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


One mother's disturbing discovery has led a California appellate court to distinguish the rules on when secret recordings are permissible. Although California is one of the few "all party consent" states, meaning everyone who is audio recorded must consent to being recorded, there are a few exceptions to that rule.

One of the main exceptions to the "all party consent" rule allows a person to obtain evidence of a violent felony, extortion, bribery, or kidnapping via a secret recording. However, at issue in the In Re: Trever P. case isn't whether a person involved in the conversation can make a secret recording, but rather, whether a parent can consent on behalf of their child and make a secret recording of the child and a babysitter.

Sperm Donor Must Pay Child Support

There are two words a sperm donor does not expect to hear: "Hi, Dad."

But that's about what a California appeals court said while interpreting the Family Code in County of Orange v. Brian Jeffrey Cole. The appellate panel said Brian Jeffrey Cole could not escape child support because he acted like he was the father -- except around his wife who knew nothing about his relationship with the child's mother.

"The statute does not require that Cole hold out the child as his own in every situation and it does not protect fathers who lead double lives," the court said.

Vinod Kholsa, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, and a Silicon Valley billionaire, just lost in court again. Kholsa isn't losing in court on anything tech related, but rather, he is losing his private beach.

The California Court of Appeal denied Kholsa's appeal and ordered the beach-restricting-billionaire to reopen public access. The beach in question is called Martins Beach, which is located just south of Half Moon Bay, which is about 30 minutes south of San Francisco along the Pacific coast. Although the beach used to have public access, Kholsa, who purchased the property for $37 million, closed it down in 2009.

Court Agrees Not to Suspend Licenses of Drivers Too Poor to Pay Traffic Fines

Traffic tickets may not seem like a civil rights matter, but they were important enough for civil liberties groups to take action in Northern California.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and others sued the Solano County Superior Court last year for suspending driver's licenses of people too poor to pay traffic tickets. After a year of litigation and negotiation, the parties have settled the issue.

"We were able to work with the court to find a system that will provide notice to people about their rights and ability to pay," said Raegan Joern, a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid.

The Rutter Group's Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial, California and Ninth Circuit Edition has been updated for 2017 with new case law, statutes, and important info to help guide you through the procedural minefield that is federal litigation in California. Updates are still available for current subscribers. (Disclosure: The Rutter Group is part of Thomson Reuters, FindLaw's parent company.)

For federal litigators in California that don't have The Rutter Group's best selling guide, or that might have missed a few updates, it's never too late to start using the industry leading practice guide.

Rap Lyrics Condemn Murder Defendant

It's bad enough when a rapper talks about killing people, but when a rapper actually kills somebody ...

Ravinseh Singh, more a killer than a rapper, murdered Joe Montoya when he shot him point-blank in the face. Singh added three more shots to make sure: twice in the stomach and once in the groin.

Appealing his conviction, Singh argued the trial judge should not have allowed jurors to hear rap lyrics he wrote, including "two to the gut, watch you shut your eyes slow." The appeals court called any mistake "harmless" and affirmed in People v. Singh.

California's Court of Appeal for the First District issued a ruling reversing a family court judgment terminating support to an immigrant spouse. Specifically, the court was forced to decide whether the I-864 affidavit of a spouse to their immigrating spouse creates an agreement that can impact a subsequent spousal support order.

The Court of Appeals found that the I-864 affidavit promising support was enforceable in a proceeding over spousal support, and created a separate obligation apart from spousal support. Additionally, the court found that the beneficiary of the I-864 promise to support is not under any legal obligation to mitigate their damages. The court explained that this reflects the concept that an immigrant's sponsor should shoulder the burden of the immigrant, not society. The case is IN RE: the Marriage of ASHLYNE and VIKASH KUMAR.

Environmental Review for CA Bullet Train Reinforced by State High Court

Federal railway laws do not categorically preempt the California Environmental Quality Act, the state Supreme Court said, slowing down a Northern California train pending an environmental review.

The Court said CEQA applies to the state North Coast Railroad Authority -- just like any other state agency -- on its projects. The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, a federal law that regulates public rails, does not displace state laws in carrying out those projects.

"This decision clears the way for the courts below to begin considering the merits of plaintiffs' CEQA claims, which the courts had previously found to be preempted by the ICCTA as a categorical matter," Justice Leondra Kruger wrote in a concurring opinion in Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority.

Cal. Supreme Court Says 'No-Fault" Parents Can Lose Custody

The California Supreme Court said dependency judges may take children away from parents who cannot supervise or protect their children -- even if the parents are not to blame.

Settling a split of authority in In re. R.T., the court ruled the state's Welfare and Institutions Code authorizes dependency jurisdiction without a finding that a parent is at fault or blameworthy for a failure or inability to supervise or protect a child.

"When that child's behavior places her at substantial risk of serious physical harm, and a parent is unable to protect or supervise that child, the juvenile court's assertion of jurisdiction is authorized under section 300(b)(1)," Justice Goodwin Liu wrote in a concurring opinion to invite the Legislature to revisit the issue.

Suit Revived to Make Glassdoor Identify Anonymous Review Posters

A state appeals court ruled that a company may compel an online review site to identify its anonymous critics.

In the case against Glassdoor, a website for jobseekers and others to post information about employers, California's Second District Court of Appeal said the First Amendment does not protect anonymous posters from making libelous statements in the guise of opinion.

"On the contrary, where an expression of opinion implies a false assertion of fact, the opinion can constitute actionable defamation," said Acting Presiding Justice Maria Rivera in ZL Technologies v. Does 1-7.