Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Respondent City of Tustin (City) reviewed a proposed construction of a new gas station and ancillary facility (project) pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code section 21000 et seq. (CEQA), and concluded the project was exempt from CEQA under the categorical exemption for “in-fill development.” After the City approved the project and filed a notice of exemption, appellant Protect Tustin Ranch (Protect) sought a writ of mandate to set aside the City’s approvals due to what it claimed was an erroneous finding by the City that the project was exempt from CEQA. The trial court denied Protect’s petition. The Court of Appeal found no error and affirmed the judgment. View "Protect Tustin Ranch v. City of Tustin" on Justia Law

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In 2019, the Oxnard city council adopted a resolution placing Measure B on the March 2020 ballot. Measure B sought to extend the mayor’s term to four years and to establish a limit of three terms for city council members. Two weeks later, Starr delivered an initiative petition to the city council. Starr’s initiative would not allow a person to indefinitely alternate between mayor and council member without a break and would establish a combined two-term limit for mayor and council member. The Ventura County Elections Division certified the signatures on Starr’s initiative petition. Instead of placing Starr’s initiative on the ballot, in January 2020, the city exercised its option under Elections Code section 9215(a) to adopt the initiative as an ordinance without alteration but did not remove Measure B from the ballot. The voters adopted Measure B, so it prevailed over the terms of Starr’s initiative previously adopted as an ordinance, and the term limits provided in Starr’s initiative did not take effect.The court of appeal reversed the trial court and ordered that the initiative be placed on the ballot. The city’s actions, rendering the ordinance a nullity, deprived the voters of the opportunity to decide the issue of term limits. View "Starr v. Chaparro" on Justia Law

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Oakland businesses must obtain a business tax certificate and pay business license taxes each year, based on the type of activities in which the business is engaged. A separate business tax certificate is required for each activity of the business unless the activity comprises less than 20 percent of the total gross receipts of the business. City tax authorities determine the appropriate business tax classifications based on the information reported by the taxpayer. Host held Port Department permits to occupy space and operate food, beverage, retail, and duty-free concessions at Oakland International Airport. The permits authorized Host to sublease its space to other parties with consent. In 2015, based on an audit of Host’s financial records, an auditor determined that Host owed Oakland unpaid business taxes, penalties, interest, and fees for rental income from subleases,2006-2015. Host had obtained a business certificate and paid business tax for its retail activities, but not for subleasing.Host unsuccessfully appealed, asserting that it was engaged only in retail sales (not commercial subleasing), that the 20 percent exception applied, and that Oakland could not collect some of the back taxes because of the statute of limitations. The Board, the trial court, and the court of appeal upheld the determination of a $371,195.40 tax liability. View "Host International, Inc. v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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In this appeal following the termination of parental rights, the mother contended only that the social services agency failed to comply with the duty of initial inquiry imposed by state statutory provisions implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The social services agency concedes error but argues that it was harmless. The Court of Appeal determined the agency failed to investigate readily obtainable information tending to shed meaningful light on whether a child was an Indian child, found the error prejudicial and conditionally reversed. "If, after completing the initial inquiry, neither CFS nor the court has reason to believe or to know that Benjamin is an Indian child, the order terminating parental rights to Benjamin shall be reinstated. If CFS or the court has reason to believe that Benjamin is an Indian child, the court shall proceed accordingly." View "In re Benjamin M." on Justia Law

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Ordinances banning “land uses in support of” new oil and gas wells and “land uses in support of” wastewater injection in unincorporated areas of Monterey County were enacted as part of Measure Z, an initiative sponsored by PMC and passed by Monterey County voters.The trial court upheld, in part, a challenge to Measure Z by oil companies and other mineral rights holders. The court of appeal affirmed. Components of Measure Z are preempted by state laws. Public Resources Code section 3106 explicitly provides that the State of California’s oil and gas supervisor has the authority to decide whether to permit an oil and gas drilling operation to drill a new well or to utilize wastewater injection in its operations. Those operational aspects of oil drilling operations are committed by section 3106 to the state’s discretion and local regulation of these aspects would conflict with section 3106. View "Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Margaret McCann appealed a judgment in favor of defendant City of San Diego (City) on McCann’s petition for writ of mandate and an order denying her request for a preliminary injunction. McCann challenged the City’s environmental review process related to its decision to approve two sets of projects that would convert overhead utility wires to an underground system in several neighborhoods. McCann’s primary concern was the need for the underground system to be supplemented with several above-ground transformers, which would be housed in three-foot-tall metal boxes in the public right-of-way. According to McCann, the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by failing to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) for both sets of projects. The Court of Appeal concluded McCann’s claims were barred as to the first set of projects because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies to challenge the City’s determination that the projects were exempt from CEQA. The Court determined the City complied with the CEQA. However, the Court found merit in McCann’s argument the City’s finding that the projects would not have a significant environmental impact due to greenhouse gas emissions was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court found remand was necessary to allow the City to conduct a further review to determine if the greenhouse gas emissions were consistent with the City’s Climate Action Plan. Judgment was therefore reverse in part and affirmed in all other respects. View "McCann v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Jenaro Carrasco worked as a parole agent for real party in interest Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (department) for five years. He was promoted to the position of special agent and was subject to a 12-month probationary period. The department served Carrasco with a notice of rejection before the end of the probationary period and stated six reasons for the rejection. Carrasco challenged his rejection before defendant-respondent the State Personnel Board (the board) and, when the board upheld his rejection, he petitioned the superior court for a writ of administrative mandamus. At the conclusion of the administrative and superior court proceedings, only two of the reasons given for Carrasco’s rejection were found to have been supported by substantial evidence. However, both the board and the superior court concluded Government Code section 19175 did not mandate reinstatement if less than all the reasons given for the rejection were upheld. In addition, the board and the superior court concluded the department had not acted in bad faith when it rejected Carrasco. Therefore, the superior court denied Carrasco’s petition. After review, the Court of Appeal concurred with the board and superior court, and affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Carrasco v. State Personnel Bd." on Justia Law

