Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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The People of the State of California, by and through the Santa Clara County Counsel, the Orange County District Attorney, the Los Angeles County Counsel, and the Oakland City Attorney, filed suit against various pharmaceutical companies involved in the manufacture, marketing, distribution, and sale of prescription opioid medications. The People alleged the defendants made false and misleading statements as part of a deceptive marketing scheme designed to minimize the risks of opioid medications and inflate their benefits. The People alleged this scheme caused a public health crisis in California by dramatically increasing opioid prescriptions, opioid use, opioid abuse, and opioid-related deaths. In their suit, the People allege causes of action for violations of the False Advertising Law, and the public nuisance statutes. After several years of litigation, the defendants served business record subpoenas on four nonparty state agencies: the California State Board of Registered Nursing (Nursing Board), the California State Board of Pharmacy (Pharmacy Board), the Medical Board of California (Medical Board), and the California Department of Justice (DOJ). The Pharmacy Board, the Medical Board, and the DOJ served objections to the subpoenas. The Nursing Board filed a motion for a protective order seeking relief from the production obligations of its subpoena. After further litigation, which is recounted below, the trial court ordered the state agencies to produce documents in response to the subpoenas. In consolidated proceedings, the state agencies challenged the trial court's orders compelling production of documents. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the motions to compel against the Pharmacy Board and Medical Board were untimely, and the defendants were required to serve consumer notices on at least the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals whose identities would be disclosed in the administrative records, investigatory files, and coroner’s reports. Furthermore, the Court concluded the requests for complete administrative records and investigatory files, were overbroad and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. "The requests for complete administrative records and investigatory files also ran afoul of the constitutional right to privacy and the statutory official information and deliberative process privileges." The trial court was directed to vacate its orders compelling production of documents, and to enter new orders denying the motions to compel and, for the Nursing Board, granting its motion for a protective order. View "Board of Registered Nursing v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Saint Francis Memorial Hospital sought a writ of administrative mandate after being fined $50,000 by the California Department of Public Health. The trial court dismissed, based on the statute of limitations. The court appeal affirmed in 2018, finding that the petition was not timely and that Saint Francis was not entitled to the benefit of either equitable tolling or equitable estoppel.The state Supreme Court held that the 30-day limitations period under Government Code section 11523 for filing a petition for a writ of administrative mandate may be equitably tolled and that the first two elements of equitable tolling, timely notice and lack of prejudice, were satisfied, and remanded the question of whether Saint Francis satisfied the third element of reasonable and good faith conduct. The Department conceded that Saint Francis acted in good faith. The court of appeal again affirmed the dismissal. Saint Francis’s actions were not objectively reasonable. It is not objectively reasonable for an attorney to miss a deadline to file a petition due to a failure to appreciate easily ascertainable legal principles concerning whether reconsideration was an available remedy. View "Saint Francis Memorial Hospital v. State Department of Public Health" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent City of Norco (City) filed a receivership action to abate what it described as “nearly 20 life-safety hazards” on a property belonging to defendant-appellant Ronald Mugar. During the litigation, Mugar abated the substandard conditions on the property, and the matter was dismissed. Mugar appealed the trial court's order declaring the City as the prevailing party, and awarding it attorney fees pursuant to Health & Safety Code section 17980.7(c)(11). Mugar contended: (1) his due process rights were violated because the City was represented by a private law firm with an inappropriate financial interest in the litigation, and without adequate supervision by neutral government attorneys; (2) the award of attorney fees unconstitutionally burdened his First Amendment right to petition by penalizing him for asserting defenses in the action; and (3) the City should not be considered the prevailing party. The City argued Mugar forfeited his constitutional arguments, and it contested the merits of Mugar’s claims. After review, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the City that Mugar forfeited his constitutional arguments. On the merits, however, the Court rejected each of Mugar’s contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "City of Norco v. Mugar" on Justia Law

