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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court and court of appeal rejecting Plaintiffs' facial challenge to the ordinance adopted by the City and County of San Francisco (the City) requiring wireless telephone service companies to obtain permits to install and maintain lines and equipment in public rights-of-way, holding that the lower courts properly found that ordinance was lawful. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the ordinance was preempted by Cal. Pub. Util. Code 7901 and that the ordinance violated Cal. Pub. Util. Code 7901.1. The trial court ruled that section 7901 did not preempt the challenged portions of the ordinance and rejected Plaintiffs' claim that it violated section 7901.1. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 7901 does not preempt the ordinance based on aesthetic considerations; and (2) the ordinance does not violate section 7901.1 by singling out wireless telephone corporations for regulation. View "T-Mobile West LLC v. City & County of San Francisco" on Justia Law

Posted in: Utilities Law

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The Supreme Court held that the rule set forth in Stone v. Superior Court, 31 Cal.3d 503, that a court must accept a partial verdict of acquittal as to a charged greater offense when a jury has expressly indicated that it has acquitted on that offense but has deadlocked on uncharged lesser included offenses, has not been abrogated by the United States Supreme Court's decision in Blueford v. Arkansas, 566 U.S. 599, which concluded that federal double jeopardy principles do not require a court to accept a partial verdict. Defendant was charged with murder. At the close of evidence, the court instructed the jury on first degree murder and uncharged lesser included offenses. The jury foreperson reported that jurors were split between second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and a not guilty verdict. The court concluded that the jury was deadlocked and declared a mistrial. Defendant moved to dismiss the first degree murder allegation on double jeopardy grounds, arguing that the court's failure to receive a partial acquittal verdict on first degree murder barred a retrial on that charge. The court dismissed the first degree murder charge. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Stone survives Blueford under California law; and (2) the trial court improperly declared a mistrial as to first degree murder. View "People v. Aranda" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that Defendant did not have a right to appointed counsel to respond to the prosecution's appeal of the order of the trial court granting Defendant's motion to suppress the prosecution's evidence against her, holding that Defendant had a right to appointed counsel in the present appeal. Defendant was charged by misdemeanor complaint with driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while having a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. With the assistance of court-appointed counsel, Defendant filed a successful motion to suppress evidence collected during a warrantless traffic stop. The prosecution's appealed the suppression order. Defendant asked the appellate division to appoint new counsel to represent her, but the appellate division refused. Defendant then filed a petition for a writ of mandate, which the court of appeal denied. Without addressing whether the public defender remained appointed to represent Defendant, the court concluded that Defendant did not have the right to appointment of counsel on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that Defendant was entitled to the assistance of counsel to respond to the prosecution's appeal. View "Gardner v. Appellate Division of Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal upholding the juvenile court's finding that H.W. possessed an "other instrument or tool with intent feloniously to break or enter" within the meaning of Cal. Penal Code 466, holding that the pair of pliers that H.W. was in possession of when he was apprehended were not an "other instrument or tool" within the meaning of section 466. H.W., a minor, entered a Sears department store with the intent to steal a pair of jeans. When H.W. was apprehended and searched, he had in possession the jeans and a pair of pliers approximately ten inches in length, with a half-inch blade. The juvenile court sustained the burglary tool possession allegation brought against H.W. The Court of Appeal upheld the juvenile court's determination. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the record did not support the conclusion that H.W. intended to use the pliers to do anything other than remove the anti-theft tag from the jeans; and (2) therefore, there was insufficient evidence to support the section 466 allegation. View "In re H.W." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court modified the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of two counts of first degree murder and related crimes, sentencing Defendant to death, and imposing a four-year determinate term based on the age of the victims by striking the four-year determinate term but otherwise affirmed, holding that there was error in the elderly victim enhancements but no other prejudicial error. Specifically, the Court held (1) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant's convictions; (2) there was no reversible error in the guilt-phase instructions given to the jury; (3) any statutory error in allowing an investigator to read aloud from his report of an interview with a driver of Defendant was harmless at the guilt phase, and the admission of the driver's statement during the guilt phase did not prejudice the jury's penalty determination; (4) no other error occurred during the penalty phase of trial; (5) murder is not one of the crimes eligible for an elderly victim enhancement; (6) any error on the part of the trial court in initially imposing a $10,000 restitution fine was harmless; and (7) none of Defendant's challenges to California's death penalty scheme had merit. View "People v. Potts" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the trial court and court of appeal, which