied to become a correctional officer with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). He passed written and physical exams and was placed on the eligibility list. CDCR’s background questionnaire asked, “Have you ever had or used a social security number other than the one you used on this questionnaire?” Guerrero answered “yes” and explained. Based on that answer, CDCR informed Guerrero he was no longer eligible to become a correctional officer. The State Personnel Board upheld the decision. Guerro filed a federal suit, citing title VII; California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (Government Code, 12940); national origin discrimination in a state-conducted program (Government Code 11135); 42 U.S.C. 1983; and state equal protection and due process violations. The federal court dismissed the state law claims on Eleventh Amendment grounds, effectively limiting potential money recovery to backpay. To recoup damages, Guerrero filed suit in state court. After Guerrero won judgment in the federal action, the superior court dismissed his state claims under California claim preclusion principles. The court of appeal reversed, reasoning that federal law, not California law, governs the preclusive effect of the federal judgment, and provides an exception to claim preclusion where jurisdictional limitations in a prior suit blocked a request for complete relief. View "Guerrero v. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation" on Justia Law

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Assembly Bill 96, which imposed tough new restrictions on the sale and importation of ivory and rhinoceros horn, was not unconstitutionally vague. Assembly Bill 96 took effect July 1, 2016 as Fish & Game Code section 2022. The Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment in favor of the Department in an action filed by the Institute, seeking to block implementation of the law. The court held that the exception for activities authorized by the federal government was not vague on its face, because federal statutes and other provisions that might overlap with section 2022 could be ascertained. The court also held that the Institute improperly raised federal preemption, and its challenges to exceptions for antique and musical instruments was primarily hypothetical. View "Ivory Education Institute v. Department of Fish & Wildlife" on Justia Law

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BDE is a licensed C-10 electrical contractor. Labor Code section 108.2(a) requires individuals who perform work as electricians to be certified. Uncertified persons seeking the on-the-job experience necessary for certification may perform electrical work under the direct supervision of a certified electrician. Willful violations may result in the suspension or revocation of a C-10 license. The Contractors’ State License Board alleged that uncertified BDE employees performed work that required certification and that BDE trainees performed work without the required supervision. BDE argued that the Board’s interpretation of the Code was erroneous. An ALJ rejected BDE’s contention that “certified electricians are required only when a device is attached to the wires at the end of the electrical project,” and recommended revocation of BDE’s license. While the administrative proceeding was pending, BDE sought a judicial declaration defining the terms “electrician,” “electrical work,” and “direct supervision” as used in the statute or a declaration that the terms are unconstitutionally vague. The court overruled the Board’s demurrer. The court of appeal disagreed. Since the statutes provide BDE with an administrative remedy, it must exhaust that remedy before seeking redress in court. While statutory interpretation is ultimately a judicial function, BDE can seek a judicial interpretation in an action under Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5. BDE failed to demonstrate either that exhaustion of its administrative remedy would be futile or that the Board cannot provide an adequate remedy. View "Contractors State Licensing Board v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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A criminal investigation is no longer pending—and Government Code section 3304, subdivision (d)(2)(A)'s tolling period ends—when a final determination is made not to prosecute all of the public safety officers implicated in the misconduct at issue. The Court of Appeal applied this definition and held that the tolling period did not end until the LA County District Attorney official rejected prosecution of all three public safety officers investigated in this case. Therefore, the investigation and discipline here was timely, and the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bacilio v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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A Division of Safety and Health (DOSH) inspector inspected an Oakland site at which Ram served as the general contractor and cited Raam as a “controlling employer” for a safety violation, Lab. Code 6317. An ALJ and the Appeals Board upheld the citation. After the ALJ issued a decision upholding the citation, Raam filed a timely petition for reconsideration with the Appeals Board. On April 8, 2016, 35 days after the Appeals Board’s denial was issued, filed and served, Raam filed a petition for writ of mandate with the Alameda County Superior Court. The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the petition as untimely, rejecting an argument that the statute was ambiguous. Section 6627 mandates that an “application for writ of mandate must be made within 30 days after a petition for reconsideration is denied, or, if a petition is granted or reconsideration is had on the appeals board’s own motion, within 30 days after the filing of the order or decision following reconsideration.” View "Raam Construction, Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board" on Justia Law

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In 2016, the California Legislature created two new statutes to address a financial crisis plaguing the workers’ compensation system, however, the remedy came at a significant cost to all participating medical providers and related entities. Specifically, the new anti-fraud scheme cast a very broad net to halt all proceedings relating to any workers’ compensation liens filed by criminally charged medical providers, as well as any entities “controlled” by the charged provider (noncharged entities). The Legislature created this new scheme because existing laws permitted charged providers to collect on liens while defending their criminal cases, allowing continued funding of fraudulent practices. Pursuant to these two new statutes, the Government gained authority to automatically stay liens filed by charged providers and noncharged entities, without considering if the liens were actually tainted by the alleged illegal misconduct. Michael Barri, Tristar Medical Group (Tristar), and Coalition for Sensible Workers’ Compensation Reform (CSWCR) petitioned the Court of Appeal seeking a peremptory or alternative writ of mandate, prohibition, or other appropriate relief directing the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) to perform its duties and adjudicate Tristar’s lien claims and not enforce certain unconstitutional provisions contained in newly enacted anti-fraud legislation. The Court of Appeal declined petitioner’s request to issue a peremptory or alternative writ of mandate, prohibition, or other relief directing the WCAB to adjudicate the stayed liens and not enforce the newly enacted anti-fraud legislation. The Court rejected Barri’s assertion the suspension and special lien hearing were really criminal proceedings hidden under a “civil label.” The Legislature clearly stated its intention was to enact a civil regulatory scheme and remedy; the Court determined the Legislature exerted its plenary power to create a civil regulatory scheme designed to prevent the unnecessary processing and payment on liens tainted by fraud and other misconduct. “[T]he anti-fraud legislation at issue may have some punitive aspects, but it primarily serves important nonpunitive goals.” View "Barri v. WCAB" on Justia Law