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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 following a second penalty proceeding, holding that there was no error requiring reversal. Specifically, the Court held (1) the Ireland merger doctrine did not bar Defendant’s convictions for torture murder and mayhem murder; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions for torture murder and rape murder; (3) the trial court’s admission of gang affiliation evidence during the guilt phase of trial was harmless; (4) the evidence supported the special circumstance findings of torture murder and mayhem murder; (5) the jury’s finding that Defendant was sane at the time of the killing did not require reversal; (6) the trial court did not err in admitting evidence of Defendant’s possible gang affiliation and racist beliefs during the penalty phase; (7) imposition of the death penalty on a mentally ill defendant does not violate the Eighth Amendment; and (8) Defendant’s constitutional challenges to California’s imposition of the death penalty failed. View "People v. Powell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the interest rate on consumer loans of $2,500 or more may render the loans unconscionable under section 22302 of the Financial Code. Defendant, a lender of consumer loans to high-risk borrowers, had as one of its signature products an unsecured $2,600 loan carrying an annual percentage rate (APR) of either ninety-six percent or, later in the class period, 135 percent. Plaintiffs alleged that CashCall violated California’s Unfair Competition Law (UCL), Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 17200 because its lending practice was unlawful where it violated section 22302, the section that applies the unconscionability doctrine to consumer loans. The district court certified Plaintiffs’ lawsuit as a class action and then granted CashCall’s motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the federal court of appeals certified to the Supreme Court a question of law. The Supreme Court answered in the positive, holding that an interest rate on consumer loans of $2,500 or more may be deemed unconscionable under section 22302. View "De La Torre v. CashCall, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the immunity from damages for collisions resulting from police chases provided by Cal. Veh. Code 17004.7 is available to a public agency only if all peace officers of the agency certify in writing that they have received, read, and understood the agency’s vehicle policy. The Supreme Court held that a public agency may receive immunity provided by section 17004.7 only if every peace officer the agency employs has provided written certification that the officer has received, read, and understood the agency’s written policy on vehicular pursuits. While the agency’s policy must require the written certification, the agency need not prove total compliance with that requirement as a prerequisite to receiving the immunity. The Court of Appeal reached a similar conclusion, holding (1) it suffices if a public agency imposes the certification requirement, but the agency does not have to prove total compliance with the requirement; and (2) because the pursuit policy promulgated by the City in this case imposed such a requirement, summary judgment was correctly granted in the City’s favor. View "Ramirez v. City of Gardena" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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At issue was what standards of review apply to the Public Employment Relations Board’s (PERB) legal interpretations and findings of fact when a final decision by PERB under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (MMBA), Cal. Gov’t Code 3500 et seq., is appealed. The Supreme Court held (1) PERB’s legal findings are entitled to deferential review, and PERB’s factual findings are “conclusive” “if supported by substantial evidence”; and (2) governing bodies or representatives properly designated are required to engage with unions on matters within the scope of representation prior to arriving at a determination of policy or course of action, even if that action is not a formal one taken by the governing body itself. Here, unions filed unfair practice claims after San Diego’s mayor sponsored a citizen’s initiative to eliminate pensions for new municipal employees and denied union demands to meet and confer over the measure. The Court of Appeal annulled PERB’s finding that the failure to meet and confer constituted an unfair labor practice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the MMBA applied to the mayor’s official pursuit of pension reform as a matter of policy; and (2) the Court of Appeals improperly reviewed PERB’s interpretation of the governing statutes de novo and took an unduly constricted view of the duty to meet and confer. View "Boling v. Public Employment Relations Board" on Justia Law

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These three consolidated cases presented similar issues concerning Proposition 47’s effect on felony-based enhancements in resentencing proceedings under Cal. Penal Code 1170.18. Proposition 47, or the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, reclassified as misdemeanors offenses that were previously felonies or “wobblers” and added section 1170.18, which permits allows defendants previously convicted of felony offenses that Proposition 47 reduced to misdemeanors to petition to have those felony convictions resentenced or redesignated as misdemeanors. The Supreme Court held that Proposition 47’s directive that the resentenced or redesigned offense “be considered a misdemeanor for all purposes” permits defendants to challenge felony-based Cal. Penal Code 667.5 and Cal. Penal Code 12022.1 enhancements when the underlying felonies have subsequently been resentenced or redesignated as misdemeanors. The