Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Petitioner Nicholas Casson was a firefighter for the City of Santa Ana for 27 years. In 2012, he retired and began collecting a pension from California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS). He immediately started a second career with the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), where he was eligible for a pension under respondent Orange County Employees Retirement System (OCERS). He did not elect reciprocity between the two pensions, which would have allowed him to import his years of service under CalPERS to the OCERS pension. He started as a first-year firefighter for purposes of the OCERS pension and immediately began collecting pension payments from CalPERS. Five years into the job, he suffered an on-the-job injury that permanently disabled him. He applied for and received a disability pension from OCERS, which, normally, would have paid out 50 percent of his salary for the remainder of his life. However, because he was receiving a CalPERS retirement, OCERS imposed a “disability offset” pursuant to Government Code section 31838.5, the statute central to this appeal. This resulted in a monthly benefit reduction from $4,222.81 to $1,123.87. After exhausting his administrative remedies, Casson filed a petition for a writ of mandate; court denied the petition, finding that the plain language of section 31838.5 required a disability offset. The Court of Appeal reversed: Casson’s service retirement from CalPERS was not a disability allowance and thus should not have been included in the calculation of Casson’s total disability allowance. OCERS should not have imposed an offset, and the trial court should have issued a writ of mandate. View "Casson v. Orange County Employees Retirement System" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-appellants Jennifer Bitner and Evelina Herrera were employed as licensed vocational nurses by defendant-respondent California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). They filed a class action suit against CDCR alleging that: (1) while assigned to duties that included one-on-one suicide monitoring, they were subjected to acts of sexual harassment by prison inmates; and (2) CDCR failed to prevent or remedy the situation in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Government Code section 12940 et seq. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of CDCR on the ground that it was entitled to statutory immunity under section 844.6, which generally provided that “a public entity is not liable for . . . [a]n injury proximately caused by any prisoner.” Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that, as a matter of first impression, the Court of Appeal should interpret section 844.6 to include an exception for claims brought pursuant to FEHA. Plaintiffs also argued that, even if claims under FEHA were not exempt from the immunity granted in section 844.6, the evidence presented on summary judgment did not establish that their injuries were “ ‘proximately caused’ ” by prisoners. The Court of Appeal disagreed on both points and affirmed the judgment. View "Bitner v. Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation" on Justia Law

