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


Lawyer Bills Are Not Privileged After Litigation Ends

It's taken a couple of billing cycles for California lawyers to absorb the significance of a state Supreme Court decision two months ago.

In a controversial decision, the court said that lawyers' bills are not privileged after a case has concluded.

Court Rules on 'Value' in Check Forgery Case

Brian Lee Lowery should probably thank the court of appeals for ruling that the forged check he tried to cash was not worth the paper it was written on.

The Sixth District Court of Appeal reversed his felony conviction for trying to cash a forged check for $1,047.85. The court said the amount written on the check is not the same as its value.

"While the written value of a forged check may be substantial evidence of its monetary worth, a defendant may be able to show an uncashed check was worth less than its written value," the judges said.

Jeff Bezos sold his first book on Amazon.com way back in 1995. (It was a copy of 'Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought' -- not exactly a best seller.) A decade later, Amazon topped a hundred billion dollars in revenue, fueled by the sale of everything from toilet paper to washing machines (and yes, books on computer modeling, too). It's not just Amazon that's benefited from online ordering. Spending on e-Commerce is expected to surpass more than $2 trillion in sales in the near future.

With e-Commerce exploding, litigation over e-Commerce disputes is also increasing. But e-Commerce litigation isn't like any other commercial litigation. It presents unique challenges, issues that you won't often encounter in lawsuits involving "brick and mortar" commerce. Thankfully, the Rutter Group's "Traversing the Challenges of e-Commerce Litigation in Federal Court" can help you identify important issues and avoid common pitfalls in internet-based commercial litigation. (Disclosure: The Rutter Group is part of Thomson Reuters, FindLaw's parent company.)

Late Tax Returns Bring Felony Charges

In a split decision, a state appeals court ruled that a California man may be prosecuted for felony tax evasion because he did not file timely tax returns for three consecutive years.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal said evidence of failing to file was sufficient for felony charges, reasoning that the failure to act was tantamount to the intent to evade taxes. The panel rejected arguments to interpret state tax law under federal tax laws, which require proof of affirmative acts of tax evasion, and pointed out the difference.

"That is, Internal Revenue Code section 7201 makes it a crime to attempt to evade a tax, while section 19706 makes it a crime to willfully fail to timely file a tax return," said Justice Eileen C. Moore in the majority decision.

California lawyers, it's that time of year again: time to settle your account with the bar. Annual membership fees are due by March 1st. The deadline for reporting MCLE compliance is also fast approaching, if you're an attorney with a last name beginning with letters N-Z.

Don't expect the bar to send you a bill in the mail, however. For the first time, the California Bar Association is requiring members to pay through the state bar's website. And that's not the only change this year.

Court Strikes Law That Limited Grand Juries in Fatal Police Shooting Cases

A California appeals court threw out the state legislature's law to divest grand juries of their power to issue indictments in fatal police shootings, saying that the law would require a constitutional amendment to be valid.

California enacted the law in response to grand jury decisions not to indict officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York. Calling for transparency in criminal proceedings, the state legislature passed the law taking away grand juries' indictment power in such officer-involved shootings and leaving the decision to file charges solely with prosecutors.

In the summer of 2014, Brandon Duncan and Aaron Harvey were arrested in connection to their rap lyrics and social media posts and were accused of violating an obscure California law making it illegal to promote gang activity. They were kept in detention for months, before their charges were ultimately dismissed.

Now the two are suing, alleging that their arrests violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

If you're a California lawyer with a stand-alone blog, you can probably keep blogging without worrying that your posts are violating rules on attorney advertising. That's because the State Bar of California's ethics committee recently finalized an ethics opinion holding that many common forms of attorney blogging don't count as communications subject to attorney advertising rules.

There are some important caveats, however, especially regarding blogs on your firm website. Here's what you need to know.

Therapists Must Report Child Porn Users

A state appeals court has upheld a law requiring therapists to report patients who view child porn online or in other digital forms.

California's Second District Court of Appeal said that society's interest in protecting children outweighs the privacy rights of patients who view child pornography. Under the Child Abuse Neglect and Reporting Act, the court said, therapists are mandated to report anyone who has accessed child pornography through electronic or digital media. Children are "sexually exploited" by the act of downloading, streaming or accessing child pornography, the court said.

"Not only is it illegal, the conduct is reprehensible, shameful and abhorred by any decent and normal standards of society," the unanimous panel said.

Los Angeles Representative Xavier Becerra is one step closer to becoming the state's next attorney general, having earned the endorsement of a special Assembly panel yesterday.

Becerra won the panel's approval after a two-hour hearing on Tuesday, during which he pledged to defend state policies that clashed with the incoming presidential administration and declared that "Everyone -- and I mean everyone -- who plays by California's rules deserves to know: 'We've got your back.'"