Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that the Governor acted lawfully when he concurred in the determination of the United States Secretary of the Interior (Interior Secretary) to allow casino-style gaming on tribal trust land in California, holding that California law empowers the Governor to concur.Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq., the Interior Secretary may permit gaming on certain land taken into federal trust for an Indian tribe so long as the Governor of the state where the land is located concurs. At issue was whether the California Governor has the authority to concur in the Interior Secretary's determination to allow gaming on tribal trust land in California where the California Constitution has not granted explicit authority to concur in the cooperative-federalism scheme. The Supreme Court held that because the California Constitution, as amended in 2000, permits casino-style gaming under certain conditions on Indian and tribal lands and the Legislature imposed no restriction to the Governor's concurrence power, the Governor acted lawfully in concurring in the Interior Secretary's determination. View "United Auburn Indian Community of Auburn Rancheria v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a Section 8 beneficiary's compensation for providing in-home care for a severely disabled adult daughter should be excluded from income in calculating the rental subsidy.Plaintiff had an adult daughter who was severally disabled and required constant supervision. Plaintiff and her daughters received housing assistance through Section 8 of the United States Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 1437 et seq., and Plaintiff received compensation to provide in-home supportive care for her disabled daughter through the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program. Plaintiff asked that the Marine Housing Authority (MHA) exclude her IHSS compensation from "income" under the federal regulations. MHA did not respond to the request and then terminated Plaintiff's housing voucher. Plaintiff filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking an order requiring MHA to reinstitute her Section 8 voucher. The trial court sustained MHA's demurrer, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that a parent's IHSS compensation to provide care to keep a developmentally disabled child at home is excluded from income under 24 Code of Federal Regulations part 5.609(c)(16). View "Reilly v. Marin Housing Authority" on Justia Law

Posted in: Public Benefits
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The Supreme Court held that when Norma and James Gund suffered a violent attack after being asked by law enforcement to check on a neighbor who had called 911 requesting help, the only remedy available to the Gunds was through workers' compensation.When members of the public engage in "active law enforcement service" at the request of a peace officer, California treats those members of the public as employees eligible for workers' compensation benefits. However, workers' compensation becomes an individual's exclusive remedy for his or her injuries under state law. At issue in this case was whether the Gunds were engaged in "active law enforcement service" when they assisted law enforcement by checking on a neighbor who had called 911, walked into an active murder scene, and had their throats cut. The Supreme Court held that the Gunds engaged in active law enforcement under California Labor Code 3366 even though the peace officer allegedly misrepresented the situation, and therefore, their only remedy was through workers' compensation. View "Gund v. County of Trinity" on Justia Law