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The Antelope Valley Groundwater Cases (AVGC) proceeding litigated whether the water supply from natural and imported sources, which replenishes an alluvial basin from which numerous parties pumped water, was inadequate to meet the competing annual demands of those water producers, thereby creating an "overdraft" condition. Phelan, which provides water to its customers who are located outside the Antelope Valley Adjudication Area (AVAA) boundaries, became subject to the AVGC litigation because a significant source of its water is pumping from a well (Well 14) located in the AVAA basin. The trial court's judgment and adopted Physical Solution concluded that, while Phelan held no water rights in the AVAA basin, Phelan could continue operating Well 14 to draw up to 1,200 afy to distribute to its customers outside the AVAA, on condition that Phelan's pumping causes no material harm to the AVAA basin and that Phelan pays a "Replacement Water Assessment" for any water it pumped for use outside the AVAA.The Court of Appeal concluded that substantial evidence supports the judgment as to Phelan; the trial court correctly rejected Phelan's claim that it had cognizable water rights as an appropriator for municipal purposes; Phelan was not deprived of its due process rights to present its claims; and the trial court did not err in rejecting Phelan's claim to return flows from native water it pumped from the AVAA basin. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment as to Phelan. View "Phelan Piñon Hills Community Services District v. California Water Service Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are not-for-profit corporations focused on land use, zoning, housing, transportation, and open government. ABAG is a joint power authority of San Francisco Bay Area counties and cities, focused on housing. ABAG’s governing Board, consisting of county supervisors, mayors, and city councilmembers, is subject to the Brown Act, Govt. Code 54950. Plaintiffs contend the Board violated the Act’s vote reporting requirement during a meeting concerning a regional housing and transportation development proposal (CASA). The Board: rejected a motion to postpone a vote (Substitute Motion) on the CASA motion by “a show of hands,” that was reported as a “voice vote”; approved a motion to call the question on the CASA Motion by “a show of hands,” that was not reported; adopted an amended CASA motion by a “roll call,” that was reported as a “vote,” listing the name and vote of each member present.The plaintiffs alleged that the vote procedures for the Substitute Motion and the Motion to Call the Question involved no announcement “publicly” reporting the vote or abstention of each member; that the improper vote reporting of the Substitute Motion rendered the later Amended CASA vote void because if the Substitute Motion had succeeded, no vote would have been held on the Amended CASA motion; and that the “secretive” voting undermined their ability to monitor how members voted. The court of appeal reversed the dismissal of the suit; the allegations concerning the Substitute Motion state claims under sections 54960 and 54960.1 for declaratory and injunctive relief. View "New Livable California v. Association of Bay Area Governments" on Justia Law

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After the Regional Board issued a permit authorizing the County and certain cities (collectively, the Operators) to operate stormwater drainage systems, some of the Operators filed claims with the Commission seeking a determination that the state must reimburse them for the costs related to the trash receptacle and inspection requirements pursuant to article XIII B, section 6 of the California Constitution. After the Commission determined that the trash receptacle requirement is a reimbursable state mandate and that the inspection requirements are not, the state agencies filed a petition in the superior court for a writ of administrative mandamus to command the Commission to set aside its decision concerning the trash receptacle requirement. The local governments filed a cross-petition challenging the Commission's decision as to the inspection requirements. The superior court granted the state agencies' petition and denied the cross-petition as moot.The Court of Appeal held that, under Government Code section 17556, subdivision (d), when, as here, the state imposes on local governments a new program or higher level of service, the state is not required to provide subvention to the local government if the local government "has the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the mandated program or increased level of service." The court reversed the superior court's judgment and agreed with the Commission that the local governments have the authority to levy service charges, fees, or assessments sufficient to pay for the inspection requirements, but not for the trash receptacle requirement. Therefore, the trash receptacle requirement requires subvention under section 6. View "Department of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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A felony complaint alleged that on seven different dates in 2014, Martinez committed a felony under Insurance Code section 1814 by entering into an agreement and having an understanding with a person incarcerated in jail, to inform and notify Martinez, a bail licensee, of the fact of an arrest in violation of California Code of Regulations, title 10, section 2076. Martinez was associated with Luna Bail Bonds.The court of appeal reversed her subsequent conviction, finding the regulation facially invalid. Section 2076 prohibits bail licensees from entering, indirectly or directly, any arrangement or understanding with specified types of people— including a “person incarcerated in a jail”—“or with any other persons” to inform or notify any bail licensee, directly or indirectly, of information pertaining to (1) an existing criminal complaint, (2) a prior, impending, or contemplated arrest, or (3) the persons involved therein, which impliedly includes arrestees and named criminals. The section is not unconstitutionally vague but is a content-based regulation, which