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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

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In this case concerning the line separating shoplifting from burglary after the approval of Proposition 47, the Supreme Court held that entering an interior room that is objectively identifiable as off-limits to the public with intent to steal therefrom is not shoplifting but instead remains punishable as burglary. In approving Proposition 47, voters created a new misdemeanor offense called “shoplifting,” which was defined as an act that had formerly been punishable as felony burglary. At issue in this case was whether a person who enters a store during regular business hours and proceeds to a private back office with intent to steal from that office has committed the crime of shoplifting or burglary. Defendant in this case petitioned the superior court to redesignate two of his four felony burglary convictions as shoplifting misdemeanors under Proposition 47. The trial court denied the petition, and the Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that where Defendant’s burglary convictions were based on entries into back offices that were objectively identifiable as off-limits to the public with an intent to steal therefrom, Defendant was not entitled to redesignate his burglary convictions as misdemeanors under Proposition 47. View "People v. Colbert" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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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