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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the trial court and court of appeal, which determined that the elimination of the opportunity to purchase additional retirement service (ARS) credit set forth in the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA), Cal. Gov. Code 7222 et seq., did not violate the California Constitution, holding that the opportunity to purchase ARS credit is not a right protected by the contract clause, and in the absence of constitutional protection, the opportunity to purchase ARS credit can be altered or eliminated at the discretion of the legislature. PEPRA effectively repealed the statute granting public employees the opportunity to purchase ARS credit. At issue in this case was whether the opportunity to purchase ARS credit was a vested right protected by the constitutional contract clause and whether the elimination of the opportunity to purchase ARS credit was an unconstitutional impairment of public employees’ vested rights. The Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative and declined to address the second issue, holding that the opportunity to purchase ARS credit is not a vested right. View "Cal Fire Local 2881 v. California Public Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court and court of appeal sustaining Defendants’ demurrer in this case, holding that customers who have paid sales tax reimbursement on purchases they believe to be exempt from sales tax are not authorized to file suit to compel the retailers to seek a tax refund from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (Department) when there has been no determination by the Department or a court that the purchases are exempt. A customer who has paid excess sales tax reimbursement has no statutory remedy to obtain a refund from the Department directly. In Javor v. State Board of Equalization, 12 Cal.3d 790 (1974), however, the Supreme Court authorized a customer suit to compel certain retailers to seek a tax refund where the Board of Equalization, upon determining that the retailers had collected excess sales tax reimbursement, had promulgated rules to provide refunds to overpaying customers. The lower courts declined to extend Javor to authorize a similar judicial remedy under the circumstances of this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that plaintiffs in this case did not have an equitable cause of action to compel the retailers to seek a refund of sales taxes paid to the State. View "McClain v. Sav-On Drugs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting codefendants Oswaldo Amezcua and Joseph Conrad Flores of four counts of first degree murder and sentencing each defendant to death for the murder convictions, holding that any errors in the proceedings below were not sufficiently prejudicial to require reversal of the judgment. A jury convicted Defendants of murder, finding true multiple-murder and drive-by-murder special circumstance allegations, as well as multiple counts of attempted willful, deliberate premeditated murder, false imprisonment, and other non-capital offenses. The trial court sentenced Defendants to death for the murder convictions and imposed determinate and indeterminate sentences for the noncapital convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) any error in the prosecutor’s guilt phase closing was harmless; (2) any error in a medical examiner’s testimony relating to autospy results derived from a different pathologist’s report was harmless; and (3) whether considered individually or cumulatively, the errors did not warrant reversal. View "People v. Amezcua" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal affirming the denial of Defendant’s special motion to strike, holding that the evidence produced by Plaintiff was properly considered by the trial court in ruling on a pretrial anti-SLAPP motion in determining Plaintiff’s probability of success. Plaintiff, Sweetwater Union High School District, sued to void contracts it approved with Defendants to manage certain projects after a criminal bribery investigation into the awarding of the contracts resulted in a number of guilty or no contest pleas. Plaintiff also sought to secure disgorgement of funds already paid. Defendants brought a special motion to strike under the Anti-SLAPP Statute, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 425.16. Plaintiff’s response relied on evidence of the various guilty and no contest pleas. The court overruled Defendants’ evidentiary objects and denied their special motion to strike. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, at the second stage of an anti-SLAPP hearing, the court may consider affidavits, declarations, and their equivalents if its reasonably possible the proffered evidence set out in those statements will be admissible at trial. View "Sweetwater Union High School District v. Gilbane Building Co." on Justia Law

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In this challenge brought by J.G., a juvenile, to a restitution order the Supreme Court remanded the matter for a new hearing regarding J.G.’s ability to pay restitution, holding that the juvenile court did not violate federal law by considering J.G’s receipt of Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) benefits for purposes of assessing J.G.’s ability to pay restitution but that a new ability to pay hearing was required that includes consideration of J.G.’s future earning capacity, his current financial circumstances, and the total amount of restitution to be ordered. J.G. was charged by petition with trespassing and vandalism. The juvenile court granted deferred entry of judgment on condition that J.G. pay restitution in the total amount of $36,381 at the rate of $25 per month. The court later dismissed the petition and ordered that the restitution award may be enforced as a civil judgment. J.G. challenged the restitution order on appeal. