Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeal ruling that Proposition 47's revision to Cal. Penal Code 496, making the offense of receiving stolen property a misdemeanor when the value of the property is $950 or less, does not extend to convictions for receiving a stolen vehicle under section 496d, holding that Proposition 47's amendment to section 496(a) did not affect convictions for receiving stolen property under section 496d. Proposition 47 amended section 496, the general statute criminalizing receipt of stolen property, by making the offense a misdemeanor if the value of the property does not exceed $950. Proposition 47, however, did not amend 496d. Defendant pleaded guilty to unlawfully buying, receiving, concealing, selling or withholding a stolen vehicle in violation of section 496d. Defendant filed a motion under Proposition 47 to reduce his convictions to misdemeanors. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Proposition 47's revision to section 496 does not extend to convictions under section 496d. View "People v. Orozco" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this case involving whether Proposition 47 requires a court to draw a distinction under Cal. Veh. Code 10851 between permanent and temporary vehicle takings, the Supreme Court held that a person who has unlawfully taken a vehicle in violation of section 10851 is not disqualified from Proposition 47 relief because the person cannot prove he or she intended to keep the vehicle away from the owner indefinitely. Proposition 47 reduced felony offenses consisting of theft of property worth $950 or less to misdemeanors. While liability for theft generally requires that the defendant have an intent permanently to deprive the owner of possession, section 10581 does not distinguish between temporary takings and permanent ones. At issue in this case was whether Proposition 47 grant sentencing relief to people who take vehicles permanently but denies relief to people who take vehicles temporarily. The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative and reversed the superior court's denial of resentencing for Defendant's 10851 conviction, holding that Proposition is neither categorically inapplicable to section 10851 convictions nor is a defendant not entitled to resentencing because he lacked the intent permanently to deprive the vehicle's owner of its possession. View "People v. Bullard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the judgment entered for Employer in this labor dispute, holding that employees do not lose standing to pursue a claim under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), Cal. Lab. Code 2698 et seq., if they settle and dismiss their individual claims for Labor Code violations. Employee sued Employer in a putative class action alleging several causes of action and seeking civil penalties under PAGA. Employer successfully moved to compel arbitration of the "individual claims" for Employee's own damages. The court dismissed Employee's class claims. After arbitration was complete, Employee accepted Employer's statutory offer to settle Employee's individual claims. Employee then dismissed his individual claims, leaving only the PAGA claim for resolution. Employer then moved for summary adjudication. The district court granted the motion, concluding that Employee was no longer an "aggrieved employee" with PAGA standing because his rights had been "completely redressed" by the settlement and dismissal of his own claims. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff's settlement of individual Labor Code claims did not extinguish his PAGA standing; and (2) claim preclusion did not apply under these circumstances. View "Kim v. Reins International California, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that a felony for misuse of personal identifying information under Cal. Penal Code 530.5, subdivision (a) can be reduced to misdemeanor shoplifting under Proposition 47, holding that a conviction for misuse of identifying information is not subject to reclassification as misdemeanor shoplifting. Defendant was convicted of two felony counts of misusing personal identifying information in violation of section 530.5, subdivision (a). Defendant later moved to reclassify his felony convictions to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. The trial court granted Defendant's motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that misuse of personal identifying information is not a "theft" offense under Cal. Penal Code 459.5, subdivision (b). View "People v. Jimenez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeal's judgment ordering four of Defendant's sentence enhancements stricken, holding that a convicted defendant who is placed on probation after imposition of sentence is suspended, and who does not timely appeal from the order granting probation, may take advantage of ameliorative statutory amendments that take effect during a later appeal from a judgment revoking probation and imposing sentence. In three separate cases, Defendant pleaded guilty to drug-related offenses and admitting having sustained four prior felony drug-related convictions for purposes of sentence enhancement under Cal. Health & Safety Code former 11370.2. The trial court later revoked probation and imposed a prison sentence that included four three-year prior drug conviction enhancements under former section 11370.2(c). Thereafter, the governor signed Senate Bill No. 180, which revised section 11370.2 so that Defendant's prior drug-related convictions no longer qualified Defendant for sentence enhancement. The Supreme Court remanded the case for reconsideration in light of the revised statute. On remand, the court of appeal concluded that Defendant could take advantage of the revisions to the statute that rendered the sentence enhancements inapplicable to Defendant's prior drug-related convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Legislature must have intended section 11370.2's ameliorative changes to operate in cases like this one. View "People v. McKenzie" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that the admission of expert testimony did not violate the prohibition against communication of case-specific hearsay set forth in People v. Sanchez, 63 Cal.4th 665 (2016) and that sufficient evidence supported Defendant's conviction for possession of alprazolam, holding that the court of appeal did not err. Sanchez held that an expert cannot relate case-specific hearsay to explain the basis for his or her opinion unless the facts are independently proven or fall within a hearsay exception. In the instant case, an expert told the jury that he identified the controlled substance Defendant was charged with possessing by comparing the visual characteristics of the pills seized against a database containing descriptions of pharmaceuticals. On appeal, Defendant argued that the expert related inadmissible case-specific hearsay. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the expert related no inadmissible case-specific hearsay in testifying to the contents of a drug identification database; and (2) substantial evidence supported Defendant's conviction. View "People v. Veamatahau" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that a defense counsel's failure to object at trial, before People v. Sanchez, 63 Cal.4th 665 (2016), was decided, forfeited a claim that a gang expert's testimony related case-specific hearsay in violation of the confrontation clause, holding that a defense counsel's failure to object under such circumstances does not forfeit a claim based on Sanchez. Sanchez held that an expert cannot relate case-specific hearsay to explain the basis for her opinion unless the facts are independently proven or fall within a hearsay exception. Defendants in the instant case were each convicted of two counts of first degree special circumstance murder and other crimes. Before Defendants' appeals were resolved, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Sanchez. On appeal, one of the defendants argued that a gang expert testified to case-specific hearsay in violation of the confrontation clause. The court of appeal held that the defendant's failure to object to case-specific hearsay in expert testimony at trial forfeited any Sanchez claim on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeal erred in finding that the defendant forfeited his claim on appeal based on Sanchez by failing to object at a trial that occurred before Sanchez was decided. View "People v. Perez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the appellate court dismissing a minor's appeal challenging the juvenile court's neglect of its mandatory duty under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 702 to declare a wobbler offense to be a misdemeanor or a felony, holding that the minor may not bring such a challenge in an appeal from a later dispositional order after the time to appeal the original disposition expired. Two wardship petitions were filed against G.C. alleging that G.C. committed three wobbler offenses. G.C. admitted all three allegations. The court, however, did not declare on the record whether the offenses were felonies or misdemeanors. Thereafter, G.C. was adjudged a ward and placed on probation. G.C. did not appeal the disposition. After G.C. violated the terms of her probation the juvenile court maintained G.C. in her mother's custody under the supervision of the probation department with various conditions. G.C. appealed, arguing that the court failed expressly to declare whether the offenses were misdemeanors or felonies. The appellate court determined that the issue was not timely raised. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that although section 702 is mandatory, noncompliance did not make the original dispositional order an unauthorized sentence that could be corrected at any time. View "In re G.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeal affirming the trial court's grant of Defendant's demurrer and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that Defendant negligently allowed a fire to spread from Defendant's property to Plaintiff's property, harming some of Plaintiff's trees, holding that Plaintiff could not rely on Cal. Civ. Code 3346's extended statute of limitations and that his complaint was otherwise untimely. Section 3346 provides enhanced damages to plaintiffs suffering wrongful injuries to timber, trees, or underwood. The relevant statute of limitations where a plaintiff seeks such damages is five years. In this case, Plaintiff alleged that section 3346's enhanced damages and five-year statute of limitations applied to property damage from a fire negligently allowed to escape from Defendant's property. Defendant filed a demurrer, arguing that Plaintiff's claims were time-barred. The trial court granted the demurrer. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the three-year statute of limitations in Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 338(b) applied to this action for trespass upon or injury to real property. The court of appeal agreed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 3346 is inapplicable to damages to timber, trees, or underwood from negligently escaping fires and that Plaintiff's complaint was otherwise untimely. View "Scholes v. Lambirth Trucking Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the request of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to decide a question of California law regarding Industrial Welfare Commission wage order No. 7-2001 (Wage Order 7), which requires employers to pay their employees a minimum wage for all "hours worked," concluding that time spent on the employer's premises waiting for, and undergoing, mandatory exit searches of bags, packages, or personal technology devices voluntarily brought to work purely for personal convenience by employees is compensable as "hours worked" within the meaning of Wage Order 7. Employees filed a class action complaint against Employer, Apple Inc., alleging that Employer failed to pay them minimum and overtime wages for time spent waiting for and undergoing Employer's exit searches in violation of California law. A federal district court granted summary judgment for Employer. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked the Supreme Court to address the state law issue. The Supreme Court concluded that, in the instant case, Employees' time spent on Employer's premises waiting for, and undergoing, required exit searches of packages, bags, or personal technology devices, such as iPhones, brought to work purely for personal convenience, is compensable as "hours worked" within the meaning of Wage Order 7. View "Frlekin v. Apple Inc." on Justia Law