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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal rejecting Defendant’s argument that insufficient evidence supported the juvenile court’s finding that Defendant’s use of a knife with a dull tip and slightly erred edge, referred to as a “butter knife,” violated Cal. Penal Code 245(a)(1), holding that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a finding that the knife at issue was used as a “deadly weapon” for purposes of the statute. Section 245(a)(1) prohibits assaulting another person with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm. On appeal, defendant argued that the juvenile court erred in finding that she violated the statute because she had not used the butter knife at issue in a manner that was “capable of producing and likely to produce death or great bodily injury.” See People v. Aguilar, 16 Cal.4th 1023, 1029 (1997). The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) consistent with settled principles, for an object to qualify as a deadly weapon based on how it was used, the defendant must have used the object in a manner both “capable of producing” and “likely to produce” each or great bodily injury; and (2) even if Defendant’s use of the butter knife were capable of causing great bodily injury, there was no substantial evidence that it was likely to do so. View "In re B.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of first degree murder and sentencing him to death, holding that, in an effort to manage Defendant’s disruptive behavior, the trial court did not err and that, with respect to Defendant’s remaining claims, either there was no error or any error was not prejudicial. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not err in barring Defendant from the courtroom for the entirety of his capital trial based on his misconduct; (2) the trial court did not err in finding that Defendant forfeited his right to testify at the guilt phase and waived that right at the penalty phase; (3) the trial court did not err in failing to appoint new counsel; and (4) Defendant’s remaining allegations of error were either without merit or did not warrant reversal. View "People v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeal reversing the judgment of the trial court approving an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) issued as part of a master plan to develop a partial retirement community in Fresno, California, holding that the EIR failed to provide an adequate discussion of health and safety problems that will be caused by the rise in various pollutants resulting from the project’s development but that the EIR was generally clear about the potential environmental harm and outlined mitigation measures to address those effects with factual support and scientific consensus. The Court of Appeal found (1) the EIR’s analyses of the project’s air quality impacts was inadequate and that the EIR improperly deferred mitigation measures by proposing to substitute more effective measures if available in the future; and (2) the mitigation measures proposed were impermissibly vague and unlikely to reduce adverse health impacts to less than significant levels. The Supreme Court affirmed as to the first issue but reversed as to the second issue, holding that the EIR was not sufficient to satisfy the California Environmental Quality Act. View "Sierra Club v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

Posted in: Environmental Law

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The Supreme Court held in this criminal proceeding that a prosecutor’s dismissal of a grand juror violates Cal. Penal Code 939.5 because only the grand jury foreperson may dismiss a grand juror and that a defendant may seek dismissal of an indictment on the ground that the prosecutor violated section 939.5 by filing a pretrial motion under Cal. Penal Code 995(a)(1)(A), but the defendant must show that the error reasonably might have had an adverse effect on the impartiality or independence of the grand jury. A prosecutor dismissed a grand juror outside the presence of other jurors and the trial court. Thereafter, the grand jury returned an indictment against Defendant. Defendant moved to set aside the indictment under section 995, arguing that the prosecutor’s dismissal of the juror violated his rights to an impartial and independent grand jury. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Defendant failed to show that the prosecutor’s error in dismissing the juror reasonably might have had an adverse effect on the impartiality or independence of the grand jury, the motion failed on the facts before the Court. View "Avitia v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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At issue was the timing of the notice that must precede an unlawful detainer action where the action is not brought by a landlord but by a new owner who has acquired title to the property under a power of sale contained in a deed of trust. The Supreme Court held that perfection of title, which includes recording the trustee’s deed, is necessary before the new owner serves a three-day written notice to quit on the possessor of the property. The Court thus reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal concluding that perfection of title need only precede the filing of the unlawful detainer action and that the new owner may serve the notice to quit immediately after acquiring ownership. View "Dr. Leevil, LLC v. Westlake Health Care Center" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the district attorney prosecuting a civil commitment petition under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), Cal. Well. & Inst. Code 660-6609.3, may obtain copies of the treatment records supporting updated or replacement evaluators’ opinions about an individual’s suitability for designation as an SVP and whether those records may be shared with a mental health expert retained by the district attorney to assist in the prosecution of the SVP petition. The Orange County District Attorney filed a petition to commit Richard Anthony Smith as an SVP. The SDSH performed updated and replacement evaluations and concluded that Smith no longer qualified as an SVP. Ultimately, the trial court denied the request of the district attorney asking for an order permitting his retained expert to review the SDSH evaluations. The Court of Appeals, however, directed the trial court to vacate its order and enter a new order granting the request. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a recent amendment to the SVPA allows the district court to obtain otherwise confidential records, and the district court may then disclose those records to its retained expert, subject to an appropriate protective order, to assist in the cross-examination of the SDSH evaluators or mental health professionals retained by the defense and in prosecuting the SVP petition. View "People v. Superior Court of Orange County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal that a wage order of the Industrial Welfare Commission (IWC) permitting Plaintiffs to waive a second meal period for shifts greater than twelve hours does not violate the Labor Code. The Labor Code provides that employees who work more than five hours must be provided with a meal period and employees who work more than ten hours must be provided with a second meal period. Under the Labor Code, an employee who works no more than six hours may waive the first meal period, and an employee who works no more than twelve hours may waive the second meal period. At issue was a IWC wage order permitting health care employees to waive the second meal per even if they have worked more than twelve hours. Plaintiffs were employees of a hospital who worked shifts longer than twelve hours and waived their second meal periods. After analyzing the relevant statutory and regulatory provisions the Supreme Court held that the IWC order does not violate the Labor Code. View "Gerard v. Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal concluding that the value of a forged instrument under Cal. Penal Code 473 subdivision (b) is its face value and not the intrinsic value of the instrument itself, holding that because forgery requires the intent to defraud and the stated value of the forged check indicates the severity of the intended fraud, when the check contains a stated value, that amount is its value for this purpose. The recent initiative measure, Proposition 47, makes specified types of forgery misdemeanors if the value of the forged instrument does not exceed $950. Defendant pleaded guilty to forgery under section 475, subdivision (a) for forging a signature on a check made out in the amount of $1,500 and was placed on probation. When Defendant later violated the terms of his probation he requested the court to resentence him as a misdemeanant under the recently enacted Proposition 47, arguing that the check’s value was less than $950. The court denied the request, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that “value” means stated value. View "People v. Franco" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment convicting Defendant of the first degree murders of her three children, vacated two of the jury’s three multiple-murder special-circumstance findings, reversed Defendant’s sentence of death, and remanded the matter for a new penalty determination. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not commit reversible error in denying Defendant’s request for self-representation under Faretta v. California, 422 U.S. 806 (1975), and no other prejudicial error occurred during the guilt phase proceedings; (2) two of the three multiple-murder special-circumstance allegations were erroneously charged and found true in this case; and (3) the trial court erred in excusing a prospective juror for cause based solely on her written questionnaire responses concerning her personal views on the death penalty, requiring reversal of Defendant’s penalty judgment. View "People v. Buenrostro" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of first-degree murder and sentencing him to death, holding that Defendant suffered no prejudice in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) Defendant’s guilty plea was valid because Cal. Penal Code 1018 allows advisory counsel to satisfy the statutory requirements imposed on counsel in the case of a defendant who has exercised the right to self-representation; (2) the restraints placed on Defendant during the penalty trial and the denial of any writing instrument did not violate Defendant’s right to participate in his own defense or any other constitutional rights; and (3) Defendant’s challenges to California’s death penalty scheme and standard jury instructions were unavailing. View "People v. Miracle" on Justia Law