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


Meet Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, the Academic Justice

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Stanford Law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar to the California Supreme Court, reported the Los Angeles Times. In January, Cuéllar will fill the seat of Justice Marvin Baxter, who will not seek reelection in November. Cuéllar has all the right bona fides to sit on California's highest court: Harvard undergraduate, Yale Law School, plus a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford. He's taught at Stanford Law School since 2001.

Cuéllar, however, has something that's unusual for a California Supreme Court justice: no judicial experience at all. Six of the seven justices on the Court came straight from a position on a Court of Appeal. Governor Brown's most recent appointment, Goodwin Liu, is the exception. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Justice Liu was a professor at Berkeley Law School and had done some work in private practice and for the U.S. Department of Education. He was the odd man out on a court composed of people who were judges already.

Shocker: the death penalty in California is a joke.

Okay, we all knew that. It's a ridiculously expensive, wasteful, inefficient, broken, delayed, and completely and utterly dysfunctional system that, quite frankly, isn't doing its job: killing killers. Out of more than 900 sentenced to death, the state has only executed 13 since 1978 -- less than two percent. And any deterrent effect, after waiting decades for sentences to maybe, just maybe, be carried out is minimal at this point.

Whatever adjective you choose to describe our system in the Golden State, U.S. District Court Judge Carmac Carney has two more to add to that list: arbitrary and unconstitutional.

2016: the year Californians declared their independence from each other.

What in the heck am I talking about? There's a proposition, apparently headed for the ballot in 2016, that would do just that: Split the state into six new states -- Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California, and South California. It's the scheme of venture capitalist Tim Draper, who has sunk $1.3 million into getting the necessary signatures. But even if the measure passes (59 percent of polled voters are against the idea), the state and federal legislatures would have to sign off.

In other words, it's never going to happen. But should it?

There are a lot of new faces on the appeals court bench.

We've already noted that Gov. Brown will have two vacancies to fill on the California Supreme Court alone. Late last month, he also addressed a number of vacancies on the state's appeals bench, with six nominees.

All six are expected to be confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments. The Commission is headed by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. The two other votes belong to Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris and a senior presiding justice of the appellate court for which the candidate has been nominated, reports the Los Angeles Times.

It's bad enough trying to pass the bar in this dear state. With a three-day exam, no reciprocity with anyone, and the exorbitant fees, plus the cost of bar review class, joining the California State bar is no picnic. Part and parcel of course is the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE), which to be fair, is pretty much required everywhere, but it's still one more thing to add to the list.

But don't worry, current and future law students: things will get worse. The current word from the State Bar is that a few teaks to "training requirements" for incoming lawyers are on the way, ones that will make things more difficult for law schools, law students, and young cash-strapped lawyers looking to tap into the Golden State's job market.

The dust is still settling after Hobby Lobby, in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of exempting closely held corporations from the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, but Californians may not feel the aftershock.

Why? California has laws in place that require employers to include birth control in their prescription drug coverage. But these laws don't cover the same legal ground as the healthcare mandate.

So how will Hobby Lobby affect Californians?

We've been waiting for the Iskanian decision for some time, and as predicted, it changes a lot when it comes to California employment law.

California has been an employee-friendly state for a while, with its Supreme Court holding previously that arbitration clauses that waive class action remedies were often unconscionable and unenforceable. But then, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a series of pro-arbitration rulings, including AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, which wiped out that entire line of California cases by holding that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts state law and allows for such waivers.

Earlier this year, Justice Joyce Kennard announced that she would retire from the California Supreme Court. When she did, we took a look at the court's possible ideological shift, as well as other potential retirees. It's no surprise to us, then, that another one of the justices has decided to step aside: Justice Marvin Baxter.

And this month, a landmark ruling in a challenge to teacher tenure laws sent shockwaves through organized labor and teachers' unions. It's also wreaking havoc with pending state legislation.

Here, now are your updates.

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In 1989, Steven Randall "Randy" Jackson, one of the famed musical Jackson children, impregnated Alejandra Loaiza. She filed a complaint for acknowledgement of paternity and child support, along with a proof of service. Jackson does not deny that he is the father of the child, Genevieve Katherine Jackson, or of their second child, Steven Randall Jackson, Jr.

But, he claims that he was never served in the initial lawsuit. A proof of service claims otherwise. The following year, a law firm which represented him in a bankruptcy proceeding filed a substitution of attorney in the case, naming him as in pro per, but never filed a proof of service. That's two reasons to believe that he was served, but was it enough?

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We have this game in the office: "Fresno or Florida." It's inspired by Loveline's "Germany or Florida" game. The rules are simple: whenever asinine human conduct happens in America, we ask: Fresno or Florida?

  1. Guy arrested for Super Soaker shotgun? 
  2. Guy arrested for attacking a teenager with a burrito?
  3. Guy blames DUI on a squirrel?
  4. Guy killed by rooster at cockfight?
  5. Lady intentionally sets a brush fire after locking keys in car?

And today's entry: Jury makes mistake on a verdict form, setting a man free. Tragically, he is murdered for apparently unrelated reasons less than an hour later. Was it all thanks to a "June Jury"?