Court further held that such challenges may be brought in a resentencing procedure under section 1170.18 or may be brought on a petition for writ of habeas corpus, under which instance relief is limited to judgments that were not final at the time the initiative took effect. Finally, those convicted under Cal. Penal Code 1320.5 cannot obtain similar relief. View "People v. Buycks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After issuing an order to show cause with respect to Petitioner habeas claim that prejudicial juror misconduct occurred when a juror did not timely disclose a history of childhood abuse, the Supreme Court discharged the order to show cause and held that Petitioner was not entitled to relief. Petitioner was convicted of four counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to death. Petitioner then filed this amended habeas corpus petition alleging that the jury foreperson had committed misconduct by concealing that he was abused as a child. The Supreme Court issued an order to show cause and ordered a reference hearing directing a referee to answer four questions. After an evidentiary hearing, the referee found that there was no prejudicial juror misconduct because the juror’s nondisclosure was neither intentional nor deliberate and that juror was not biased against Petitioner. The Supreme Court agreed generally with the referee’s findings and held that Petitioner failed to establish that he was entitled to habeas corpus relief on his claim of prejudicial juror misconduct. View "In re Manriquez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted the Ninth Circuit’s request for certification and answered (1) California’s wage and hour statutes and regulations have not adopted the de minimis doctrine found in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); and (2) the relevant wage order and statutes do not permit application of the de minimis principle on the facts of this case. Here, an employer required an employee to work “off the clock” for several minutes per shift. The employer moved for summary judgment on the ground that the employee’s uncompensated time was so minimal that the employer was not required to compensate him. The district court concluded that the de minimis doctrine applied and granted summary judgment for the employer. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court to answer whether the FLSA’s de minimis doctrine applies to claims for unpaid wages under California Labor Code sections 510, 1194, and 1197. The Supreme Court held (1) the pertinent statutes and wage order have not incorporated the de minimis doctrine set forth in the FLSA; and (2) while California has a de minimis rule that has operated in various contexts, that rule is not applicable under the facts of this case. View "Troester v. Starbucks Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the sentence of death imposed in connection with Defendant’s conviction for the first degree murder of a police officer and the attempted murder of a police officer, holding that the trial court, over defense objection, erroneously excused for cause a prospective juror based on his written response to questions about his view on capital punishment, requiring reversal of the penalty verdict. After finding that Defendant did not have an intellectual disability, and following a penalty trial, the jury returned a verdict of death. The trial court imposed a judgment of death after denying the automatic motion to modify the verdict. The court also imposed a prison sentence on the other counts for which Defendant was convicted and enhancement allegations. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court erred in excusing a prospective juror based on his questionnaire responses, an error that automatically compelled reversal of the penalty phase; and (2) the trial court’s judgment is affirmed in all other respects. View "People v. Woodruff" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant, after a jury trial, of murdering James Madden and sentencing Defendant to death. On appeal, Defendant raised a number of issues, most of which focused on purported errors made by the trial court. Defendant also took issue with the Supreme Court’s decision not to supplement the appellate record with the trial transcripts of his codefendants and also challenged the constitutionality of California’s death penalty scheme. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in its entirety, holding that there was no reversible error in this case. View "People v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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At issue was which statute of limitations applies to a suit brought by a child allegedly harmed by in utero exposure to hazardous chemicals: that for toxic exposure claims - Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 340.8(a) - or that for prenatal injuries - Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 340.4. Plaintiff brought suit when she was twelve years old alleging that she and her mother were exposed to toxic chemicals at a Sony Electronics, Inc. manufacturing plant, resulting in her birth defects. Sony moved for summary judgment, arguing that the action was barred by the six-year statute of limitations under section 340.4. In response, Plaintiff argued that her action fell under section 340.8. Section 340.8’s limitations period is only two years but, unlike section 340.4, permits tolling during minority and periods of mental incapacity. The trial court granted summary judgment after applying section 340.4. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the toxic exposure statute was more recently enacted, and its language plainly encompasses prenatal injuries, it applies in this case; and (2) therefore, Plaintiff’s claims are not time-barred. View "Lopez v. Sony Electronics, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury