Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeal affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss his recommitment as a mentally disordered offender (MDO) on the basis that the redesignation of his theft offense meant he no longer had a qualifying offense for his MDO recommitment, holding that the applicable statutes did not afford Defendant the relief he sought. Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of felony grand theft. After Defendant had completed his sentence he was admitted to a state hospital as an MDO as a parole condition. Since his initial commitment, Defendant was recommitted as an MDO annually. In 2016, after voters approved Proposition 47, Defendant successfully petitioned to have his felony conviction redesignated as a misdemeanor. Thereafter, Defendant moved to dismiss his recommitment as an MDO, arguing that the redesignation of his theft offense meant he no longer had a qualifying offense for his MDO recommitment. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the redesignation of Defendant's theft offense as a misdemeanor did not undermine the continued validity of his initial commitment or preclude Defendant's continued recommitment as an MDO. View "People v. Foster" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeal affirming the finding of the City of San Diego that adoption of an ordinance authorizing the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries and regulating their location and operation did not constitute a project, holding that the court of appeal misapplied the test for determining whether a proposed activity has the potential to cause environmental change under Cal. Pub. Res. Code 21065. The City did not conduct any environmental review when adopting the ordinance, finding that adoption of the ordinance did not constitute a project for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act, Cal. Pub. Res. Code 21000 et seq. (CEQA). Petitioner filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City's failure to conduct CEQA review. The trial court denied the petition. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the City correctly concluded that the ordinance was not a project because it did not have the potential to cause a physical change in the environment. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further findings, holding that the City erred in determining that the adoption of the Ordinance was not a project. View "Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal finding the City of Oroville liable in inverse condemnation for property damage suffered by a dental practice when raw sewage began spewing from the toilets, sinks, and drains of its building, holding that where the dentists did not install a legally required backwater valve on their premises the City was not liable for the property damage. The dentists argued that the City was legally responsible for the property damage because it was caused by the sewer system's failure to function as intended. The City argued in response that the damage occurred because the dentists failed to install the backwater valve that would have prevented sewage from entering their building in the event of a sewer main backup. The trial court concluded that an inverse condemnation had occurred. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the damage was not substantially caused by the sewer system when the dentists failed to fulfill a responsibility to install a backwater valve that would have prevented or substantially diminished the risk of the mishap that occurred in this case. View "City of Oroville v. Superior Court of Butte County" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning a condition of probation requiring Ricardo P. to submit to warrantless searches of his electronics devices the Supreme Court held that the electronics search condition was not reasonably related to future criminality and was therefore invalid under People v. Lent, 15 Cal.3d 481 (1975). In Lent, the Supreme Court held that "a condition of probation which requires or forbids conduct which is not itself criminal is valid if that conduct is reasonably related to the crime of which the defendant was convicted or to future criminality." Ricardo, a juvenile, was placed on probation after admitting two counts of felony burglary. As a condition of his probation, the juvenile court imposed the electronics search. Although there was no indication Defendant used an electronic device in connection with the burglaries, the court imposed the condition in order to monitor Ricardo's compliance with separate conditions. The court of appeals concluded that the condition was unconstitutionally overbroad and should be narrowed but held that the condition was permissible under Lent because it served to prevent future criminality. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the electronics search condition was not reasonably related to future criminality. View "In re Ricardo P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal affirming in part and reversing in part the judgment of the trial court granting Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings on certain stock and wage conversion claims, holding that Plaintiff's stock conversion claims should be permitted to proceed but that Plaintiff did not plead a cognizable claim for conversion of wages. Plaintiff worked alongside Defendant to launch three start-up ventures in return for a promise of later payment of wages. Later, Plaintiff was fired and never paid. Plaintiff successfully sued the companies invoking both contract-based and statutory remedies for the nonpayment of wages. In this lawsuit, Plaintiff sought to hold Defendant personally responsible for the unpaid wages on a theory of common law conversion. The trial court granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed in part but concluded that extending the tort of conversion to the wage context was not warranted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a conversion claim was not an appropriate remedy for the wrong alleged in this case. View "Voris v. Lampert" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court discharged an order to show cause filed by Petitioner in connection with his petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus, holding that Petitioner failed to meet the applicable standard for relief under any claim raised in his habeas petition and referenced in the Court's order to show cause. Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and to commit assault on correctional staff. The Supreme Court affirmed. While Petitioner's appeal was pending, Petitioner filed a petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court found the petition stated a prima facie cause for relief on several claims and issued an order to show cause why relief should not be granted on a subset of the claims raised. The Court then appointed a referee to take evidence and making certain findings of fact. After the referee filed a report, the Court accepted most of the referee's report and findings as supported by substantial evidence and discharged the order show cause, holding that Petitioner failed to meet the standards for habeas relief. View "In re Masters" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court disapproved the lead opinion in People v. Ray, 21 Cal.4th 464 (1999), in which the Court articulated a "community caretaking" exception to the warrant requirement for government entry into a private residence, holding that such an entry for reasons short of a perceived emergency, or similar exigency, fails to satisfy the relevant constitutional standard. Defendant was charged with manufacturing a controlled substance and firearm-related charges. Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in his home. The trial court denied the motion. Defendant later pleaded guilty. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that, even in the absence of exigency, the warrantless entry of Defendant's home was justified under the "community caretaking" exception. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the community caretaking exception asserted in the absence of exigency is not one of the carefully delineated exceptions to the residential warrant requirement recognized by the United States Supreme Court. View "People v. Ovieda" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question regarding California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, Cal. Civ. Code 51 et seq., by holding that a plaintiff has standing to bring a claim under the Act when the plaintiff visits a business's website with the intent of using its services and encounters terms and conditions that allegedly deny the plaintiff full and equal access to the website's services and then leaves the website without entering into an agreement with the service provider. Plaintiff sued Defendant, alleging that Defendant's seller agreement discriminated against him in violation of the Act. The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that Plaintiff lacked standing under the Act to sue Defendant because Plaintiff had not attempted to use Defendant's services. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued the certification order at issue in this case. The Supreme Court held that, under the rule announced today, Plaintiff sufficiently alleged injury for Unruh Civil Rights Act standing because entering into an agreement with the business is not required for standing under the Act. View "White v. Square, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of two counts of first degree murder and sentence of death, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below that entitled Defendant to reversal of his convictions. Specifically, the Court held (1) both prongs of Cal. Const. art. I, 28(d)'s requirement were met in this case, and allowing the jury to judge the relevant evidence did not violate Defendant's due process rights; (2) a witness's decision not to testify, upheld by the court, did not deny Defendant the right to present a defense; (3) the state and federal constitutions supported the trial court's decision to grant the witness her Fifth Amendment privilege; (4) Defendant's challenges to California's death penalty law were unavailing; and (5) Defendant failed to establish cumulative error because there were no errors to aggregate. View "People v. Capers" on Justia Law

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In this putative class action brought on behalf of retail purchasers of an inflatable outdoor pool the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal upholding the ruling of the trial court denying the representative plaintiff's motion for class certification, holding that the trial court erred in determining that the class proposed by the plaintiff was not ascertainable. The claims in this case arose out of the plaintiff's purchase out of an inflatable pool sold in packaging that allegedly misled buyers about the pool's size. The trial court denied the plaintiff's motion for class certification in its entirety on ascertainability grounds. The court of appeal found no abuse of discretion in the denial of class certification. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in demanding that the plaintiff offer evidence showing how class members might be individually identified when that identification became necessary. Specifically, the Court held (1) an ascertainable class is one defined in objective terms that make the eventual identification of class members possible; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it found no ascertainable class existed. View "Noel v. Thrifty Payless, Inc." on Justia Law