Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California

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At issue was what standards of review apply to the Public Employment Relations Board’s (PERB) legal interpretations and findings of fact when a final decision by PERB under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), Cal. Gov’t Code 3500 et seq., is appealed. The Supreme Court held (1) PERB’s legal findings are entitled to deferential review, and PERB’s factual findings are “conclusive” “if supported by substantial evidence”; and (2) governing bodies or representatives properly designated are required to engage with unions on matters within the scope of representation prior to arriving at a determination of policy or course of action, even if that action is not a formal one taken by the governing body itself. Here, unions filed unfair practice claims after San Diego’s mayor sponsored a citizen’s initiative to eliminate pensions for new municipal employees and denied union demands to meet and confer over the measure. The Court of Appeal annulled PERB’s finding that the failure to meet and confer constituted an unfair labor practice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the MMBA applied to the mayor’s official pursuit of pension reform as a matter of policy; and (2) the Court of Appeals improperly reviewed PERB’s interpretation of the governing statutes de novo and took an unduly constricted view of the duty to meet and confer. View "Boling v. Public Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The California Table Grape Commission’s advertisements and related messaging represent government speech, as opposed to private speech, and the Ketchum Act’s (Cal. Food & Agric. Code 65500) scheme providing that the Commission’s activities are funded by assessments on shipments of California table grapes does not violate Plaintiffs’ rights under Cal. Const. art. I, 2. Plaintiffs, five growers and shippers of California table grapes, brought suit arguing that the collection of assessments under the Act to subsidize promotional speech on behalf of California table grapes as a generic category violates their right to free speech under Cal. Const. art. I, 2(a). Plaintiffs claimed specifically that the table grapes they grow and ship are exceptional and that the assessment scheme requires them to sponsor a viewpoint that they disagree with. The Supreme Court held that Plaintiffs failed to advance a viable claim under article I, section 2. Specifically, the Court held that there was sufficient government responsibility for and control over the messaging at issue for the communications to represent government speech that Plaintiffs can be required to subsidize without implicating their article I, section 2 rights. View "Delano Farms Co. v. California Table Grape Commission" on Justia Law

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The State Water Resources Control Board’s adoption of a permit fee schedule was proper and violated neither Cal. Water Code 13260(d)(1)(B) or (f)(1) nor Cal. Const. art. XIII A. By statute, the Board has five members. At the time of the meeting at which the Board members voted to approve the fee schedule, two of those seats were vacant. Two of the three members voted to approve one of the proposed fee schedules, and the third member abstained. Based on that vote, the Board adopted emergency regulations retroactively revising the fee schedule. Plaintiff challenged the Board’s approval of the fee schedule. The trial court entered judgment for the Board. The court of appeal affirmed. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) procedural challenge; (2) the fee schedule did not violate section 13260(d)(1)(B) or (f)(1); and (3) the fees did not violate constitutional restrictions contained in article XIII A. View "California Building Industry Association v. State Water Resources Control Board" on Justia Law

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Statutory developments warranted modification of a settlement order between Petitioner and the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to relieve the Board of any obligation to calculate “base terms” of an inmate serving an indeterminate sentence for use at the inmate’s initial parole hearing. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in December 2012 against the Board seeking to avoid parole determinations leading to grossly disproportionate prison terms. An ensuing settlement agreement required the Board to calculate “base terms” under the agreement. At the time of the agreement, “base terms” governed the earliest possible release date for inmates serving indeterminate sentences. Since then, statutory developments altered the statutory landscape such that “base terms” no longer governed the release dates of inmates subject to indeterminate sentences. The Court of Appeal concluded that the settlement order could remain in force despite the statutory changes. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the elimination of “base term” calculations from any statutory role in determining release dates for those sentenced to indeterminate terms was a sufficiently material change that it required modification of the settlement by the Court of Appeal; and (2) the Board was not constitutionally required to continue calculating base terms as required in the settlement order. View "In re Butler" on Justia Law

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Statutory developments warranted modification of a settlement order between Petitioner and the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to relieve the Board of any obligation to calculate “base terms” of an inmate serving an indeterminate sentence for use at the inmate’s initial parole hearing. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in December 2012 against the Board seeking to avoid parole determinations leading to grossly disproportionate prison terms. An ensuing settlement agreement required the Board to calculate “base terms” under the agreement. At the time of the agreement, “base terms” governed the earliest possible release date for inmates serving indeterminate sentences. Since then, statutory developments altered the statutory landscape such that “base terms” no longer governed the release dates of inmates subject to indeterminate sentences. The Court of Appeal concluded that the settlement order could remain in force despite the statutory changes. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the elimination of “base term” calculations from any statutory role in determining release dates for those sentenced to indeterminate terms was a sufficiently material change that it required modification of the settlement by the Court of Appeal; and (2) the Board was not constitutionally required to continue calculating base terms as required in the settlement order. View "In re Butler" on Justia Law

