Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Between 1996-1999, Skulason was convicted of three misdemeanors involving the operation of a vehicle. In 2000, she applied for a real estate salesperson’s license. The Bureau of Real Estate initiated an administrative proceeding by filing a statement listing Skulason’s three convictions and alleging that they “constitute[d] cause for denial of [Skulason’s] application,” Gov. Code, 11504. The proceeding settled in 2004. Skulason admitted the allegations; the Board agreed to issue a restricted license. The settlement did not require the parties to maintain its confidentiality. In 2010, Skulason obtained an unrestricted license. Three years later, she obtained court dismissals of her three misdemeanor convictions. The Bureau maintains a public website that contains information about real estate licensees, including Skulason. It identifies her license number, its unrestricted status, the dates of issuance and expiration, and actions the Bureau has taken involving her license. Under the heading “Disciplinary or Formal Action Documents,” is a link to the case number of the administrative proceeding that resulted in Skulason’s 2004 restricted license. The court of appeal reversed an order that the Bureau remove the information. The Board has no mandatory duty to remove from its website publicly available information about a licensee’s convictions, including convictions that are eventually dismissed under Penal Code sections 1203.4 and 1203.4a. View "Skulason v. California Bureau of Real Estate" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Dennis Ponte demanded defendant County of Calaveras (County) to pay him over $150,000 to reimburse him for work purportedly performed on the County’s behalf pursuant to an oral contract. The contract did not contain any fixed payment, and no bid was submitted nor approved pursuant to relevant county ordinances governing public contracts. Ponte disregarded opportunities to abandon his claims after the County provided him with pertinent legal authority demonstrating that his claims lacked merit. After multiple sustained demurrers, the trial court granted summary judgment to the County on Ponte’s third amended complaint. The court later awarded substantial attorney fees, finding Ponte’s claims, including those based on promissory estoppel, were not brought or maintained in both subjective and objective good faith. Ponte appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Ponte v. County of Calaveras" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Aleksei Sviridov was terminated as a police officer for the City of San Diego. In the first appeal, Sviridov challenged an order denying his petition for administrative mandamus in which he sought a determination by the Civil Service Commission of the City on the merits of his challenge to his first termination. The Court of Appeal concluded Sviridov's administrative claim was moot in light of the decision to reinstate Sviridov and to pay his back pay and benefits. In a second appeal, the Court affirmed summary judgment on Sviridov's third amended complaint asserting claims for wrongful termination stemming from his second termination (among others). The Cout reversed the trial court's order sustaining defendants' demurrer to Sviridov's ninth breach of contract cause of action and remanded the matter with directions to grant Sviridov leave to amend his complaint to state a cause of actin under the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act ("POBRA") or to seek mandamus relief. Following remand, Sviridov filed a fourth amended complaint seeking relief under POBRA without pursuing a writ of mandate. The court entered judgment after a bench trial ordering Sviridov's reinstatement as a police officer and awarding him back pay and benefits. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in "Sviridov III" concluding Sviridov was not entitled to POBRA relief because Sviridov did not timely appeal his termination with the office of the chief of police as required by a memorandum of understanding with the San Diego Police Officers' Association. The matter was remanded again with directions to enter judgment in favor of the City and stated the City was entitled to costs on appeal. In the present appeal, Sviridov appealed the award of costs to the City, arguing the City was not entitled to costs based upon Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist., 61 Cal.4th 97, (2015), which held that in actions based upon the California Fair Employment and Housing Act costs should not be awarded under Government Code section 12965(b), to a defendant against an unsuccessful FEHA plaintiff "unless the plaintiff brought or continued litigating the action without an objective basis for believing it had potential merit." Sviridov also argued POBRA prohibited an award of costs for the defense of his POBRA claim unless the action was frivolous or brought in bad faith. The City argued neither of these statutes applied because the City was entitled to its costs pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 9981 since Sviridov rejected multiple statutory settlement offers and did not obtain a more favorable result. The Court of Appeal agreed with the City and affirmed the cost award. View "Sviridov v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a community college’s decision to buy a plot of vacant land from a regional park district for potential future use as the site of a new campus. Plaintiffs-appellants Martha Bridges and John Burkett, residents of Wildomar (where the land was located) sued respondent Mt. San Jacinto Community College District (the community college, or the college) alleging it violated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) before executing a purchase agreement for the property. Appellants also alleged the community college violated CEQA by failing to adopt local CEQA implementing guidelines. The trial court dismissed the action in its entirety, and the Court of Appeal affirmed: (1) appellants did not exhaust their administrative remedies before filing this suit and did not demonstrate they were excused from doing so; and (2) even if the exhaustion doctrine did not bar appellants’ suit, the Court would have affirmed the trial court’s ruling because both of their CEQA claims lacked merit. View "Bridges v. Mt. San Jacinto Community College Dist." on Justia Law

