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The Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Juvenile Division, issued a protocol addressing the process by which minors are found incompetent and later found to have attained competency. The Supreme Court of California held that although trial courts are not barred from adopting such protocols as guidance or as local rules, the Court of Appeal was correct that the protocol does not presumptively or otherwise define due process. The court declined to decide whether the length of detention in this case violated due process and instead held that any violation was not prejudicial in light of the juvenile court's finding of malingering. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re Albert C." on Justia Law

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Homeowners who sought and were granted a permit from the California Coastal Commission to build a new seawall and repair their beach access stairway, subject to several mitigation conditions, forfeited their challenge objecting to two conditions because they accepted the benefits that the permit conferred. When winter storms damaged the seawall protecting their blufftop properties, Plaintiffs sought a new permit to demolish the old structure, construct a new seawall across their properties, and rebuild the stairway. The Commission approved a coastal development permit allowing seawall demolition and reconstruction subject to several conditions. Plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate challenging certain conditions. While the litigation proceeded, Plaintiffs obtained the permit and built the seawall. The trial court issued a writ directing the Commission to remove the challenged conditions. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs forfeited their objections by constructing the project. View "Lynch v. California Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction of first-degree murder, holding that the trial court's admission of the confession of Defendant’s accomplice violated Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront her accusers because the jury was, in fact, asked to consider the accomplice’s confession for its truth. Defendant was found guilty of first-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that the admission of her accomplice’s confession violated her constitutional right to confront her accomplice. The prosecution introduced the confession in rebuttal to Defendant’s trial testimony in which Defendant blamed the events on her accomplice, who had since died. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the accomplice’s confession was presented not to establish the truth of his account, in which he pinned much of the blame on Defendant, but instead to undermine Defendant’s competing account of their joint crime. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the prosecution did not use the accomplice’s un-cross-examined confession for the limited nonhearsay purpose of impeaching the statements Defendant had attributed to her accomplice in her testimony. Rather, the prosecution used the accomplice’s confession as evidence establishing a different account of the crime, which the prosecution repeatedly invited the jury to consider for its truth. View "People v. Hopson" on Justia Law

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In these two cases, the Supreme Court held that Proposition 47’s definition of “unreasonable risk of dangerous to public safety” does not apply to resentencing proceedings under the Three Strikes Reform Act. In People v. Valencia, the Supreme Court addressed whether Proposition 47’s definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” applies to resentencing proceedings under Proposition 36. In People v. Chaney, the court addressed whether, if Proposition 47’s definition of unreasonable risk of danger to public safety applies to resentencing proceedings under the Three Strikes Reform Act, the definition applies retroactively to Proposition 36 resentencing petitions that a court has denied but are not yet final on appeal. The Court held (1) Proposition 47 did not amend the Three Strikes Reform Act; and (2) therefore, the court need not address whether Proposition 47’s definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” applies retroactively to Proposition 36 resentencing petitions that have already been denied but are not yet final on appeal. View "People v. Valencia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Charges that constitute compensation for the use of government property are not subject to Proposition 218’s voter approval requirements. To constitute compensation for a property interest, however, the amount of the charge must bear a reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest, and to the extent the charge exceeds any reasonable value of the interest, it is a tax and requires voter approval. Plaintiffs contended that a one percent charge that was separately stated on electricity bills issued by Southern California Edison (SCE) was not compensation for the privilege of using property owned by the City of Santa Barbara but was instead a tax imposed without voter approval, in violation of Proposition 218. The City argued that this separate charge was the fee paid by SCE to the City for the privilege of using City property in connection with the delivery of electricity. The Supreme Court held that the complaint and stipulated facts adequately alleged the basis for a claim that the surcharge bore no reasonable relationship to the value of the property interest and was therefore a tax requiring voter approval under Proposition 218. The court remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jacks v. City of Santa Barbara" on Justia Law