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In this action challenging Stanislaus County's classification of well construction permits the Supreme Court held that the blanket classification of all permit issuances as ministerial was unlawful and that under the ordinance authorizing the issuance of these permits some of the County's decisions may be discretionary.Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Cal. Pub. Resources Code, 21000 et seq., any government action that may directly or indirectly cause a physical change to the environment is a project, including the issuance of a permit. Projects can be either discretionary or ministerial actions, and discretionary projects general require some level of environmental review, while ministerial projects do not. In this case, Plaintiffs challenged Stanislaus County's practice of categorically classifying a subset of its issuance of well construction permits as ministerial, arguing that the permit issuances are discretionary projects requiring CEQA review. The trial court found the permit issuances were ministerial. The Court of Appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) Plaintiffs were entitled to a declaration that classifying all issuances as ministerial violates CEQA; but (2) Plaintiffs were not entitled to injunctive relief because they failed to demonstrate that all permit decisions covered by the classification practice were discretionary. View "Protecting Our Water & Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overturned the death penalty for Scott Peterson, who, in 2002, was convicted of killing his wife, Laci Peterson, and the couple's unborn son, holding that the trial court made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection that undermined Peterson's right to an impartial jury at the penalty phase.The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment as to guilt but reversed the judgment as to the sentence of death, holding (1) Defendant received a fair trial as to guilt; (2) the trial court erred by dismissing many prospective jurors because of written questionnaire responses expressing opposition to the death penalty, even though the jurors gave no indication that their views would prevent them from following the law; and (3) under United States Supreme Court precedent, these errors required reversal of the death sentence in this case. View "People v. Peterson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the monetary cap of $500 in statutory damages in Cal. Health & Safety Code 1430(b) applies per action, not per regulatory violation.Section 1430(b) gives a current or former nursing care patient or resident the right to bring a private cause of action against a skilled nursing facility for violating certain regulations. The remedies include injunctive relief, attorney fees, and up to $500 in statutory damages. Plaintiff in the instant case filed a complaint against a nursing facility alleging violations of the Patients Bill of Rights, elder abuse and neglect, and negligence. The jury awarded Plaintiff $100,000 in damages and $95,500 in statutory damages - $250 for each of 382 violations. At issue on appeal was whether the $500 cap is the limit in each action or instead applies to each violation committed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 1430(b) authorizes a $500 per lawsuit cap. View "Jarman v. HCR ManorCare, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the of the trial court convicting Defendants of first degree murder and other crimes and sentencing both defendants to death, holding that no prejudice resulted from any error of the trial court.Separate juries convicted Daniel Silveria and John Travis of first degree murder, second degree robbery, and second degree burglary. After retrials, a single penalty jury returned death verdicts. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) during the guilt phase, the trial court did not err in denying Travis's motion to suppress or in instructing the jury on first degree murder; and (2) during the joint penalty retrial, there was no abuse of discretion in denying Defendants' severance motions, the trial court did not wrongfully excuse for cause prospective jurors, the trial court did not err in admitting portions of Silveria's first penalty phase testimony, any error in placing conditions on proffered testimony by Travis's trial counsel was harmless, and any other assumed or actual error was not prejudicial. View "People v. Silveria" on Justia Law

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Here, the Supreme Court addressed the propriety of a criminal defense subpoena served on Facebook seeking restricted posts and private messages of one of its users, who was a victim and critical witness in the underlying attempted murder prosecution, holding that the trial court erred in denying Facebook's motion to quash the subpoena.Lance Touchstone, the defendant in the prosecution below, argued that the trial court properly denied Facebook's motion to quash. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the trial court erred by conducting an incomplete assessment of the relevant factors and interests when it found that Defendant established good cause to acquire the communications at issue from Facebook. After highlighting seven factors a trial court should explicitly consider and balance in ruling on a motion to quash a subpoena directed to a third party the Supreme Court vacated the trial court's order denying the motion to quash and remanded the matter to the trial court to conduct further proceedings consistent with the guidelines set forth in this opinion. View "Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions for four counts of first degree murder and other crimes and sentence of death, holding that, considering any actual or assumed errors altogether, their cumulative effect did not warrant reversal of Defendant's convictions or sentence.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) assuming that the trial court erred by using an unsworn, uncertified interpreter during the preliminary hearing and to interpret a victim's outburst, there was no prejudice; (2) sufficient evidence supported the theory of felony murder for two murders, and even assuming there was no sufficient evidence, the first degree murder verdicts would still be upheld; (3) there was assumed or found error during trial regarding difficulties that made it difficult to hearing the court proceedings, the accuracy of interpreters, and other issues, but there was no prejudice; and (4) none of the assumed or actual errors, considered either individually or collectively, warranted reversal of Defendant's convictions or sentence. View "People v. Suarez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of three counts of first degree murder and one count of second degree murder with a multiple murder special circumstance and various gun use enhancements, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion for a venue change; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress items discovered during a warrantless search of his vehicle; (3) Defendant's decision not to testify was knowing, intelligent, and voluntary; (4) the trial court did not improperly exclude a defense expert; (5) the trial court did not err by denying Defendant's pretrial motion to exclude evidence of his gang membership; (6) there was no instructional error; (7) the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during penalty phase argument; and (8) Defendant's challenges to the victim impact testimony were unavailing. View "People v. Duong" on Justia Law