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This case arose from a community college’s decision to buy a plot of vacant land from a regional park district for potential future use as the site of a new campus. Plaintiffs-appellants Martha Bridges and John Burkett, residents of Wildomar (where the land was located) sued respondent Mt. San Jacinto Community College District (the community college, or the college) alleging it violated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) before executing a purchase agreement for the property. Appellants also alleged the community college violated CEQA by failing to adopt local CEQA implementing guidelines. The trial court dismissed the action in its entirety, and the Court of Appeal affirmed: (1) appellants did not exhaust their administrative remedies before filing this suit and did not demonstrate they were excused from doing so; and (2) even if the exhaustion doctrine did not bar appellants’ suit, the Court would have affirmed the trial court’s ruling because both of their CEQA claims lacked merit. View "Bridges v. Mt. San Jacinto Community College Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Melony Light appealed judgments in favor of her employer, defendant California Department of Parks and Recreation (Department), and her former supervisors, defendants Leda Seals and Kathy Dolinar, following orders granting defendants' motions for summary judgment. Light worked for the Department's Ocotillo Wells District. She alleged numerous claims against the Department, Seals, and Dolinar, including retaliation, harassment, disability discrimination, assault, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court disposed of several claims at the pleading stage. After two and a half years of litigation, the Department, Seals, and Dolinar moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims against them. As to the Department, the Court of Appeal concluded triable issues of material fact precluded summary adjudication of Light's retaliation claim, but not her disability discrimination claim. Light's claim against the Department for failure to prevent retaliation or discrimination therefore survived based on the retaliation claim. As to Seals and Dolinar, the Court concluded contrary to the trial court that workers' compensation exclusivity did not bar Light's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under the circumstances here. However, as to the merits of that claim, the Court concluded Light has raised a triable issue of fact only as to Seals, not Dolinar. Furthermore, the Court concluded Light raised triable issues of fact on her assault claim against Seals. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments in favor of the Department and Seals, and affirmed in full the judgment in favor of Dolinar. View "Light v. Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Melony Light appealed judgments in favor of her employer, defendant California Department of Parks and Recreation (Department), and her former supervisors, defendants Leda Seals and Kathy Dolinar, following orders granting defendants' motions for summary judgment. Light worked for the Department's Ocotillo Wells District. She alleged numerous claims against the Department, Seals, and Dolinar, including retaliation, harassment, disability discrimination, assault, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court disposed of several claims at the pleading stage. After two and a half years of litigation, the Department, Seals, and Dolinar moved for summary judgment on the remaining claims against them. As to the Department, the Court of Appeal concluded triable issues of material fact precluded summary adjudication of Light's retaliation claim, but not her disability discrimination claim. Light's claim against the Department for failure to prevent retaliation or discrimination therefore survived based on the retaliation claim. As to Seals and Dolinar, the Court concluded contrary to the trial court that workers' compensation exclusivity did not bar Light's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under the circumstances here. However, as to the merits of that claim, the Court concluded Light has raised a triable issue of fact only as to Seals, not Dolinar. Furthermore, the Court concluded Light raised triable issues of fact on her assault claim against Seals. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments in favor of the Department and Seals, and affirmed in full the judgment in favor of Dolinar. View "Light v. Calif. Dept. of Parks & Rec." on Justia Law

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In a 2005 Cooperation and Option Agreement to facilitate Russell's construction and operation of the Energy Center, a natural gas-fired, combined cycle electric generating facility in Hayward, the city granted Russell an option to purchase 12.5 acres of city-owned land as the Energy Center's site and promised to help Russell obtain permits, approvals, and water treatment services. Russell conveyed a 3.5-acre parcel to the city. The Agreement's “Payments Clause” prohibited the city from imposing any taxes on the “development, construction, ownership and operation” of the Energy Center except taxes tethered to real estate ownership. In 2009, Hayward voters approved an ordinance that imposes “a tax upon every person using electricity in the City. … at the rate of five and one-half percent (5.5%) of the charges made for such electricity” with a similar provision regarding gas usage. Russell began building the Energy Center in 2010. In 2011, the city informed Russell it must pay the utility tax. The Energy Center is operational.The court of appeal affirmed a holding that the Payments Clause was unenforceable as violating California Constitution article XIII, section 31, which provides “[t]he power to tax may not be surrendered or suspended by grant or contract.” Russell may amend its complaint to allege a quasi-contractual restitution claim. View "Russell City Energy Co. v. City of Hayward" on Justia Law

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Prior to its dissolution, Culver City’s former redevelopment agency made an unauthorized transfer to the City of about $12.5 million. The Department of Finance (DOF) discovered the unauthorized transfer after the former redevelopment agency was dissolved and the City took over as the successor agency. Based on that discovery, DOF authorized the county auditor-controller to reduce by about $12.5 million the tax increment revenue made available to the successor agency to pay the successor agency’s enforceable obligations. In a prior action, the Sacramento Superior Court held that the former redevelopment agency should have retained the $12.5 million to pay its bills rather than transferring it to the City. DOF did not seek an order requiring the City to repay the $12.5 million. And neither party appealed the superior court’s judgment. Since judgment was entered in “Culver City I”, the City has not repaid the $12.5 million to the successor agency, and DOF has continued to authorize successive reductions to the allotment of tax increment revenue to the successor agency to pay its enforceable obligations. DOF asserts that those funds held by the City are available to the successor agency for payment of its enforceable obligations, but the City maintains that it has no duty to pay the money back. In this action, the City, both in its municipal capacity and as the successor agency of the former redevelopment agency, sought mandamus relief to stop DOF’s successive reductions of tax increment revenue to pay the successor agency’s enforceable obligations. DOF sought an order reversing the former redevelopment agency’s transfer of $12.5 million to the City and requiring the City to return the money. The superior court in this action held that DOF’s successive reductions were not authorized by the Dissolution Law. Based on this holding, the superior court granted the City’s petition for writ of mandate. While recognizing Culver City I’s holding that the former redevelopment agency’ss transfer to the City was unauthorized, the superior court denied DOF’s petition for an equitable writ of mandate requiring the return of the money because there was a statutory remedy for this situation. The State Controller conducted a review and ordered the City to return the $12.5 million to the successor agency. DOF appealed, asserting that the superior court erred by: (1) denying DOF’s petition for writ of mandate directing the City to return the money and (2) finding that successive reductions to the tax increment revenue provided to the successor agency for the same $12.5 million held by the City was not authorized by the Dissolution Law. The Court of Appeal affirmed. View "City of Culver City v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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Tetrachloroethylene (also known as perchloroethylene or PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), were detected in groundwater drawn from a drinking water well in the South Basin area operated by the Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD). The Orange County Water District (District) undertook efforts to identify the source of groundwater contamination and engaged consultants to recommend further avenues of investigation. Although the District's investigation has continued, it had not yet developed a final treatment plan or remediated any contamination by the time of the underlying litigation. During its investigation, the District filed suit against various current and former owners and operators of certain sites in the South Basin area that it believed were in some way responsible for groundwater contamination. The District asserted statutory claims for damages under the Carpenter-Presley Tanner Hazardous Substance Account Act (HSAA) and the Orange County Water District Act (OCWD Act) and for declaratory relief. The District also asserted common law claims for negligence, nuisance, and trespass. Following numerous motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication, and a limited bench trial on the District's ability to bring suit under the HSAA, the trial court entered judgments in favor of the defendants on all of the District's claims. The District appealed, challenging the judgments on numerous grounds. The Court of Appeal confirmed that the HSAA allowed the District to bring suit under the circumstances here, and that the District could recover certain remediation-related investigatory costs under the OCWD Act. The Court also addressed the HSAA's nonretroactivity provision and concluded its requirements were not satisfied here. Furthermore, the Court concluded the theory of continuous accrual applies to the District's negligence cause of action, such that no defendant except one has shown the statute of limitations barred that claim. As to the District's causes of action for trespass and nuisance, the Court concluded the District raised a triable issue of fact regarding its potential groundwater rights in the South Basin. In doing so, the Court addressed the State’s potential interests in groundwater (as allegedly delegated to the District), the District's regulatory powers over groundwater, and its rights based on its groundwater replenishment or recharge activities. The Court concluded the District's potential rights in groundwater were insufficient, on the current record in this case, to maintain a trespass cause of action. However, triable issues of fact precluded summary judgment on the District's nuisance claim for all defendants except one. Finally, the Court concluded most of defendants' site-specific arguments (primarily based on causation) did not entitle them to summary adjudication of any causes of action. The judgments will therefore be affirmed in part and reversed in part. View "Orange Co. Water Dist. v. Sabic Innovative Plastics" on Justia Law