determined that the elimination of the opportunity to purchase additional retirement service (ARS) credit set forth in the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA), Cal. Gov. Code 7222 et seq., did not violate the California Constitution, holding that the opportunity to purchase ARS credit is not a right protected by the contract clause, and in the absence of constitutional protection, the opportunity to purchase ARS credit can be altered or eliminated at the discretion of the legislature. PEPRA effectively repealed the statute granting public employees the opportunity to purchase ARS credit. At issue in this case was whether the opportunity to purchase ARS credit was a vested right protected by the constitutional contract clause and whether the elimination of the opportunity to purchase ARS credit was an unconstitutional impairment of public employees’ vested rights. The Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative and declined to address the second issue, holding that the opportunity to purchase ARS credit is not a vested right. View "Cal Fire Local 2881 v. California Public Employees' Retirement System" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court and court of appeal sustaining Defendants’ demurrer in this case, holding that customers who have paid sales tax reimbursement on purchases they believe to be exempt from sales tax are not authorized to file suit to compel the retailers to seek a tax refund from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (Department) when there has been no determination by the Department or a court that the purchases are exempt. A customer who has paid excess sales tax reimbursement has no statutory remedy to obtain a refund from the Department directly. In Javor v. State Board of Equalization, 12 Cal.3d 790 (1974), however, the Supreme Court authorized a customer suit to compel certain retailers to seek a tax refund where the Board of Equalization, upon determining that the retailers had collected excess sales tax reimbursement, had promulgated rules to provide refunds to overpaying customers. The lower courts declined to extend Javor to authorize a similar judicial remedy under the circumstances of this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that plaintiffs in this case did not have an equitable cause of action to compel the retailers to seek a refund of sales taxes paid to the State. View "McClain v. Sav-On Drugs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting codefendants Oswaldo Amezcua and Joseph Conrad Flores of four counts of first degree murder and sentencing each defendant to death for the murder convictions, holding that any errors in the proceedings below were not sufficiently prejudicial to require reversal of the judgment. A jury convicted Defendants of murder, finding true multiple-murder and drive-by-murder special circumstance allegations, as well as multiple counts of attempted willful, deliberate premeditated murder, false imprisonment, and other non-capital offenses. The trial court sentenced Defendants to death for the murder convictions and imposed determinate and indeterminate sentences for the noncapital convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) any error in the prosecutor’s guilt phase closing was harmless; (2) any error in a medical examiner’s testimony relating to autospy results derived from a different pathologist’s report was harmless; and (3) whether considered individually or cumulatively, the errors did not warrant reversal. View "People v. Amezcua" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal affirming the denial of Defendant’s special motion to strike, holding that the evidence produced by Plaintiff was properly considered by the trial court in ruling on a pretrial anti-SLAPP motion in determining Plaintiff’s probability of success. Plaintiff, Sweetwater Union High School District, sued to void contracts it approved with Defendants to manage certain projects after a criminal bribery investigation into the awarding of the contracts resulted in a number of guilty or no contest pleas. Plaintiff also sought to secure disgorgement of funds already paid. Defendants brought a special motion to strike under the Anti-SLAPP Statute, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 425.16. Plaintiff’s response relied on evidence of the various guilty and no contest pleas. The court overruled Defendants’ evidentiary objects and denied their special motion to strike. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, at the second stage of an anti-SLAPP hearing, the court may consider affidavits, declarations, and their equivalents if its reasonably possible the proffered evidence set out in those statements will be admissible at trial. View "Sweetwater Union High School District v. Gilbane Building Co." on Justia Law

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In this challenge brought by J.G., a juvenile, to a restitution order the Supreme Court remanded the matter for a new hearing regarding J.G.’s ability to pay restitution, holding that the juvenile court did not violate federal law by considering J.G’s receipt of Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) benefits for purposes of assessing J.G.’s ability to pay restitution but that a new ability to pay hearing was required that includes consideration of J.G.’s future earning capacity, his current financial circumstances, and the total amount of restitution to be ordered. J.G. was charged by petition with trespassing and vandalism. The juvenile court granted deferred entry of judgment on condition that J.G. pay restitution in the total amount of $36,381 at the rate of $25 per month. The court later dismissed the petition and ordered that the restitution award may be enforced as a civil judgment. J.G. challenged the restitution order on appeal. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the matter, holding that, based on the People’s concession that the ability to pay determination would be “improper” if the juvenile court “was contemplating the social security money as the source of the restitution payments,” remand was necessary for a new ability to pay hearing. View "In re J.G." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law