Justia California Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to vacate his 2002 conviction under Cal. Pen. Code 1473.7, holding that Defendant demonstrated a reasonable probability that if he had been properly advised by counsel about the immigration consequences of his plea, he would not have pleaded guilty to an offense subjecting him to mandatory deportation.Defendant was six years old when he came to the United States and lacked any meaningful ties to Mexico, his country of birth. In 2002, Defendant pled guilty to possessing methamphetamine precursors with intent to manufacture. Defendant's counsel did not advise Defendant as to the actual immigration consequences of his plea. Defendant later obtained an order to expunge his conviction. In 2018, Defendant filed a motion to vacate his conviction under section 1473.7. The trial court denied the motion without considering whether Defendant suffered prejudice from counsel's failure to provide adequate advise. The court of appeal affirmed, determining that defense counsel provided ineffective assistance but that Defendant suffered no prejudice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant demonstrated a reasonable probability that if he had been properly advised about the immigration consequences of his plea he would not have pleaded guilty to the offense. View "People v. Vivar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a motion to quash service of summons is not the proper remedy to test whether a complaint states a cause of action for unlawful detainer.Landlord, the City of Redwood City, filed a complaint in unlawful detainer against Tenant. In response, Tenant filed a motion to quash service of summons, relying on Delta Imports Inc. v. Municipal Court, 146 Cal.App.3d 1033 (1983) to argue that a motion to quash service is the only method by which the defendant can test whether the complaint states a cause of action for unlawful detainer. The superior court concluded that Tenant improperly lodged his motion to quash. Tenant filed a petition for writ of mandate and prohibition challenging the superior court's order. The court of appeal denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court correctly found that Tenant's motion to quash was not the proper procedure to argue that the City was not a proper plaintiff. View "Stancil v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of the first degree murder of her four daughters and the attempted murder of her son but reversed her death sentence, holding that judicial misconduct during the penalty phase was prejudicial.The Supreme Court found or assumed seven errors in this case, including error in the guilt phase instructions regarding discovery violations, error limiting mental state testimony by defense experts in the guilt phase, error in excluding a neuropsychological expert's testimony in the penalty phase, error in excluding Defendant's positron emission tomography scan results from the penalty phase, error in failing to admit mitigating evidence from lay witnesses, erroneous penalty phase instructions regarding discovery violations, and judicial misconduct. The Supreme Court held (1) considered cumulatively, the errors during the guilt phase did not warrant reversal of the guilt judgment; (2) judicial misconduct in the penalty phase was prejudicial and warranted reversal of Defendant's death sentence; and (3) the prejudicial impact of additional penalty phase errors increased when considered together with the judicial misconduct. View "People v. Nieves" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of first degree murder and verdict of death, holding that there was no prejudicial error in the proceedings below and that Defendant was not entitled to reversal of his conviction.A jury convicted Defendant of the first degree murder of a deputy sheriff. When the jury was unable to reach a penalty verdict the trial court declared a mistrial. Following a penalty retrial, the jury returned a verdict of death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) even if prosecutorial misconduct occurred during the guilt phase, it was not prejudicial, and there were no other errors during the guilt phase; and (2) no prejudicial error occurred during the penalty phase, and Defendant's challenges to the constitutionality of the death penalty statute were unavailing. View "People v. Steskal" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) in this juvenile case, holding that where the prosecutor has not given advance notice and has not made an adequate showing to justify the lack of notice, the court must give sufficient time for counsel and the minor to prepare and respond to the application before any order is issued.At issue was whether a juvenile court may, when a minor is the subject of a juvenile wardship petition, issue a TRO notice under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 213.5, subdivision (b) without advance notice to the minor. The Supreme Court held (1) section 213.5, subdivision (b) incorporates the notice requirements set forth in Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 527, subdivision (c); and (2) because no notice was provided before the hearing in this case, the juvenile court's issuance of the TRO exceeded its authority under section 213.5. View "In re E.F." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of the murders of four young men during the robbery of a car wash and his sentence of death, holding that there was no merit to any of Defendant's claims.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not err by denying a motion to suppress two witnesses' identifications of Defendant; (2) Defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation was not violated by the trial court's admission of certain testimony; (3) the trial court did not err by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of unpremeditated second-degree murder, and there was no other instructional error; (4) Defendant's claims of trial error in the admission of allegedly prejudicial hearsay were without merit; (5) the trial court's denial of Defendant's new trial motion was not erroneous; (6) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to investigate certain allegations raised by Defendant; and (7) Defendant's objections to the constitutionality of California's death penalty scheme were unavailing. View "People v. Wilson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that when the court-appointed attorneys of parents in termination proceedings have failed to timely file a notice of appeal of an order terminating parental rights, parents whose rights have been terminated may seek relief based on the attorney's failure to provide competent representation.After M.B.'s parental rights to her child were terminated, M.B. timely asked her new court-appointed counsel to file an appeal. The attorney, however, did not file an appeal until after the sixty-day filing deadline had passed. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal as untimely. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) every parent facing the termination of parental rights is entitled to the assistance of competent counsel; and (2) when an attorney fails to file a timely appeal in accordance with his or her client's instructions, the parent may seek relief based on the denial of the statutory right to the assurance of competent counsel. View "In re A.R." on Justia Law

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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the trial court's decision to dismiss one of several named defendants, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), for failure to adequately allege a special relationship giving rise to an affirmative duty to protect, holding that the court of appeals did not err.Plaintiffs, former athletes who trained in the Olympic sport of taekwondo, filed this suit against their former coach, Marc Gitelman, and several others, alleging, among other things, that USOC and USA Taekwondo (USAT) were negligent in failing to protect them from Gitelman's sexual abuse. USOC and USAT both demurred to the complaint, contending that Plaintiffs had not adequately alleged that they had an affirmative duty to take action to protect Plaintiffs from Gitelman's abuse. The trial court sustained the demurrers and entered judgments of dismissal. The court of appeal reversed as to USAT but affirmed as to USOC. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeal did not err by declining to apply the factors set out in Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968), as an alternative source of duty. View "Brown v. USA Taekwondo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that Cal. Penal Code 632.7 applies only to nonparties and does not forbid a party to a phone call transmitted to or from a cellular or cordless telephone from recording the conversation without the consent of the other party or parties, holding that section 632.7 applies to parties as well as nonparties.Setion 632.7(a) makes it a crime when a person, "without consent of all parties to a communication," intercepts or intentionally records a communication transmitted between a cellular or cordless telephone and another telephone. At issue was whether the statute is concerned only with recording by persons other than parties, or nonparties, to the communication. The Supreme Court held that the statute applies to parties as well as nonparties that that recording a communication without the speaker's consent is unlawful, regardless of whether a party or someone else is performing the recording. View "Smith v. LoanMe, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal reversing the trial court's ruling granting Defendant's motion to strike Plaintiffs' prevailing wage allegations, holding that Plaintiffs' belt sorting qualified as "public works" Cal. Labor Code 1720, subd.(a)(2).Plaintiffs were contract workers who acted as belt sorters for a county sanitation district. Plaintiffs brought a class action suit alleging failure to (1) pay minimum and/or prevailing wages, (2) pay overtime at prevailing wage rates, (3) provide meal periods, and (4) pay all wages owed at the time of termination. At issue was whether Plaintiffs' work fell within the definition of public works in section 1720(a)(2) entitling them to prevailing wage compensation. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to strike. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiffs' labor qualified as public work under section 1720(a)(2). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals did not err. View "Kaanaana v. Barrett Business Services, Inc." on Justia Law