Week in Review (May 14, 2018)

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Week of:                      May 07, 2018
Publication Date:       May 14, 2018

From the First Appellate District –

  • The People v. Benito Guzman; where the court of appeals affirmed the probation condition authorizing warrantless searches of Mr. Guzman’s electronic devices. The Court held that the probation condition was both necessary for compliance with the Sex Offender Caseload Conditions of probation, and for the safety of vulnerable minor children, as Mr. Guzman was charged on two felonies, and entered a pled guilty to one count of arranging a meeting with a minor for the purpose of committing a sexual offense.
  • Contractors’ State License Board v. The Superior Court of Contra Costa County [Real Party in Interest] Black Diamond Electric, Inc.; here the court of appeals issued a peremptory writ preventing Black Diamond from noticing the deposition of David R. Fogt, the Board’s Registrar of Contractors, and a high government official generally protected from having his deposition taken under California’s rules regarding “apex depositions.” The court held that Black Diamond had not identified any specific factual information that was only known by Fogt, and the deposition was noticed specifically to inquire about processes and legal information about the Board, making it improper.
  • The People v. Miguel Angel Torres; where the court of appeals affirmed the conviction of Mr. Torres on one count of second degree robbery causing great bodily injury, five counts of digital penetration, one count of sexual battery by restraint, and one count of forcible rape, finding no error in the admission of evidence or the prosecutions conduct. The court nevertheless remanded the case for resentencing, finding that the trial court erred in its determination that Proposition 36 (the Three Strikes Law) required consecutive sentencing; such discretion remains with the courts, and the sentence should be re-issued with the correct guidelines under consideration.

From the Second Appellate District –

  • The People v. Jeffrey Minifie; where the court of appeals affirmed the guilty verdict in multiple charges against Mr. Minifie related to his kidnapping a former girlfriend, leading police in a high-speed chase through downtown Los Angeles, and ultimately causing his former girlfriend’s death when he caused a head-on collision with another car. At issue on appeal was whether the trial court properly sentenced Mr. Minifie to multiple, consecutive, sentences for his crimes and the various enhancements when he was already being sentenced to an indefinite term.  The court held that rather than accept the 15 years-to-life reflected by the second degree murder charge, the trial court properly sentenced Mr. Minifie to 30 years, 8 months to life in prison, which encompassed all the definite terms for the crimes committed together with the enhancements, and the indefinite term for the murder charge.
  • Dave Pebley v. Santa Clara Organics, LLC, et alterius; in an appeal of an award for medical and economic expenses following a car accident, the Court of Appeals affirmed the award of $3,644,000.00 but modified the award of damages on two medical bills downward in order to match the amounts paid by Mr. Pebley’s insurance providers with the amount awarded. The modification downwards was $1,063.00.
  • The People v. Miguel Angel Jimenez; where the court affirmed the trial court’s modification of Mr. Jimenez’s conviction under Proposition 47. The court held that cashing two checks, each valued less than $950, constituted shoplifting offenses subject to downward modification under Proposition 47, and not crimes of false pretenses that would have precluded the downward modification.
  • Lamar Advertising Co. v. County of Los Angeles et alterius; in 2008 a billboard owned by Lamar Adverting was blow over by the wind. When Lamar Advertising rebuilt the billboard it was cited by the County for violating county ordinances, which banned billboards in the area that had not received a permit between the adoption of the ordinance in 1995 and the end of the amortization period in 2000.  Lamar had not sought the permit, did not receive a permit, and therefore rebuilding the billboard in a banned area was impermissible and both the trial court and court of appeals upheld the violation.
  • Olvin Maldonado et alterius v. Epsilon Plastics, Inc.; here, the court of appeals affirmed a verdict against Epsilon on wage and hours claims based on an improperly adopted Alternate Work Schedule, but remanded to the trial court for recalculation of damages based on slightly different overtime premiums, calculations for waiting time penalties, and elimination of the wage statement penalties imposed.
  • The People v. Akintunde Hakeem Ogunmowo; where the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Mr. Ogunmowo’s petition to vacate his 1989 conviction for possession for sale of a controlled substance. The court of appeals held that Mr. Ogunmowo’s declaration that his former defense attorney’s advice that his immigration status would not be adversely affected by a guilty plea was sufficient to establish that Mr. Ogunmowo experienced prejudice, and is entitled to vacate his conviction.
  • Ron Hacker, as Trustee, et ceteta v. Homeward Residential Inc., et alterius; the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s sustaining a demurrer against Mr. Hacker, holding that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Mr. Hacker’s request for leave to file an amended complaint, as there exists a possibility that Mr. Hacker can cure the deficiencies by alleging that a deed transfer was void, and thereby establish standing to pursue the wrongful foreclosure litigation.
  • The People v. Jimmy Valenzuela; where the court of appeals affirmed the guilty verdict of the jury on the two murder charges and special circumstances, but remanded to the trial court to consider whether the sentence should be modified regarding the gun enhancements.
  • Doris Charles et alterius v. Sutter Home Winery, Inc. et alterius; where the court of appeals affirmed the dismissal on demurrer of Ms. Doris’ putative class action under the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 for the alleged inclusion of carcinogenic arsenic in wine. The trial court held, and the court of appeals affirmed, that the wine maker had complied the safe harbor provision for alcoholic beverages by placing a warning on its bottles, and was therefore protected as a matter of law from the instant litigation.
  • Strategic Concepts, LLC v. Beverly Hills Unified School District; where the court of appeals reversed the jury verdict in favor of Strategic Concepts when the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the application of the government code sections related to the prohibition of conflicts of interest in making public contracts and the requirement that certain contracts must be subject to competitive bidding. The court further concluded that Government Code Section 1090, prohibiting conflicts in public contracts, applies to independent contractors.

