Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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A county employee decided to retire. In December 2012, he submitted his application for retirement to the county’s retirement authority. In January 2013, the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act took effect, mandating the forfeiture of pension benefits/payments if a public employee is convicted of any felony under state or federal law for conduct arising out of or in the performance of his official duties (Gov. Code 7522.72(b)(l)). In February 2013, the employee was indicted for stealing county property. In April 2013, the county pension authority approved the employee’s retirement application, fixing the employee’s actual retirement on the December 2012 day he submitted his application. The employee began receiving monthly pension checks starting from December 2012. In December 2015, the employee pled guilty to embezzling county property.The county pension authority reduced the employee’s monthly check in accordance with the forfeiture provision. The court of appeal concluded the provision does apply to the employee because the employee merely initiated the process of retiring. Even if the employee was retired, and the forfeiture provision was applied to him, there would be no violation of the California Constitution’s provision against the undue impairment of the employee’s contract with his governmental employer, nor would that application constitute an ex post facto law. View "Wilmot v. Contra Costa County Employee's Retirement Association" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs are a non-profit organization “dedicated to improving the care, quality of life, and choices for California’s long-term care customers,” residents and former residents of facilities managed by CVSC, and the estates of formers residents at the defendant's facility. The defendant is licensed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to operate or manage a skilled nursing facility (SNF). The defendant had an agreement with CVSC, a corporation engaged in the nursing home business as a management company, to operate the SNF. This Management Services Agreement is allegedly representative of similar agreements executed by CVSC to operate other California SNFs. The plaintiffs asserted that state law requires that an SNF be operated and managed by the entity that holds the license to operate the SNF, not by a management company.The trial court held that approval of unlicensed management companies to operate licensed SNFs does not violate state or federal law. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the management agreements are illegal because the licensee (not an unlicensed management company) must operate and manage the SNF. The operation of a SNF by an unlicensed management company does not diminish the continuing responsibility of a licensee to its SNF. View "California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform v. Aragon" on Justia Law

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A bronze sculpture, “Early Days,” was originally part of a Civic Center monument to California's pioneer period. In 2018, at the request of the San Francisco Arts Commission, the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to take down “Early Days” and place it in storage. Early Days displayed a racist attitude toward Native Americans. Acting upon evidence of “significant adverse public reaction over an extended period of time,” the HPC authorized the removal; the Board of Appeals affirmed. Opponents of the removal asserted “a potpourri of claims,” including a claim under the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code 52). They alleged that the Board of Appeals abused its discretion in authorizing the removal and that the manner of the removal, in the pre-dawn hours of the day following the Board's decision, was illegal.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Even if the opponents had adequately alleged the violation of rights amenable to Bane Act enforcement, their complaint does not allege anything that might reasonably be construed as “threats, intimidation or coercion” to violate those rights. There is no support for conclusory allegations that the Board acted in excess of its authority or abused its discretion. View "Schmid v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against the city after her son was killed in a collision with a turning truck while riding his bike. Plaintiff alleged a dangerous condition of public property under Government Code section 835. The trial court granted the city's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the city had proved entitlement to design immunity as a matter of law under section 830.6.The court concluded that design immunity shields the city from liability for the absence of a bicycle lane. However, following the state Supreme Court's binding precedent Cameron v. State of California (1972) 7 Cal.3d 318, 327, the court held that even where design immunity covers a dangerous condition, it does not categorically preclude liability for failure to warn about that dangerous condition. In this case, the city's entitlement to design immunity for its failure to include a bicycle lane at the site of the accident does not, as a matter of law, necessarily preclude its liability under a theory of failure to warn. The court remanded for the trial court to consider the failure to warn theory in the first instance. The court affirmed in part and vacated in part. View "Tansavatdi v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes" on Justia Law