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Neither People v. Arbuckle, 587 P.2d 220 (Cal. 1978), nor its progeny support the view that a defendant’s ability to enforce the guarantee that the judge who accepts a plea bargain will impose the sentence (the same-judge guarantee) is dependent on a defendant first making a factual showing that she or he objectively intended the judge taking the plea would also pronounce sentence. K.R., a juvenile, admitted two probation violations. During continued disposition hearings, K.R. filed a petition for writ of mandate requesting that the same-judge guarantee be enforced. K.R.’s claim was denied under Arbuckle, the judge finding that K.R. did not have a reasonable expectation that the judge who accepted his plea would also impose the disposition. The court of appeal agreed and denied K.R.’s petition for writ of mandate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the plain and original understanding of Arbuckle is that in every plea in both adult and juvenile court, an implied term is that the judge who accepts the plea will be the judge who pronounces sentence; and (2) should the People wish to allow a different judge to preside at sentencing, or, in juvenile cases, disposition, they should seek to obtain a waiver from the pleading defendant or juvenile. View "K.R. v. Superior Court of Sacramento County" on Justia Law

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The County of Los Angeles can impose a documentary transfer tax on a written instrument that transfers beneficial ownership of real property from one person to two others if the document reflects an actual transfer of legal beneficial ownership made for consideration. This action arose from a series of transactions among trusts maintained for the benefit of Averbook family members. At issue on appeal was the transfer of a particular building. In 2011, the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder demanded payment of the county’s documentary transfer tax, explaining that the transfer tax was due because the Building had undergone a change in ownership. Plaintiff filed this refund action, arguing that no tax was due. The trial court denied the claim. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Plaintiff’s refund claim was properly rejected because transfer of a beneficial interest in the Building was a sale, accompanied by consideration and effected by a document of transfer. View "926 North Ardmore Avenue, LLC v. County of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Independent contractors are not categorically excluded from Cal. Gov’t Code 1090, which prohibits public officers and employees from making contracts in which they have a financial interest when they act in their official capacities. The prosecution in this case charged Dr. Hossain Sahlolbei with violation of section 1090 for allegedly influencing the hospital where he worked as an independent contractor to hire another doctor and then profiting from that doctor’s contract. The trial court dismissed the 1090 count. The Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal, concluding that because Sahlolbei was not an employee of the hospital section 1090 did not apply. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) liability under the statute can extend to independent contractors who have duties to engage in or advise on public contracting; and (2) Sahlolbei’s duties brought him within the scope of the statute. View "People v. Superior Court of Riverside County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court convicting Defendant of one count of first degree murder, thirteen counts of robbery, and two counts of attempted robbery and sentencing Defendant to death. The trial court found true the special circumstance allegation that Defendant committed the murder during the commission of a robbery. The conviction and sentence were rendered after bench trials for the guilt phases and penalty phases. The Supreme Court held (1) Defendant entered a knowing and intelligent jury waiver; (2) because there was no basis for concluding that Defendant would have chosen a jury trial for the special circumstance allegation had the trial judge avoided an error under People v. Memro 700 P.2d 446 (Cal. 1985), the error was harmless; (3) Defendant’s waiver of a jury trial for the penalty phase was adequate, and no reaffirmation of the waiver before the state of the penalty phase was required; (4) the trial court did not err in considering certain aggravating evidence at the penalty phase; and (5) Defendant’s miscellaneous challenges to the death penalty are rejected. View "People v. Sivongxxay" on Justia Law

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The rule announced in Bond v. United Railroads, 159 Cal. 270 (Cal. 1911), that the statute authorizing appeals of postjudgment orders covers denials of Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 663 motions remains valid. Plaintiff sued Defendant. The trial court eventually dismissed the action on the grounds that Plaintiff had abandoned the case. Two months later, Plaintiff moved to vacate the judgment. The motion cited and quoted from section 663, which allows an aggrieved party in a civil case to move the trial court to vacate its final judgment. The trial court denied the motion. Plaintiff appealed both the order dismissing the case and the order denying his motion to vacate the judgment. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal as untimely and ruled that an order denying a section 663 motion is not appealable. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeal’s order and transferred the matter back to that court, holding that a statutory appeal from a ruling denying a section 663 motion “is distinct from an appeal of a trial court judgment and is permissible without regard to whether the issues raised in the appeal from the denial of the second 663 motion overlap with issues that were or could have raised in an appeal of the judgment.” View "Ryan v. Rosenfeld" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure