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


FindLaw doesn't have Texas Case Law blog. We don't have a West Virginia Case Law blog. We have a California Case Law blog.

And we're sure glad we do, because if we didn't, there's no way our writers and readers would know that they might be able to change music and adjust the navigation on their smartphones while driving.

This may be a backwards, liberal, heathen-filled state (kidding, I swear), but it's our state, and we covered it well. Here are our 10 most popular posts from the past year -- a potpourri of traffic violations, (alleged) police and prosecutorial misconduct, and court staff throwing a fit over a dress code (seriously, San Francisco?):

Is Riverside County Child Protective Services taking newborn babies away from their mothers without so much as a warrant?

That's what a federal class action suit, filed last week, claims. The lead plaintiff, a baby known only as A.A., claimed that Riverside County systematically takes "thousands" of newborns away from their mothers -- and that a "large portion" of these takings are from African Americans and poor families.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Maryland law that allowed police to collect and store DNA from arrestees. This put a wrench in a California case called People v. Buza, centering on the validity of California's own DNA collection law.

The First District Court of Appeal decided Buza in the defendant's favor in 2011. On a petition for review, the state supreme court sent it back for reconsideration in light of King. Last week, the court of appeal reached the same conclusion: California's DNA collection law violates the state constitution.

Seasoned prosecutors and defense attorneys know that, despite what many courts have held over the years, jurors don't follow jury instructions. They just don't. And they especially don't pay attention to the admonishment that they can't take into account a defendant's failure to testify.

Yeah, right. Though Sarah Koenig may have been shocked to learn that on a previous episode of the "Serial" podcast, the rest of us know that taking the Fifth raises jurors' suspicions. (If he didn't do it, why won't he tell us his side of the story?) The California Supreme Court on Monday ruled on whether it's automatically misconduct for jurors to come to that conclusion.

Debt collectors have been accused of using shady tactics in order to collect, but a class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco this week really takes the cake. Kevin Breazeale claims that he and others received letters "threatening them with criminal prosecution unless they paid alleged debts arising from dishonored checks. The letters all bore the seal and letterhead of a county district attorney."

As it turns out, the letters didn't come from a district attorney, but from a private debt collection firm called CorrectiveSolutions. And guess what? The district attorney allowed the company to use his seal and letterhead.

You may have heard about the plummeting bar passage rates for the July 2014 examination. If not, you're not reading our Greedy Associates blog frequently enough. The gist is this: lowest passage rates in recent memory have led to finger-pointing between schools and the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The debate is over whether the test was scored or designed poorly, or whether the students were simply less able.

It's not surprising then to see that California's bar rate has also plummeted. According to the California Bar Journal, the passage rate was the lowest it has been in nearly 10 years -- a startling 48.6 percent. The drop comes on the heels of multiple consecutive years of a rising passage rate and is the lowest since July 2004, when 48.2 percent passed.

Leondra Who? Leondra Kruger, that's who. Kruger was nominated by Governor Jerry Brown to fill the seat vacated by Justice Joyce Kennard, who retired in April. Kennard's seat has been vacant since then, requiring various justices of the courts of appeal to sit in on cases in order to fill the seventh seat.

Kruger's nomination is a "mind blower," reported the Los Angeles Times, because, at 38, she's barely old enough to hold the position. That's not to say she's not qualified: With papers chased from Harvard and Yale, and a former boss named John Paul Stevens, she's legal eagle enough to sit on the state's highest court.

Last year, Graton Casino opened near Sonoma; you've probably seen their catchy TV commercials, featuring Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' song "Can't Hold Us." Still, that hasn't stopped opponents from trying to shut it down. (More on that in a bit.)

Separately, California voters this month defeated Proposition 48, which would have allowed two Indian tribes to build a casino near Fresno on land that wasn't traditionally theirs; instead, the land would be purchased by the federal government and held in trust for the benefit of the tribes.

Voters resoundingly rejected Prop. 48, whose opponents insisted that its approval would open the floodgates to Indian casinos built on off-reservation land.

November might not be the best month for the State Bar of California. If bar exam results go the same as every other state, we'll find out later this month that the July administration had the fewest passers in at least 10 years.

The good news for Joseph Dunn is that won't be his problem anymore. Dunn was abruptly fired from his job as executive director of the State Bar on November 7. Last week, we found out why, and the allegations are juicy and salacious.

In December 2013, Isaiah Martinez -- undoubtedly an Adorable Child (as evidenced by this photograph) -- brought some candy canes with him to his public elementary school, to be given away to his classmates as Christmas gifts. But those mean old school officials wouldn't let him. Another casualty in the War on Christmas!

Well, not quite. Each candy cane had a little paper attached containing the "candy cane legend," which described how the white part of the candy cane represents "the virgin Birth, the sinless nature of Jesus" and the red stripes represent "the blood shed by Jesus on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life, if only we put our faith and trust in Him."