California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal News & Information Blog

California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog


In a decision that could undermine California's ability to respond to increasingly dire drought conditions, a state appellate court has ruled that San Juan Capistrano cannot implement tiered water rates that are not based on the cost of service provision. Under the city's plan, the rate charged for water usage increased depending on the overall amount of water used. Users in the lowest tier paid about $2.50 per unit -- the most profligate water users paid over three times that rate.

The city's plan is designed to encourage water conservation by increasing water's cost the more one uses. It also violates a state law prohibiting government agencies from charging more than the cost of a service, the court found.

Charter schools are a burgeoning business. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public charter schools comprised 5.8% of all public schools in 2011-12, and 2.1 million students were enrolled in them.

In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 39, which requires public schools to share some proportion of their facilities to charter schools so that charter students have access to a "reasonably equivalent" education. How the share is calculated is the subject of a California Supreme Court opinion from earlier this month, finding that the Los Angeles Unified School District's formula didn't make the cut.

Can a court use circumstantial evidence, along with blood and breath tests, to conclude that a driver was above the legal limit for alcohol intoxication?

That's the question the California Supreme Court answered earlier this month, and it answered in the affirmative after Ashley Coffey challenged her driver's license suspension following a DUI arrest.

If you're facing minor drug charges in California, your outcome may be fairly predictable. The pattern typically goes something like this: get busted, plead guilty and undergo drug treatment. If successful, your charges will be dropped.

Except if you're a noncitizen. Pleading guilty to a drug charge could trigger your deportation. Even if the state wipes away your minor drug conviction, federal immigration law does not forget it. A proposed California law is seeking to change that, however, offering relief to noncitizens charged with minor drug crimes.

An 18-year sentence for revenge porn? It's more likely than you think. Last week, the San Diego Superior Court sentenced 28-year-old Kevin Bollaert to 18 years in prison for operating a revenge porn website.

Well, sort of. Bollaert was also convicted of identity theft and extortion because he put photos on his website, then asked for between $250 and $350 from the women in the photos in exchange for taking the photos down.

It's hard to tell who to trust when accused criminals turn on each other. Is the jailhouse informant singing a false song in order to get a lighter sentence? Isn't it curious how the accomplice claims the other guy took the lead in everything?

By the very nature of it, informants are usually self-interested, leading to serious credibility issues. For this reason, California requires corroboration for the testimony of an accomplice and an in-custody informant. And, in a case of first impression, those two may corroborate each other, according to a recent decision by the state's appellate court.

In response to California's continuing drought, Governor Jerry Brown will be instituting unprecedented restrictions on water usage with the hopes of reducing urban water consumption, Brown announced yesterday. The move comes as California faces one of its most severe droughts on record.

The new water restrictions, expected to last through February, 2016, direct the State Water Resources Control Board to impose restrictions to reduce urban water consumption by 25 percent. The new restrictions could result not just shorter showers and less lawn sprinklers, but increased inspections and enforcement actions by the state.

Ellen Pao, the former junior partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, lost her gender discrimination lawsuit against the firm on Friday. In a case that made headlines, Pao had claimed that she was not promoted because of her gender, was subject to harassment, and faced retaliation when she complained.

Pao's case included salacious details, what her attorneys argued was "despicable, malicious, oppressive treatment," as well as allegations of subtle double standards faced by women: things like not being invited to outings or being subject to contradictory, irreconcilable evaluations.

Watch out sommeliers, oenophiles, and old-fashioned winos. According to a class action lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, your wine of choice may contain high levels of arsenic, the potentially toxic poison.

According to the complaint, several popular wines contain up to 500% or more of the maximum acceptable arsenic levels, yet provide no warning to the consumer. Though the suits claims are just allegations at the moment, they may have you thinking twice before going back for that extra glass of Pinot.

A nonprofit representing California sex workers is currently suing to overturn the state's laws against prostitution and solicitation. The organization, Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLER, a very unsexy acronym), argues that the state's prohibitions on sex work violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

So, is California about to go the way of Amsterdam or certain counties in Nevada and decriminalize the world's oldest profession? It's doubtful, but ESPLER thinks it's possible.