Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California
by
In this lawsuit challenging the sufficiency of an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by California's Department of Water Resources (DWR) the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeal finding that the claims brought by Butte and Plumas Counties under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Cal. Pub. Res. Code 21000 et seq., were preempted, holding that the court of appeal erred in part.The Counties brought a challenge to the environmental sufficiency of a settlement DWR prepared as part of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) proceedings, 16 U.S.C. 817(1), and to the sufficiency of the EIR more generally. The court of appeals found that the action was preempted by the Federal Power Act, 16 U.S.C. 791a et seq. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the Counties' claims were preempted to the extent they attempted to unwind the terms of a settlement agreement reached through a federal process and sought to enjoin DWR from operating certain facilities; but (2) the court of appeals erred in finding the Counties' CEQA claims entirely preempted. View "County of Butte v. Dep't of Water Resources" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation acted within the authority provided by Cal. Const. art. I, 32(b) when it adopted regulations prohibiting early parole consideration under the scheme set forth in Proposition 57, The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, for inmates "currently serving a term of incarceration for a 'violent felony.'"After Petitioner was convicted of nine violent felony counts and six nonviolent felony counts voters approved Proposition 57. The Department subsequently adopted regulations implementing early parole considerations, including the regulations at issue here. Consistent with these regulations, the Department determined that Petitioner was ineligible for nonviolent offender early parole consideration because he was serving a term of incarceration for a violent felony. The court of appeal granted relief, concluding that the language of article I, section 32(a) requires early parole consideration for any inmate convicted of a nonviolent felony even when that inmate was also convicted of a violent felony. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department acted within its authority provided by article I, section 32(b) when it adopted the regulation at issue. View "In re Mohammad" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that Petitioners' failure to present their objections to business improvement districts (BIDs) assessment schemes at appropriate public hearings meant that they had not exhausted their extrajudicial remedies, holding that Petitioners need not have raised their specific objections to the BIDs at the public hearings to later advance those arguments in court.Petitioners initiated two actions challenging arguing that two BIDs' assessment schemes violated certain provisions of Proposition 218 and seeking relief that would remove any obligation that they pay assessments for the BIDs. The superior court reached the merits of Petitioners' claims, ultimately denying them in full. The court of appeal declined to address Petitioners' claims on the merits, concluding that Petitioners had failed to exhaust their extrajudicial remedies because they did not first present their objections at the appropriate public hearing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioners were not required to articulate their objections to the BID assessment schemes at public hearings before presenting their arguments in these proceedings. View "Hill RHF Housing Partners, L.P. v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal rejecting Appellant's challenge to the denial of his motion to disqualify A. Robert Singer as a hearing officer in a peer review proceeding, holding that the record did not establish that Singer should be disqualified for financial bias under Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 809.2, subdivision (b).A medical executive committee adopted a recommendation to terminate Appellant's medical staff membership and hospital privileges. Appellant requested a peer review hearing to review the recommendation, and the hospital president exercised authority delegated by the medical staff to select Singer to serve as the hearing officer. Appellant challenged Singer's appointment on grounds of financial bias, but Singer denied the challenge. The peer review panel upheld the revocation of Appellant's staff membership and privileges. The superior court denied Appellant's petition for a writ of administrative mandate, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circumstances surrounding Singer's appointment did not create an intolerable risk of bias that would require disqualification under section 809.2(b). View "Natarajan v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the court of appeals denying a petition for a writ of supersedeas to stay the effect of an order of the superior court requiring the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to remove and replace one of its members, holding that the order should be stayed until the appellate court has determined whether the trial court was correct.The superior court's order was based on the court's ruling that the Board had violated statutory open-meeting requirements in making an appointment to a vacant board seat. The order required the Board to rescind the appointment and to seat a replacement board member to be named by the Governor. The Board petitioned the court of appeal for a writ of supersedeas and requested an immediate stay. The court of appeal denied the stay. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the order should have been automatically stayed as a mandatory injunction. View "Daly v. San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that William Palmer was entitled to release from all forms of custody, including parole supervision, holding that to the extent Palmer's continued incarceration at some point became constitutionally excessive, that alone did not justify ending his parole under the current statutory scheme.Palmer first sought release on parole in 1995. The Board of Parole Hearings denied parole. Palmer continued to seek release. After the Board's tenth denial, Palmer filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging that the thirty years he had served on a life sentence for an aggravated kidnapping committed when he was a juvenile was constitutionally excessive. The Board subsequently ordered Palmer released on parole. Ruling on Palmer's writ, the court of appeals concluded that Palmer's now-completed term of imprisonment had become unconstitutional and ended his parole. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in the absence of any persuasive argument from Palmer that his parole term had become constitutionally excessive, his parole remained valid. View "In re Palmer" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court granted the emergency petition filed by the Legislature for a peremptory writ of mandate seeking relief from redistricting deadlines set by California law in light of the delay of census data collection and processing, holding the Legislature was entitled to a one-time adjustment to the deadlines.Under California law, the Citizens Redistricting Commission has the task of redistricting and draws new maps based on the federal census data. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal Census Bureau delayed census data collection and processing. Consequently, the data required to draw new district maps would not be released to states in time for the Commission to meet the redistricting deadlines. The Supreme Court issued a peremptory writ of mandate directing the Commission to release the first preliminary statewide maps for public display and comment no later than November 1, 2021, notwithstanding Cal. Gov't Code 8253, subdivision (a)(7), and directing the Commission to approve and certify the final statewide maps by no later than December 15, 2021. View "Legislature of State of California v. Padilla" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that equitable tolling can lessen the otherwise strict time limit on the availability of writs of administrative mandate under Cal. Gov't Code 11523.The State Department of Public Health (the Department) imposed a fine on Saint Francis Memorial Hospital when it learned that doctors left a surgical sponge in a patient during a surgery. The Department later denied Saint Francis's request for reconsideration. Eleven days after the Department denied reconsideration but forty-one days after being served with the Department's final decision Saint Francis filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandate.The Department demurred on the ground that the petition was untimely under section 11523. The superior court sustained the Department's demurrer, reasoning that Saint Francis's petition was time-barred and that Saint Francis's mistake about the availability of reconsideration was not a sufficient basis to excuse a late filing. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeal's judgment, holding (1) equitable tolling may apply to petitions filed under section 11523; and (2) because the court of appeal didn't address equitable tolling's third element, the case is remanded for further proceedings. View "Saint Francis Memorial Hospital v. State Department of Public Health" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that a definitive resolution of the question of whether an arbitral scheme resembling civil litigation can constitute a sufficiently accessible and affordable process was unnecessary in this case because the facts involved an unusually high degree of procedural unconscionability, rendering the arbitration agreement in this case unenforceable.During his employment Employee signed an arbitration clause grafted onto an acknowledgment of at-will employment. After his employment ended Employee filed a complaint with the Labor Commissioner for unpaid wages. Employer filed a petition to compel arbitration. The Labor Commissioner proceeded to the hearing without Employer and awarded Employee unpaid wages and liquidated damages. The trial court vacated the award, concluding that the hearing should not have proceeded in Employer's absence. The court, however, did not compel arbitration, finding that the agreement was both procedurally and substantively unconscionable. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) even if a litigation-like arbitration procedure may be an acceptable substitute for the Berman process, an employee may not be coerced or misled into accepting this trade; and (2) under the oppressive circumstances of this case, the agreement was unconscionable, rendering it unenforceable. View "OTO, L.L.C. v. Kho" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that when an agency considers increasing a property-related fee, the fee payor challenging the method of fee allocation need not exhaust administrative remedies by participating in a Proposition 218 hearing that addresses only a proposed rate increase.Cal. Const. art. XIII D, 6, which was added in 1996 by Proposition 218, requires that before a local governmental agency may impose or increase property-related fees and charges it must notify affected property owners and hold a public hearing. The representative plaintiffs in this class action sought to invalidate a wastewater service charge imposed by a water district, claiming that the district's method for calculating the charge violated one of the substantive requirements of Proposition 218. The trial court concluded that the suit was barred because the plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative remedies by raising their challenge at public hearings on proposed increases to the rate charged for services. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a Proposition 218 rate hearing was not an administrative remedy that the plaintiffs were required to exhaust under these particular circumstances. View "Plantier v. Ramona Municipal Water District" on Justia Law