Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal striking as unreasonable a condition of supervised release requiring Defendant to "submit to search of any electronic device either in his possession[,] including cell phone[,] and/or any device in his place of residence," holding that there was no error.At issue was how to assess the validity of a challenged condition of a period of mandatory supervision following service of a county jail sentence. The Supreme Court held (1) such discretionary conditions are to be evaluated for reasonableness on a case-by-case basis under the test set forth in People v. Lent, 15 Cal.3d 481 (1975); (2) a mandatory supervision condition that allows for a search of an individual's electronic devices is not per se reasonable in all cases; and (3) because the People did not review the court of appeal's case-specific outcome in this case, this Court accepts that concession and does not review the court of appeal's determination as to the condition imposed on Defendant. View "People v. Bryant" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this action brought by a physician alleging that the defendant hospitals and medical staff members unlawfully retaliated against him for raising concerns about patient care the Supreme Court held that Defendants were not entitled to wholesale dismissal of Plaintiff's claims under the anti-SLAPP law.Defendants sought to strike Plaintiff's retaliation claims under the anti-SLAPP statute, arguing that any claim arising from the peer review process targets protected speech or petitioning activity and therefore must be afforded anti-SLAPP protection. The trial court granted Defendants' motion. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the anti-SLAPP statute does not protect actions taken with a retaliatory motive. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that Defendants demonstrated that some, but not all, of the claims collected was unlawful acts of retaliation in Plaintiff's first cause of action arose from protected speech or petitioning activity. View "Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeal and its award of costs on appeal, holding that a claim for failure to promote brought under the harassment provision of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Cal. Gov. Code 12940, subd. (j), 12960, accrues, and thus the statute of limitations begins to run, at the point when an employee knows or reasonably should know of the employer's allegedly unlawful refusal to promote the employee.Plaintiff alleged that her employer passed her over for promotions because she refused to have sex with the company's executive vice-president, Michael Kelso. The trial court granted summary judgment for Kelso, finding no triable issue of fact as to Kelso's statute of limitations defense. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment for Kelso and two other defendants and awarded costs on appeal to all three defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in concluding that the statute of limitations began to run when Plaintiff's employer offered a promotion to someone else and she accepted it; and (2) the court of appeal erred in awarding costs on appeal to Defendants without first finding that Plaintiff's underlying claim was objectively groundless. View "Pollock v. Tri-Modal Distribution Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's summary denial of Defendant's Cal. Penal Code 1170.95 petition, holding that the statutory language and legislative intent of section 1170.95 make clear that petitioners are entitled to the appointment of counsel upon the filing of a facially sufficient petition.Senate Bill No. 1437 eliminated natural and probable consequences liability for muder and limited the scope of the felony murder rule. The bill also added section 1170.95 to the Penal Code, which creates a procedure for convicted murderers who could not be convicted under the law as amended to retroactively seek relief. Defendant filed a section 1170.95 petition. The trial court considered Defendant's record of conviction without appointing counsel and summarily denied the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a petitioner is statutorily entitled to counsel, if requested, upon the filing of a facially sufficient petition, and section 1170.95, subdivision (c) describes only one prima facie showing; (2) a trial court can rely on the record of conviction in determining whether that single prima facie showing is made; and (3) the trial court's failure to appoint counsel to represent Defendant was state law error only, and the court of appeal shall determine on remand whether the error was prejudicial. View "People v. Lewis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of one count each of murder and rape and his sentence of death, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not err in excluding defense evidence relating to third party culpability and victim character; (2) the trial court did not by admitting three photographs of the victim proffered by the prosecutor while excluding a booking photograph of the victim offered by Defendant; (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding certain newspaper articles or evidence of other crimes; (4) the trial court did not err in permitting the prosecutor to elicit testimony from Defendant's wife and from the victim's father; (5) assuming the trial court's instruction pursuant to CALJIC No. 2.50.01 was erroneous, there was no prejudice; (6) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant discovery of a witness's medical records; (7) any error in the admission of evidence and regiment regarding Defendant's lack of remorse was harmless; (8) assuming that the prosecutor erred in her penalty phase argument, the error was not prejudicial; and (9) Defendant's challenges to his sentence were unavailing. View "People v. Dworak" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that "regular rate of compensation" under Cal. Lab. Code 226.7(c), like "regular rate of pay" under Cal. Lab. Code 510(a), encompasses all nondiscretionary payments, such that the calculation of premium pay for a noncompliant meal, rest, or recovery period, like the calculation of overtime pay, must account for not only hourly wages but also for nondiscretionary payments for work performed by the employee.Plaintiff, who was employed by Defendant as a bartender, filed a class action suit alleging that Defendant, by omitting nondiscretionary incentive payments from its calculation of premium pay, failed to pay her for noncompliant meal or rest breaks in accordance with her "regular rate of compensation," as required by section 226.7(c). The trial court granted summary adjudication for Defendant, concluding that "regular rate of compensation" in section 226.7(c) is not interchangeable with the term "regular rate of pay" under section 510(a), which governs overtime pay. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the term “regular rate of compensation” in section 226.7(c) has the same meaning as “regular rate of pay” in section 510(a) and therefore encompasses all nondiscretionary payments for work performed by the employee, not just hourly wages. View "Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal determining that a minor's eighteenth birthday is excluded in calculating when the statute of limitations begins to run, holding that an individual's eighteenth birthday is excluded when calculating the applicable limitations period.Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against the City of Fontana and several of its police officers (collectively, Defendants) under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that one of the officers wrongfully shot and killed his father. Plaintiff was a minor at the time of his father's death. The trial court ruled that the claim was time-barred because Plaintiff filed suit one day outside the two-year limitations period and that Plaintiff's eighteenth birthday must be included in calculating the limitations period. The court of appeal reversed, ruling that Plaintiff's eighteenth birthday should have been excluded pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 12. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) in cases in which the statute of limitations is tolled bad on a plaintiff's minor age, the day after tolling ends is excluded in calculating whether an action is timely filed; and (2) Plaintiff's lawsuit in this case was timely filed. View "Shalabi v. City of Fontana" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal in this case involving allegations of active gang participation and gang enhancements attached to other offenses, holding that the commission of two or more predicate offenses must be proven by independent admissible evidence, and such proof may not be established solely by the testimony of an expert who has no personal knowledge of facts otherwise necessary to satisfy the prosecution's burden.The two defendants in this case were charged with two counts of attempted murder, assault with a firearm, and active street gang participation. Gang and firearm enhancements were attached to the charges. The first trial ended when the jury hung on almost all charges, but a second jury convicted Defendants of the remaining allegations. The court of appeal reversed the active gang participation and enhancement allegations, as well as Defendant's firearm enhancements attached to those allegations, and otherwise affirmed, holding that some of an expert's testimony constituted inadmissible hearsay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the jury was permitted to improperly rely on hearsay to conclude that the predicate offenses had been proven and that Defendants acted with intent to benefit a gang when they committed the crimes with which they were charged; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "People v. Valencia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of kidnapping and killing Shirley and Andrew Demko after burglarizing and robbing their home, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below.On appeal, Defendant raised numerous allegations of error both during the guilt phase and the penalty phase. The Supreme Court rejected the claims and affirmed the judgment in its entirety, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant's Batson/Wheeler motion upon finding that the prosecutor did not make a prima facie showing that the prosecutor exercised a peremptory challenge in a discriminatory manner; (2) assuming, without deciding, that the trial court erred in admitting statements that Defendant identified as implicating prior burglaries, any error was harmless as a matter of law; and (3) there were no penalty phase errors and no cumulative prejudice to consider. View "People v. Battle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that capacity or willingness to accept treatment is a relevant factor to be considered on the issue of grave disability but is not a separate element that must be proven to establish a conservatorship.Under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 5000 et seq., those subject to a conservatorship petition are entitled to a court or jury trial to decide if they are "gravely disabled." At issue was whether the trier of fact must additionally find that the individual is unwilling or unable to accept treatment voluntarily. The jury in this case found that K.P. was gravely disabled and granted a petition to renew K.P.'s conservatorship. The court of appeal affirmed. On appeal, K.P. claimed that a finding of unwillingness or inability to accept voluntary treatment was required for a conservatorship to be established. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that inability or unwillingness to accept voluntary treatment need not be separately proven at trial. View "Conservatorship of K.P." on Justia Law