One case from the Los Angeles Superior Court’s Appellate Division, on an unlawful detainer matter:

Andy Hsieh v. Burton Pederson et alterius; where the appellate division reversed judgment on the pleadings in favor of defendants when the trial court had erred in finding that the case was filed prematurely.  The court agreed that plaintiff was only required to give defendants 3 days under the code, but that when he gave them 14 days, the calculation of days should have been determined as having expired four days prior to filing the litigation.  The case was therefore not premature, and the court reversed judgment.

From the Third Appellate District –

  • Randy Tindell et alterius v. Linda Murphy et alterius; this case is based on the sale of a home for $320,000 in 2004, and the subsequent inability of the Tindells to refinance their home when it was re-appraised in 2009 and determined to be a ‘manufactured’ home rather than a ‘modular’ home. In arguing that the defendants owed them a duty to have informed them of the status of the property, the court of appeals ultimately agreed with defendants and the trial court in holding that plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action against several of the defendants because the sellers had no duty to the Tindells, the sellers were not unjustly enriched when the 2004 appraisal was done by the Tindell’s mortgage lender, and there were no other inferences that could be drawn to support plaintiff’s causes of action in light of their allegations.
  • Bryan Blue et alterius v. California Office of the Inspector General et alterius; where the court of appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of an Anti-SLAPP motion. The court held that the plaintiff’s causes of action arising out of the Inspector General’s investigation of the use of force at a prison, and denial of counsel during an interview of several prison guards, constituted a protected activity on the part of the Inspector General, and that the plaintiffs did not establish a likelihood of success because “a reasonable person in the plaintiffs’ position would not have so believed… [that they] were under investigation for any suspected misconduct… [t]hus, none of them had a reasonable basis to believe their interview with the OIG ‘could lead to punitive action’ against them.”
  • Han Jing Huang v. Tom Hanks [And 30 Other Cases]; where the court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of 31 cases filed by Mr. Huang alleging that various celebrities were utilizing mind reading facilities in Texas to make people stalk him, harass him, threaten him, using nano probes to attack him, and attacking his mouth by destroying the inner skin with bacteria ultimately causing him to ask a dentist to remove one of his teeth. The court of appeals held that courts have the inherent power to dismiss patently frivolous or vexatious litigation, and that such power was properly exercised here.

From the Fourth Appellate District –

  • In re the Marriage of G.C. and R.W. [OR] G.C. v. R.W.; in the dissolution of marriage between G.C. and R.W., the court of appeals upheld the trial court’s determination that the correct date for the domestic partnership under California law was 2009, because their 2004 domestic partnership in New Jersey was not substantially similar to California’s law, but reversed the trial court’s division of assets, holding that the interest generated on their shared residence belonged to the community and was not equitably divided.
  • Newport Harbor Offices & Marina, LLC v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism; the court of appeals applied the Supreme Court case Baral v. Schnitt (2016) 1 Cal.5th 376 in partially affirming and partially reversing the trial court’s denial of Morris Cerullo World Evangelism’s Anti-SLAPP motion, and held that the motion should be granted as to three of the paragraphs in Newport Harbor Office’s third amended complaint.
  • Christopher Alexander et alterius v. Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla et alterius; when a 70-year-old terminally ill cancer patient had an advance health care directive stating that she wanted all measures taken to extend her life, the trial court properly resolved the claims in favor of the health care defendants when there was no dispute that the medical techniques that the healthcare providers allegedly failed to use would have been ineffective at prolonging her life, and would have unnecessarily caused her to suffer prior to her passing.
  • Alysia Webb v. City of Riverside; the court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s sustaining the City’s demurrer to Ms. Webb’s suit alleging violations of Propositions 26 and 218. The Court held that Webb did not file within the 120-day statute of limitations when the City allegedly transferred money from the electric utility reserve fund into the general fund without voter approval.  And that Webb could not establish that the transfer of funds constituted a ratepayer increase under Proposition 26 that would permit the litigation to continue on that basis.

No cases this week from the Fifth or Sixth Appellate Districts

Supreme Court – Roundup

This Week, the Supreme Court published 4 cases:

  • California Building Industry Association v. State Water Resources Control Board; in a dispute over whether the State Water Resources Control Board could modify a permit fee schedule on a two-member vote, and whether such a modification was impermissible under the Water Code and the State Constitution, the Supreme Court held that the vote to approve the fees was proper, the permitting fees were reasonably related to regulatory activities, and they did not violate the State Constitution.
  • The People v. Alfredo Perez, Jr.; where Mr. Perez petitioned for resentencing under Proposition 36, the Three Strikes Reform Act, the Supreme Court held that he was ineligible for the petition because substantial evidence did not support the trial court’s determination that he qualified for resentencing under the act because his last crime was committed with a “deadly weapon” because the crime occurred through the use of assault with a car, which qualifies as a deadly weapon because of the likelihood of great bodily injury.
  • The People v. Ennis Reed; in an automatic death penalty appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed the sentence for Mr. Reed’s multiple murders by use of firearms, finding that Mr. Reed’s arguments lacked merit. This case features a dissenting opinion authored by Justice Liu and joined by Justice Kruger, who considered that the prosecutions striking of several black jurors raised an inference of discrimination, and that the eyewitness identifications was problematic, as it was the principal evidence that linked Mr. Reed to the murders and should be subject to the type of screening that New Jersey and Oregon use for eyewitness testimony.
  • The People v. Steven Andrew Adelmann; where the Supreme Court resolved yet another procedural issue with Proposition 47, in holding that when a person whose case has been transferred to another county applies for resentencing under Proposition 47, that person must seek relief in the original sentencing court, in the county in which he was originally sentenced.

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