Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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A CVS clerk sold a can of beer to a minor decoy working for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (the Department). The sole issue before the Court of Appeal in this matter was whether the minor made a face-to-face identification of the seller as required by California Code of Regulations, title 4, section 141 (hereafter Rule 141), subdivision (b)(5). The Department suspended Garfield Beach CVS, LLC and Longs Drug Stores California, LLC doing business as CVS Pharmacy Store 9376 (CVS)’s liquor license for 10 days, but CVS appealed and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board (the Appeals Board) reversed, finding that an in-store identification of the clerk to the peace officer from about 10 feet away did not constitute a face-to-face identification. The Court of Appeal disagreed and annulled the Appeals Board's decision. View "Dept. of Alcoholic Bev. Control v. Alcoholic Bev. Control Appeals" on Justia Law

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Appellants-defendants San Diego County Office of Education (Office) and Randolph Ward appealed a judgment in favor of plaintiff-respondent Rodger Hartnett that reinstated his employment and awarded him $306,954.99 in back pay, benefits, and prejudgment interest. Defendants contended: (1) collateral estoppel precluded the trial court from granting Hartnett's requested relief; (2) the court misinterpreted Education Code section 45306 in its decision; and (3) the court improperly determined the amount of Hartnett's back pay without remanding that issue to the Office's personnel commission (the commission), for the commission to make factual findings on the issue. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court's sole ground for granting Hartnett's petition, that the commission did not proceed in a manner required by law because it did not conduct an investigation, was not supported by section 45306. Office and Ward were entitled to judgment in their favor. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for the trial court to enter judgment in defendants’ favor. View "Hartnett v. San Diego County Office of Education" on Justia Law

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Teachers retired from the Salinas Unified High School District disputed attempts by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to recoup retirement benefit overpayments caused by the District's years-long miscalculation, arguing that the statute of limitations barred recoupment of prior overpayments and reduction of future monthly benefits. An ALJ upheld CalSTRS’s conclusions, rejecting the statute of limitations defense. Teachers obtained a peremptory writ of administrative mandamus compelling CalSTRS to resume payments at the original amounts. The court of appeal reversed. Education Code section 22008(c) provides a three-year statute of limitations applicable for CalSTRS to bring an action to recoup the overpayments, commencing with its “discovery of the incorrect payment.” Discovery means the date CalSTRS actually discovered, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered, the incorrect payment. August 18, 2005 was the date on which CalSTRS had inquiry notice of the overpayment issue; the action was commenced on July 6, 2012. Under the continuous accrual theory, the statute of limitations for periodic payments commenced with the due date of each payment. Only payments due more than three years prior to CalSTRS’s commencement of the action on July 6, 2012, were subject to the statute of limitations defense. View "Baxter v. California State Teachers' Retirement System" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the juvenile court declared defendant-appellant, R.G. (Minor, born in April 2000), a dependent of the court. In 2016, while Minor remained a dependent of the juvenile court, the State filed a juvenile wardship petition alleging Minor had committed misdemeanor battery. After denying Minor’s request to refer the matter for a Welfare and Institutions Code section 241.12 assessment and report, Minor admitted the allegation that she had committed misdemeanor battery. The court declared Minor a ward of the court, placed her on formal probation, placed her in the custody of Children and Family Services (CFS), and scheduled the matter for a hearing pursuant to section 241.1. After subsequently receiving a section 241.1 report, the court again declared Minor a ward of the court with “CFS lead jurisdiction.” On appeal, Minor contended the juvenile court prejudicially erred by refusing to refer the matter for a section 241.1 assessment, report, and hearing prior to taking jurisdiction, resulting in violations of Minor’s statutory and due process rights. Moreover, Minor argued the subsequent section 241.1 report and hearing were statutorily inadequate. CFS countered Minor forfeited any contention the section 241.1 report was untimely or inadequate and that any error was harmless. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the court erred by refusing to refer the matter for a section 241.1 report prior to making a determination of Minor’s status and holding the jurisdictional hearing. Furthermore, the subsequent section 241.1 report was inadequate to overcome the court’s initial error, and this error was not harmless. View "In re R.G." on Justia Law

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Cal Fire’s investigation of the 2007 Moonlight Fire determined that the fire started on property owned by landowner defendants and managed by Beaty. Sierra Pacific purchased the standing timber on the property, and contracted with Howell, a licensed timber operator, to cut the timber. On the day the Moonlight Fire began, two of Howell’s employees, Bush and Crismon, were working on the property installing water bars. Cal Fire’s investigators concluded the fire began when the bulldozer Crismon was operating struck a rock or rocks, causing superheated metal fragments from the bulldozer’s track to splinter off and eventually to ignite surrounding plant matter, and that the fire was permitted to spread when Bush and Crismon failed to timely complete a required inspection of the area where they had been working that day. On the eve of trial in July 2013, consolidated actions were dismissed following a hearing after the trial court concluded Cal Fire could not as a matter of law state a claim against Sierra Pacific, Beaty, or landowner defendants, and that no plaintiff had presented a prima facie case against any defendant. After judgment was entered, the trial court awarded defendants costs without apportionment amongst plaintiffs. It also ordered Cal Fire to pay to defendants attorney fees and expert fees totaling more than $28 million because defendants as prevailing parties were entitled to recover attorney fees on either a contractual basis or as private attorneys general, or alternatively as discovery sanctions. The trial court additionally imposed terminating sanctions against Cal Fire. Plaintiffs appealed, challenging both the judgment of dismissal (case No. C074879) and the postjudgment awards (case No. C076008). Plaintiffs also requested that any hearings on remand be conducted by a different judge. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court’s order dismissing the case as to all plaintiffs based on their failure to present a prima facie case at a pretrial hearing should have been reversed because the hearing was fundamentally unfair: Plaintiffs were not provided adequate notice of the issues on which they would be asked to present their prima facie case. However, the Court concluded the trial court did properly award judgment on the pleadings against Cal Fire. In light of these conclusions, in the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court found the trial court’s award of costs to defendants as prevailing parties as to any plaintiff but Cal Fire was vacated, and because the trial court did not apportion costs, the costs award was remanded to determine which costs Sierra Pacific, Beaty, and landowner defendants could recover from Cal Fire. Furthermore, the Court determined the trial court erred in awarding attorney fees to the prevailing parties, and that the award of monetary discovery sanctions should have been reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The imposition of terminating sanctions against Cal Fire was affirmed. Plaintiffs' requests for a new judge was rejected. View "Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection v. Howell" on Justia Law