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After the passage of Proposition 218, Sacramento voters approved a requirement that city enterprises providing water, sewer, storm drainage, and solid waste services pay a total tax of 11% of their gross revenues from user fees and charges. Nineteen years later, plaintiff-respondent Russell Wyatt brought a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory relief against the City challenging its fees and charges for utility services under article XIII D, section 6, subdivision (b) of the California Constitution (added by Prop. 218, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996)). It was undisputed that the City set these fees and charges at rates sufficient to fund the payment of the tax to its general fund. The trial court issued a writ of mandate and judgment in Wyatt’s favor. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and directed the trial court to vacate its writ of mandate. By approving the tax in 1998, Sacramento voters increased the cost of providing utility services, rendering those costs recoverable as part of their utility rates and the subsequent transfer of funds permissible under article XIII D. View "Wyatt v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on a permit issued by state and local water control boards that required 86 Southern California municipalities to reduce or prevent pollutants discharged through storm sewer systems by meeting numeric effluent limitations. The trial court found that, because the permit obligated the municipalities to meet more stringent standards than required by federal law, the water boards had to consider the factors identified in California Water Code section 13421, including but not limited to economic considerations, before issuing the permit. The trial court also found that the water boards had not sufficiently considered the section 13241 factors, and invalidated the portions of the permit that imposed the numeric effluent limitations. As to those factors, the Court of Appeal held that, under the applicable standard of review, and giving appropriate consideration to the state and local water boards’ expertise and discretion in the interpretation of the statute, the permit’s numeric effluent limitations had to be upheld. The Court published its opinion because it believed it was important to provide an example of the level of consideration of the factors that was sufficient - especially the economic considerations factor that was not defined by section 13241. The Court's analysis of the issues under consideration by the water boards lead it to conclude their consideration of the relevant factors was sufficient. View "City of Duarte v. State Water Resources Control Bd." on Justia Law

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After garnering sufficient voter signatures to qualify, a proposed initiative entitled “Universal Childcare for San Francisco Families Initiative” was placed on the city’s June 2018 ballot as Proposition C. The initiative sought to impose an additional tax on certain commercial rents to fund early childcare and education. Approximately 51 percent of the votes cast were in favor of Proposition C. In August 2018, opponents filed suit to invalidate Proposition C on the ground that it needed a two-thirds majority vote to pass.The court of appeal affirmed summary judgment in favor of the city. While Proposition C imposes the type of tax that, if submitted to the voters by the Board of Supervisors, would need a two-thirds majority vote to pass, neither Proposition 13 nor Proposition 218 imposed such a requirement on a tax imposed by initiative. The absence of a constitutional provision expressly authorizing majority approval of local voter initiatives is immaterial. The City Charter does not impose a super-majority requirement View "Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. City and County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

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The Tribe purchased the coastal property and applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take the property into trust, 25 U.S.C. 5108. The federal Coastal Zone Management Act requires that each federal agency whose activity affects a coastal zone must certify that the activity is consistent with state coastal management policies, 16 U.S.C. 1456(c). The Bureau determined the Tribe’s proposal is consistent with state coastal policies, including public access requirements in the Coastal Act. (Pub. Resources Code 30210). The Coastal Commission concurred after securing commitments from the Tribe to protect coastal access and coordinate with the state on future development. If the Tribe violates those policies, the Coastal Commission may request that the Bureau take remedial action. The plaintiffs use the Tribe’s coastal property to access the beach. They allege that the property's prior owner dedicated a portion of it to public use, in 1967-1972 and sought to quiet title to a public easement for vehicle access and parking; they did not allege that the Tribe has interfered with their coastal access or plans to do so.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Sovereign immunity bars a quiet title action to establish a public easement for coastal access on property owned by an Indian tribe. Tribal immunity is subject only to two exceptions: when a tribe has waived its immunity or Congress has authorized the suit. Congress has not abrogated tribal immunity for a suit to establish a public easement. View "Self v. Cher-AE Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was a preliminary injunction prohibiting the County of San Diego, its public health officer Wilma Wooten, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and Governor Gavin Newsom from enforcing COVID-19-related public health restrictions against any business offering restaurant service in San Diego County, subject to safety protocols. Two San Diego businesses that offer live nude adult filed suit claiming the State and County restrictions on live entertainment violated their First Amendment right to freedom of expression. The State and County eventually loosened their restrictions on live entertainment, but as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, they imposed new restrictions on restaurants. These new restaurant restrictions severely curtailed the adult entertainment businesses’ operations. But these new restrictions were unrelated to live entertainment or the First Amendment. Despite the narrow scope of the issues presented, the trial court granted expansive relief when it issued the injunction challenged here. "It is a fundamental aspect of procedural due process that, before relief can be granted against a party, the party must have notice of such relief and an opportunity to be heard." The Court of Appeal determined that because restaurant restrictions were never part of the adult entertainment businesses’ claims, the State and County had no notice or opportunity to address them. The trial court therefore erred by enjoining the State and County from enforcing COVID-19-related public health restrictions on restaurants. Because the procedure used by the trial court was improper, the trial court’s actions left the Court of Appeal unable to address the substance of this challenge to restaurant restrictions. View "Midway Venture LLC v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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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