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For the reasons set forth in a companion case issued today, Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeal correctly rejected Employer’s defense that Union had abandoned its employees and thus forfeited its status as bargaining representative. In this case, Employer refused to bargain with the labor union that its employees had elected as their bargaining representative under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA). The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (Board) rejected Employer’s abandonment defense and determined that Employer’s refusal constituted an unfair labor practice under the ALRA. The Board ordered Employer to pay make-whole relief under Cal. Labor Code 1160.3. The court of appeal affirmed the Board’s rejection of Employer’s abandonment defense but reversed the Board’s make-whole relief award. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the court of appeal (1) properly rejected Employer’s abandonment defense, but (2) did not accord the Board sufficient deference as to the issue of make-whole relief and improperly exercised the Board’s remedial authority. View "Tri-Fanucchi Farms v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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For the reasons set forth in a companion case issued today, Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the Supreme Court held that the court of appeal correctly rejected Employer’s defense that Union had abandoned its employees and thus forfeited its status as bargaining representative. In this case, Employer refused to bargain with the labor union that its employees had elected as their bargaining representative under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA). The Agricultural Labor Relations Board (Board) rejected Employer’s abandonment defense and determined that Employer’s refusal constituted an unfair labor practice under the ALRA. The Board ordered Employer to pay make-whole relief under Cal. Labor Code 1160.3. The court of appeal affirmed the Board’s rejection of Employer’s abandonment defense but reversed the Board’s make-whole relief award. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the court of appeal (1) properly rejected Employer’s abandonment defense, but (2) did not accord the Board sufficient deference as to the issue of make-whole relief and improperly exercised the Board’s remedial authority. View "Tri-Fanucchi Farms v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Agricultural Labor Relations Act’s (ARLA) “mandatory mediation and conciliation” (MMC) statute neither violates equal protection nor unconstitutionally delegates legislative power. Further, employers may not refuse to bargain with unions - whether during the ordinary bargaining process or during MMC - on the basis that the union has abandoned its representative status. In this case, the United Farm Workers’ of America (UFW) filed an MMC request with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board after failing to reach a collective bargaining agreement with Gerawan Farming, Inc. Mediation also failed to produce an agreement, and therefore, the mediator submitted a report fixing the contractual terms. The Board adopted the report in its final order. The court of appeal concluded (1) the MMC statute on its face violates equal protection principles and improperly delegates legislative authority, and (2) an employer may not defend against a union’s MMC request by challenging the union’s certification as bargaining representative on the basis of abandonment. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the MMC statutes is not unconstitutional; and (2) an employer may not raise an abandonment defense to an MMC request. View "Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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The Agricultural Labor Relations Act’s (ARLA) “mandatory mediation and conciliation” (MMC) statute neither violates equal protection nor unconstitutionally delegates legislative power. Further, employers may not refuse to bargain with unions - whether during the ordinary bargaining process or during MMC - on the basis that the union has abandoned its representative status. In this case, the United Farm Workers’ of America (UFW) filed an MMC request with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board after failing to reach a collective bargaining agreement with Gerawan Farming, Inc. Mediation also failed to produce an agreement, and therefore, the mediator submitted a report fixing the contractual terms. The Board adopted the report in its final order. The court of appeal concluded (1) the MMC statute on its face violates equal protection principles and improperly delegates legislative authority, and (2) an employer may not defend against a union’s MMC request by challenging the union’s certification as bargaining representative on the basis of abandonment. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the MMC statutes is not unconstitutional; and (2) an employer may not raise an abandonment defense to an MMC request. View "Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law

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An initiative proposed to repeal an existing Upland ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries, to adopt regulations permitting and establishing standards for up to three dispensaries, and to require that each pay an “annual Licensing and Inspection fee” of $75,000. The petition requested a special election. The signatures of registered voters met the threshold for triggering consideration of the initiative (Elections Code 9214). The city accepted a certificate of sufficiency and was obligated to adopt the initiative without alteration, immediately order a special election, or order an agency report. It ordered a report, which concluded that the $75,000 “fee” would exceed the costs incurred from issuing licenses and annual inspections and that the excess would constitute a general tax, so the initiative could not be voted on during a special election but, under California Constitution article XIII C, had to be submitted at the next general election. The city council provided direction for submitting the initiative in November 2016, the next general election. The California Supreme Court held that that article XIII C does not constrain voters’ constitutional power to propose and adopt initiatives and that under article II, section 11 and Elections Code, the initiative should be submitted at a special election, Article XIII C does not limit voters’ “power to raise taxes by statutory initiative.” View "California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland" on Justia Law