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In separate petitions for extraordinary writ relief, Michael G. (Father) and Kristie G. (Mother) asked the Court of Appeal to set aside the juvenile court’s order at the 18-month review hearing terminating reunification services and setting a permanency planning hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26 as to their 16-year-old daughter, A.G. According to the parents, the court should have continued services in light of its finding that the Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) had provided inadequate services during the most recent review period. Father further contended there was a substantial probability that A.G. could be returned to him with additional services, and the court should have granted a continuance under section 352. Father also argued the court’s ruling denied him fundamental fairness and due process. After review, the Court of Appeal found no reversible error and denied the writ petitions. View "Michael G. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Appellants Folsom Police Department and City of Folsom (collectively, Folsom) appealed a trial court’s order denying a petition filed under Welfare and Institutions Code section 8102 for authorization to dispose of firearms that were confiscated from respondent M.C. after police officers detained M.C. for psychiatric evaluation under a section 5150 involuntary hold. The trial court denied the petition, relying on City of San Diego v. Kevin B., 118 Cal.App.4th 933 (2004) for the proposition that Folsom had no authority to petition for such authorization, as M.C. was not “evaluated” during the involuntary hold. Folsom contended the trial court erred when it relied on Kevin B. to deny the petition. The Court of Appeal found the trial court indeed erred when it ruled that it had no authority to conduct a forfeiture hearing under section 8102 because M.C. had not been both assessed and evaluated during an involuntary hold under section 5150. "Section 8102 does not so require [:] the trial court could not even consider Folsom’s petition, because M.C. was not assessed and evaluated. While there is language in Kevin B. that appears to suggest that only assessment and evaluation triggers the confiscation provisions of section 8102, that language is dicta, as it was unnecessary to the decision, since Kevin B. was never even detained. ... Here, by contrast, M.C. was detained (and assessed, but not evaluated) and then released, satisfying the threshold requirement of section 8102 (c). Accordingly, we conclude the trial court’s ruling was in error." Judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for a hearing on the merits. View "Folsom Police Dept. v. M.C." on Justia Law

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In this writ proceeding, petitioner Quinn Li challenged the continued vitality of the "Chamberlain rule" (Chamberlain v. Ventura County Civil Service Com., 69 Cal.App.3d (1977)) claiming the California Supreme Court’s recent Conservatorship of O.B., 9 Cal.5th 989 (2020) decision impliedly abrogated Chamberlain’s long-standing interpretation of Code of Civil Procedure section 1094.5 (c). The Chamberlain rule held that the weight of the evidence phrase in subdivision (c) of section 1094.5 is synonymous with the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof. O.B. held that an appellate court applying the substantial evidence standard of review must account for the standard of proof required in the underlying proceeding when determining whether a finding is supported by the evidence. The Court of Appeal disagreed with petitioner’s implied abrogation argument but concluded, in sum, that a trial court reviewing an administrative agency’s findings under the independent judgment standard of review in section 1094.5 must, like under the substantial evidence standard of review, account for the standard of proof required and applied in the underlying proceeding. "We recognize this conclusion breaks with over four decades of established law. ... however, after closely reexamining the statutory construction employed by the Chamberlain and Ettinger courts, it is clear there is no basis for the interpretation that the weight of the evidence phrase in section 1094.5 is synonymous with preponderance of the evidence." Despite the significance of its conclusion on this important question of law, the Court denied petitioner’s petition for writ of mandate because he failed to raise any argument demonstrating the correct application of the standard of review would have resulted in a different outcome in the trial court. "Prejudicial error must be proven; it is not presumed." View "Li v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law