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Appellant Ventura29, LLC purchased property (the Property) in the City of San Buenaventura (City). Appellant filed a complaint against the City alleging that Appellant “is in the process of developing a multi-unit townhome project” on the Property. The first cause of action is for inverse condemnation. Appellant claims City’s modification of an approved grading plan for the Property “resulted in an unconstitutional taking for which [it] is entitled to just compensation.” The trial court entered a judgment of dismissal after the trial court had sustained a demurrer to Appellant’s second amended complaint (complaint). Appellant contends the complaint states causes of action for private nuisance, trespass, and negligence based on the City’s dumping of uncertified fill on the Property in 1977.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment of dismissal. The court concluded that these causes of action are barred by the statute of limitations. The court reasoned that Appellant’s “action on the case” theory is based on its claim that the primary injury to its property was not caused by the dumping of the uncertified fill. Instead, it was caused by the consequences of the dumping. Therefore, Appellant argued, the statute of limitations on the causes of action began to run when the City Engineer made the modification. The “action on the case” theory is of no assistance to Appellant. The theory, in effect, restates the first cause of action for inverse condemnation. Appellant forfeited its right to object to the modification of the grading plan because it had complied with the modification without exhausting its administrative remedies. View "Ventura29 v. City of San Buenaventura" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a qui tam action against Prime Healthcare Services—Encino Hospital, LLC (Encino Hospital) and others to impose civil penalties for violation of the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act (IFPA), Insurance Code section 1871 et seq. The State of California and relator (Plaintiffs) appealed from a judgment entered after a bench trial in which the court found insufficient evidence to support their allegations that Defendants engaged in insurance fraud by billing insurers for services performed in a detox center for which they had no appropriate license, and by employing a referral agency to steer patients to the center.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment. The court explained that, CDI alleged that Encino Hospital misrepresented to insurers that it was properly licensed to provide detox services when it was not. The trial court found no evidence suggesting that Defendants presented a false claim to any insurer. The court agreed, reasoning that no authority of which it is aware or to which it has been directed obligates Encino Hospital to hold any license other than its license as a general acute care hospital. Because Encino Hospital needed no separate license or approval, and no evidence showed it concealed any provider, the CDI’s cause of action for false claims failed for lack of a predicate. View "State of Cal. v. Encino Hospital Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, six individuals employed by the County of Imperial, and the three unions representing them (the Imperial County Sheriff’s Association (ICSA), the Imperial County Firefighter’s Association (ICFA), and the Imperial County Probation and Corrections Peace Officers’ Association (PCPOA)), brought a class action lawsuit against the County of Imperial, the Imperial County Employees’ Retirement System, and the System’s Board alleging that the defendants were systematically miscalculating employee pension contributions. After two years of failed mediation, plaintiffs moved for class certification under Code of Civil Procedure section 382. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the conflicting interests of two primary groups of employees, those hired before the effective date of the Public Employee Pension Reform Act and those hired after, precluded the court from certifying a class. The court found that because the employees hired before PEPRA took effect were entitled to an enhanced pension benefit unavailable to those hired after, the two groups’ interests were antagonistic and the community of interest among the proposed class members required for certification could not be met. The trial court also concluded the proposed class representatives had failed to show they could adequately represent the class. On appeal, plaintiffs contended insufficient evidence supported the trial court’s finding that there was an inherent conflict among the class members that precluded class certification and that the court’s legal reasoning on this factor was flawed. The plaintiffs also argued they should have been given an opportunity to show they could adequately represent the interests of the class. The Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial court’s reasoning concerning the community of interest among the proposed class, and agreed with plaintiffs they should be provided an opportunity to demonstrate their adequacy. Accordingly, the order denying class certification was reversed and the matter remanded to the trial court with directions to allow the proposed class representatives to file supplemental declarations addressing their adequacy to serve in this role. Thereafter, if the trial court approves of the class representatives, the court was directed to grant plaintiffs’ motion for class certification, including the creation of the subclasses identified by the Court. View "Imperial County Sheriff's Assn. v. County of Imperial" on Justia Law

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The California Public Employment Relations Board (Board) refused to file an unfair labor practice complaint on behalf of plaintiff Rebecca Wu, a substitute teacher representing herself in propria persona, against real party in interest Twin Rivers United Educators (Union), a teachers’ union. In her unfair practice charge filed with the Board, Wu alleged the Union breached its duty to represent her in her claim against Twin Rivers Unified School District (School District), wherein she claimed to be misclassified as a substitute teacher. The Board declined to file a complaint against the Union based on Wu’s charge because Wu, as a substitute teacher, was not entitled to union representation given that substitute teachers were excluded from representation by virtue of the collective bargaining agreement between the Union and the School District. Wu argued she had a constitutional right to union representation as a misclassified teacher and as a substitute teacher. She further argued she had a statutory right to representation by the Union that could not be circumvented by a collective bargaining agreement. The Court of Appeal disagreed with Wu that she had a constitutional or statutory right to representation by the Union as an alleged misclassified employee or as a substitute teacher. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s order. View "Wu v. Public Employment Relations Bd." on Justia Law