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the matter, holding that, based on the People’s concession that the ability to pay determination would be “improper” if the juvenile court “was contemplating the social security money as the source of the restitution payments,” remand was necessary for a new ability to pay hearing. View "In re J.G." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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In this question involving one of the economical litigation rules the Supreme Court accepted a request by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to decide a question of state law regarding Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 98(1) and answered that section 98(a) does not categorically require that all affiants be personally present for service at an address within 150 miles of the place of trial for a reasonable period during the twenty days prior to trial. The issue before the Supreme Court arose from a limited civil case. The Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court whether, when a party offers into evidence an affidavit or declaration and a copy of affidavit has been served on the party against whom it is offered, section 98(a) requires the affiant to be located and personally available for service at the address provided in the declaration that is within 150 miles of the place of trial. The Supreme Court answered as set forth above, holding that a section 98(a) affiant’s personal availability for service at an address within 150 miles of the place of trial will often be required for her affidavit to be admissible as evidence but that such presence is not invariably necessary for all affiants. View "Meza v. Portfolio Recovery Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal insofar as it held that the trial court erred in dismissing certain of Plaintiff’s causes of action, holding an employee who believes he or she has not been paid the wages due under the applicable labor statutes and wages orders may not maintain causes of action for unpaid wages against a payroll service provider for breach of contract, negligence, and negligent misrepresentation. While the court of appeal agreed that a payroll company cannot properly be considered an employer of the hiring business’s employee that may be liable for failure to pay wages that are due, the court held that the employee may maintain the causes of action that were dismissed in this case by the trial court. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the court of appeal erred (1) in holding that an employee may maintain a breach of contract action against the payroll company under the third party beneficiary doctrine; and (2) in determining that an employee who alleges that he or she has not been paid wages that are due may maintain causes of action for negligence and negligent misrepresentation against a payroll company. View "Goonewardene v. ADP, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions of kidnapping, robbing, raping, torturing, and murder but reversed his death sentence, holding that multiple prospective jurors were improperly excused for cause. Defendant in this case was a black man sentenced to death for murdering a white woman. The prosecutor struck four black male jurors, leaving no black man on the jury. The Supreme Court held (1) under the standards of Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510 (1968) and Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412 (1985), the trial court erred by excusing jury candidates on the ground that they could not fairly and impartially consider whether death was the appropriate punishment; but (2) the trial court properly rejected Defendant’s Armstrong’s Batson claims. View "People v. Armstrong" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the judgment of the appellate court reversing the judgment of the trial court granted Defendants’ special motions to strike the second through sixth causes of action advanced by Plaintiffs in Plaintiffs’ dispute with the City of Carson and other defendants, holding that some of Plaintiffs’ causes of action were based on protected activities under Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 425.26(e)(2) and (e)(4) but others were not. After Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit Defendants responded by making a motion under the anti-SLAPP statute. The Supreme Court held that the causes of action asserted in Plaintiffs’ dispute with Defendants did not arise from Defendants’ acts in furtherance of their right of free speech in connection with a public issue with the exception of two discrete claims, which were within the scope of subdivision (e)(2) and (e)(4) of the anti-SLAPP statute, thus affirming in part and reversing in part the appellate court’s judgment. View "Rand Resources, LLC v. City of Carson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of first degree murder and sentence of death on the murder count, holding that no reversible error occurred in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s challenges for cause concerning a prospective juror or Defendant’s motion for additional peremptory challenges; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in deciding not to sequester the jury; (4) Defendant’s child pornography charge was validly joined with his kidnapping and murder charges; (5) assuming the trial court erred in allowing certain testimony, the error was harmless; (6) any other error in the trial court’s evidentiary rulings was harmless; (7) the trial court did not commit prejudicial error in its instructions to the jury; and (8) Defendant’s challenges to the constitutionality of California’s death penalty law were unavailing. View "People v. Westerfield" on Justia Law