unduly suppresses protected speech and fails to survive even intermediate judicial scrutiny. While section 2076 might indirectly deter unlawful solicitation of arrestees, an indirect effect is not enough to survive intermediate scrutiny. View "People v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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The Presidio, formerly a military base, is now a National Park, within San Francisco's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is an exclusive federal enclave. The 1940 Buck Act (4 U.S.C. 105–110.) authorizes states and local jurisdictions to impose income taxes on activities in federal areas, or on residents of such federal areas, to the same extent and with the same effect as though such land was not a federal area. The 1996 Presidio Trust Act created a wholly-owned government corporation to manage the Presidio, exempt from certain federal laws and regulations. In 2000, section 103(c)(9) was amended to read: “The Trust and all properties administered by the Trust and all interest created under leases, concessions, permits and other agreements associated with the properties shall be exempt from all taxes and special assessments of every kind by" California, and its political subdivisions. Letterman paid the city business registration fees and gross receipts taxes. Letterman later sought refunds totaling $76,880.52, plus interest, arguing that section 103(c)(9) exempts “rents earned by subletting real property leased from the Presidio Trust.”.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Section 103(c)(9) exempts a lessee of property in the Presidio only from the payment of property taxes; it does not purport to exempt any other party from the payment of an otherwise applicable tax other than a tax on the property itself. View "Letterman Digital Arts Ltd. v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Five Asian-American residents sued the City of Santa Clara (City) contending that at-large elections for the office of city council violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 (Elec. Code, 14025-14032). The trial court agreed that occurrences of racially polarized voting impaired the ability of Asian-American voters, as a result of vote dilution, to elect their preferred candidates to Santa Clara’s seven-member city council. It ordered the City to implement district-based city council elections and awarded attorney fees and costs to the plaintiffs totaling more than $3 million.The court of appeal affirmed. Racially polarized voting in five of 10 city council elections satisfied the standard for a cognizable voting rights claim, which required a showing that the majority voting bloc in Santa Clara’s electorate “usually” voted to defeat the candidate preferred by Asian-American voters. The trial court did not err in assigning more weight to certain elections and appropriately used statistical evidence to support its findings of racially polarized voting. The imposition of “race-based districts” did not violate the Equal Protection Clause nor did it impinge the City’s plenary authority as a charter city under the California Constitution to control the manner and method of electing its officers. View "Yumori-Kaku v. City of Santa Clara" on Justia Law

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In 1990, as the result of a dispute involving concerns about affordable housing for clients of plaintiff Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County (LAS), plaintiff City of Redwood City (Redwood City), the former redevelopment agency (RDA) formed by Redwood City, and LAS entered into an agreement. Pursuant to the agreement, the former RDA agreed to deposit $11,917,200 in tax increment funds into the Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund (LMI Housing Fund) it maintained pursuant to the requirements of the Community Redevelopment Law (CRL) to be used as housing funds consistent with the CRL. In 2011, faced with a state fiscal emergency, the California Legislature enacted the Dissolution Law, dissolving RDAs, eliminating tax increment financing, and transferring property taxes, including unencumbered funds in Low and Moderate Income Housing Funds, back to local governments and schools. Following the enactment of the Dissolution Law, plaintiffs’ position was that the $10,272,916 then on deposit in the LMI Housing Fund specifically attributable to the 1990 agreement, constituted an encumbered housing asset and thus was not subject to remit to the county auditor-controller. However, defendant Department of Finance (DOF) concluded these funds were unencumbered and directed the funds be remitted. Plaintiffs each filed writ petitions and complaints against DOF asserting that the funds were encumbered assets under the 1990 agreement and various provisions of the Dissolution Law and the CRL. The trial court denied the petitions, concluding that the subject funds were unencumbered, were not enforceable obligations within the meaning of the Dissolution Law, and were available for distribution to the local taxing entities. Plaintiffs separately appealed and the Court of Appeal granted plaintiffs’ motion to consolidate the appeals. Together plaintiffs asserted: (1) the 1990 agreement constituted an enforceable obligation; and (2) the $10,272,916 on deposit pursuant to the agreement could not be transferred to the taxing entities because the funds “are legally restricted as to purpose” within the meaning of Health & Safety Code section 34179.5 (c)(5)(B) and “are legally or contractually dedicated or restricted for the funding of an enforceable obligation” within the meaning of section 34179.5 (c)(5)(D). After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiffs and reversed. View "Legal Aid Society of San Mateo v. Dept. of Finance" on Justia Law