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The Public Utilities Commission (the Commission or PUC) oversees the California High-Cost Fund A program (CHCF-A), which provides subsidies to small, rural, independent telephone companies that provide local telephone service in rural and remote areas of California. The subsidies defray the high cost of providing service in such areas. Ten small rural telephone companies that participate in CHCF-A subsidies filed this writ proceeding to nullify the Commission’s broadband imputation order. They contend broadband imputation (1) is not authorized by section 275.6, (2) exceeds the authority granted to the Commission by other statutes and the California Constitution, (3) is preempted by federal law, and (4) is an unconstitutional taking of private property.   The Fifth Appellate District denied the telephone companies’ petition for a writ. The court reasoned that to implement broadband imputation in a general rate case, the Commission will be required to conduct several reasonableness inquiries before reaching a decision about a telephone company’s rates. At this point, the “total effect” of broadband imputation on the telephone companies’ rates cannot be determined because the Commission has not made the foregoing reasonableness determinations and established a telephone company’s rate design and CHCF-A subsidy. Consequently, the court wrote it cannot determine that the rates will be so unreasonably low as to be confiscatory in violation of the telephone companies’ constitutional rights. View "Calaveras Telephone Co. v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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Defendant is a resident of the City of Oxnard (the City). Defendant gathered signatures for a number of initiatives, including Measures M and N. The City’s voters passed both initiatives. The City brought the instant action to have the measures declared void as administrative rather than legislative in nature. Defendant responded with an anti-SLAPP motion requesting that the trial court dismissed the City’s action. Defendant claimed that the City is not a proper party to bring the action, that he is not a proper defendant, and that the City cannot prevail on the merits. The court denied the motion on all three grounds.   The Second Appellate District reversed the trial court’s judgment as to Measure M and affirmed as to Measure N. The court explained that the City argued that Measure M is invalid under the exclusive delegation rule. The City contends that the initiative intrudes into a subject exclusively delegated by statute to the City council. Thus, standards that allow greater access are purely a municipal affair. The provisions of Measure M are intended to allow for greater access. Measure M is not invalid under the exclusive delegation rule. Further, the manifest purpose of Measure N is to ensure that Measure O revenue is expended for road repair. Measure N tells the City how it must administer general tax revenue, even setting precise dates for the completion of the work. Measure N is clearly administrative in nature. View "City of Oxnard v. Starr" on Justia Law

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Defendant Department of General Services and real party Joint Committee on Rules of the California State Senate and Assembly (collectively DGS) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR) to determine the environmental effects of a project they proposed which would significantly affect the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento (Historic Capitol). DGS would demolish the State Capitol Building Annex attached to the Historic Capitol and replace it with a larger new annex building, construct an underground visitor center attached to the Historic Capitol’s west side, and construct an underground parking garage east of the new Annex. Plaintiffs Save Our Capitol! and Save the Capitol, Save the Trees filed petitions for writ of mandate contending the EIR did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The trial court denied the petitions. Plaintiffs appealed the judgment, arguing: (1) the EIR lacked a stable project description; (2) the EIR did not adequately analyze and mitigate the project’s impacts on cultural resources, biological resources, aesthetics, traffic, and utilities and service systems; (3) the EIR’s analysis of alternatives to the project was legally deficient; and (4) DGS violated CEQA by not recirculating the EIR a second time before certifying it. The Court of Appeal reversed in part, finding the EIR’s project description, analyses of historical resources and aesthetics, and analysis of alternatives did not comply with CEQA. Judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Save Our Capitol! v. Dept. of General Services" on Justia Law

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Adanna Car Wash Corporation (Adanna) appealed from the superior court’s dismissal of its trial de novo appeal from the Labor Commissioner’s award of back wages and other damages in favor of Adanna’s former employee, Respondent. The trial court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction because Adanna failed to post with the trial court an appeal bond required by section 98.2. Adanna contended that it, in fact, had complied with section 98.2, pointing to a surety bond that it had posted earlier under a different Labor Code provision, section 2055. The section 2055 undertaking is required of all car wash owners as a condition of operating a car wash business.   The Second Appellate District affirmed, holding that it agreed with the trial court that the section 2055 bond was not the appeal bond required under section 98.2. The court reasoned that the signature of Adanna’s insurer’s attorney is nowhere to be found. Execution by the surety is a prerequisite for a valid bond in an action or proceeding. Ultimately, the court held that a section 2055 car wash bond is not an appeal bond under section 98.2 subdivision (b). Because exhibit A to Adanna’s notice was not an appeal bond, Adanna failed to file the requisite undertaking per section 98.2, subdivision (b). The superior court lacked jurisdiction over the Adanna’s de novo appeal, and Respondent’s motion to dismiss was properly granted. View "Adanna Car Wash Corp. v. Gomez" on Justia Law