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Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA) is a flood control and water agency. Coastkeeper sued, alleging that MCWRA had violated the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (Wat. Code 13000) by failing to report to the regional water quality board its discharges of agricultural pollutants into the Reclamation Ditch and the Blanco Drain and breach of fiduciary duty under the public trust doctrine. The trial court granted the petition as to the claim of failure to report waste discharge and denied it as to breach of fiduciary duty, commanding MCWRA “to prepare and file a report of waste discharge ... with the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.” The court of appeal reversed, finding that Coastkeeper failed to exhaust its administrative remedy under the Act, which provides that any person aggrieved by a regional water board’s action or failure to act is entitled to administrative review by the State Water Board, and then by petition for administrative mandamus in the superior court. The regional board was apparently investigating MCWRA's actions; Coastkeeper failed to file a petition for review with the State Water Board of the regional board’s action or failure to act with regard to MCWRA’s alleged waste discharges. View "Monterey Coastkeeper v. Monterey County Water Resources Agency" on Justia Law

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In this second appeal, challenging the environmental impact report (EIR) and related project approvals for two natural resource plans for the proposed Newhall Ranch development, the Court of Appeal affirmed the post-remand judgment and accompanying writ. The court held that both actions were legally permissible under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and rejected plaintiffs' claim that Public Resources Code section 21168.9 prohibits partial decertification of an EIR, and that the same section prohibits leaving project approvals in place while decertifying an EIR. The court held that a trial court has authority to partially decertify an EIR; a trial court has the power to leave some project approvals in place after partial decertification of an EIR; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in issuing the limited writ; and the writ provided an adequate remedy for a Fish and Game Code section 5515 violation. View "Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife" on Justia Law

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Appellant Dr. Robert Fettgather appealed a trial court order denying his petition for writ of administrative mandamus. His petition challenged the revocation of his license to practice psychology by Respondent California Board of Psychology. The trial court denied Fettgather’s petition on the ground that the only relevant inquiry before the Board was whether Fettgather failed to comply with an order for an examination under Business and Professions Code section 820. The trial court also found that “[t]he evidence in the record unquestionably establishes that petitioner failed to submit to the examination that had been ordered in this case.” Fettgather argued he should have been permitted to challenge the merits of the section 820 order before he was required to comply with it. He also argued that revocation of his license pursuant to section 821 for his failure to undergo a section 820 examination was unlawful. After review, the Court of Appeal held the Board was not required to show good cause for a section 820 order nor was a licensee entitled to challenge the basis for the order before submitting to the required examination. "It follows that the question of good cause supporting such an order is not relevant to a revocation of Fettgather’s license for noncompliance with the section 820 order. This strikes the appropriate balance between the public and private interests." Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's order. View "Fettgather v. Board of Psychology" on Justia Law

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H.C. a nonminor dependent of the juvenile court, appealed an order terminating her dependency case, contending the court erred by determining that H.C.'s marriage rendered her ineligible for nonminor dependency jurisdiction. H.C. contended the court erred by terminating her nonminor dependency case based on her marriage. The Court of Appeal found neither of the applicable statutes, state or federal, mentioned marriage. Rather, the statutes covered only a nonminor dependent's age, his or her relationship to the Agency, and his or her transitional living plan. A nonminor dependent's marriage does not necessarily affect any of those eligibility criteria. View "In re H.C." on Justia Law

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The Elem Indian Colony Pomo Tribe’s “Brown faction” sued the Tribe’s “Garcia Council” over allegedly defamatory statements published in a notification that warned they would be disenrolled if the Tribe’s General Council found them guilty of specified crimes. The trial court ruled the lawsuit was barred by sovereign immunity and dismissed the complaint. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court misapplied the law when it considered whether defendants issued the alleged defamatory statements in the scope of their official capacities and whether allowing the case to proceed in state court would interfere with tribal administration because they sued defendants in their individual, not tribal, capacities. Substantial evidence established that defendants were tribal officials at the time of the alleged defamation and that they were acting within the scope of their tribal authority when they determined that, for the reasons stated in the allegedly defamatory Order of Disenrollment, plaintiffs should be disenrolled from the Tribe pursuant to a validly enacted tribal ordinance. A tribe’s right to define its own membership for tribal purposes has long been recognized as central to its existence as an independent political community. View "Brown v. Garcia" on Justia Law