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


Ending years of litigation against the largest state bar association in the nation, an arbitrator has thrown out a whistleblower case against the California State Bar by its former executive director.

Joe Dunn, who is also a former state senator, alleged that the bar association fired him for reporting problems with the agency's chief trial counsel and for accusing the state bar of wasteful spending. The arbitrator denied Dunn's claims and concluded the bar had good reason to fire him.

Edward Infante, with a private arbitration service, said Dunn failed to keep the board informed on "matters of significance," including the California Supreme Court's opposition to proposed legislation on unauthorized practice of law. Infante also found that he had not -- contrary to Dunn's assertions -- spoken to the high court about significant administrative matters.

Youth Soccer Must Check Criminal Backgrounds of Adult Coaches

After a coach was convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old player, a state appeals court said a youth soccer association must conduct criminal background checks on all coaches and other adults in its programs.

The California Sixth District Court of Appeal, ruling in Doe v. United States Youth Soccer Association, said the organization has a duty to protect children by requiring criminal background checks. The appellate court reversed and remanded the case, which had been dismissed on demurrer.

"We hold that defendants had a duty to conduct criminal background checks of all adults who would have contact with children involved in their programs," Judge Nathan Mihara wrote for the court.

California Opens Roads to Driverless Cars

Californians knew it was coming, but nobody expected it to be so soon. Move over, a driverless car is about to pass you.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has announced new regulations, which go into effect this fall, that allow car manufacturers to certify their own cars. Certification was a roadblock to the industry, which already has found open roads in other states.

"Since the adoption of the current testing regulations, the capabilities of autonomous technology has proceeded to the point where manufacturers have developed systems that are capable of operating without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle," the DMV said in a statement.

If you're a legal practitioner in California dealing in the insurance sphere, you'll want to make sure you're not left behind by recent legal and market developments. As the law changes and crystallizes, and as the market demands new products for new risks, California lawyers need to stay up-to-date.

Thankfully, that's not difficult to do. An upcoming program by the Rutter Group, Cutting-Edge Insurance Trends, promises to help attorneys keep current on insurance litigation trends and stay ahead of the insurance law curve. (Disclosure: The Rutter Group is FindLaw's sister company.)

Fox-Netflix Poaching Suit Show Must Go On, Appeals Court Rules

A California appeals court turned down a request to intervene in a lawsuit between 20th Century Fox and Netflix.

The Second District Court of Appeals said Fox, which wanted to stay the lawsuit and challenge a trial court's rulings, may appeal if it loses in the trial court.

Fox had sued Netflix in September 2016, alleging the company had poached Fox executives Tara Flynn and Marco Waltenberg. Netflix counter-sued, claiming Fox's employment agreements violate state law.

The California Supreme Court has ruled that government communications about public matters through personal email, phones, or other devices are public records.

The decision extends the California Public Records Act, enacted in 1968, which says that government records must be made available for public scrutiny. The court adapted the law to include personal electronic communications that are related to government business.

"We clarify, however, that to qualify as a public record under CPRA, at a minimum, a writing must relate in some substantive way to the conduct of the public's business," Justice Carol Ann Corrigan wrote for the unanimous court.

"This standard, though broad, is not so elastic as to include every piece of information the public may find interesting," she added. "Communications that are primarily personal, containing no more than incidental mentions of agency business, generally will not constitute public records."

More Answers Needed to Delist Endangered Species, Court Says

In a judicial catch-and-release, the California Supreme Court said the state has authority to delist an endangered species in light of new scientific evidence.

Reversing a lower court decision that side-stepped the issue of delisting an endangered species, the high court sent the case back for a determination of the fate of the coho salmon. The justices unanimously said the Fish and Game Commission has the authority under the California Endangered Species Act to reconsider its prior decision to list the salmon has endangered.

"Specifically, the statute vests the Commission with authority to delist a species when it finds upon the receipt of sufficient scientific information that the 'action is warranted," Justice Ming William Chin wrote.

California wants to protect actors from age discrimination -- a noble goal, certainly. But the state's way of going about it has raised some eyebrows. Under AB 1687, certain "online entertainment employment service providers" would be prohibited from publishing information about entertainers' ages. The law would apply perhaps exclusively to IMDb, the Internet Movie Database, who has sued, alleging that the law violates the First Amendment.

Now, IMDb has won its first battle. A federal judge issued an injunction against the law earlier this week. The ruling didn't exactly come as a surprise, though. Just a few days earlier, that judge, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria, had urged the state to drop its defense of the law.

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.