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


California may soon be getting rid of the religious and personal exemptions that let parents opt out of vaccinating their children before enrolling them in school, daycares or nurseries. A new bill imposing more robust child vaccination requirements has been approved by the state Senate and is well on its way to becoming law.

The law comes largely as a response to an outbreak of measles in Disneyland this winter, which spread to over 100 individuals across state and even national lines. Measles, like many diseases, is preventable through immunization, but California has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with more than a quarter of schools having immunization rates below levels recommended by the C.D.C.

Maile Mae Hampton, a young African American woman, attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Sacramento last January to speak out against police violence against minorities -- and ended up being charged with felony lynching. Hampton is accused of pulling a fellow protestor away from police, which prosecutors felt met the definition of lynching in California: "the taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of a peace officer."

Perhaps realizing that the charge was in poor judgment -- or perhaps just poor P.R. -- Sacramento's chief deputy district attorney amended the complaint. Instead of lynching, Hampton now faces a single charge of misdemeanor interference with an officer.

In the first major ruling interpreting California's decade old sex education law, a Fresno court has ruled that the northern California town of Clovis failed to provide adequate education when it adopted a 'abstinence-only until heterosexual marriage' curriculum.

After the Clovis school district refused to change the program, parents and the American Academy of Pediatrics sued. Clovis revised its program and the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their suit, but filed for attorneys fees. The school district opposed, describing the suit as a "costly nuisance" and claiming that it had prevailed in the litigation -- providing the court the opportunity to detail just how extensively the school's curriculum had violated the law.

If you've gotten sick in the past 30 or so years, odds are that you've been prescribed Cipro, the antibiotic that is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world. From 1987 to 2003, Bayer was the sole producer of Cipro in the United States -- a position which helped it generate billions of dollars in gross sales until its patent expired in 2003.

Part of the reason Bayer was able to maintain such a lucrative position, according to an antitrust class action suit, was because the company paid a manufacturer $398 million to keep a generic version off the market until Bayer's patent expired. The Supreme Court of California reversed a dismissal of that class action on Thursday, reviving the "pay for delay" lawsuit.

Californians who resell art out-of-state will no longer have to pay a statutory royalty to the artist. Under the California Resale Royalty Act, a seller was required pay a five percent royalty to the artist if the seller is a California resident selling out-of-state or if the sale takes place in California. That out-of-state provision is an unconstitutional violation of the Dormant Commerce Clause, the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc, ruled on Tuesday.

Under the Act, if a San Franciscan auctions off a sculpture by a German artist in New York City, the artist is owed the royalty. Similarly, a royalty is required if a Brazilian businessman buys a photograph by a Chicago artist while passing through LA. Change "San Francisco" to "Paris" or "LA" to "Detroit" and no payment is needed in either scenario.

With accusations of police brutality leading to unrest from Ferguson to Baltimore, many have called for law enforcement to wear body cameras. The thought is that body cam recordings will provide greater accountability, particularly following incidents such as the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, under highly disputed circumstances.

Who, though, will have access to that footage? A new bill being considered in California could prevent police officers from reviewing their own recordings when they have been accused of misconduct. At least, that was the idea initially. After resistance from law enforcement, the bill has been amended to allow officers to review body cam footage where not prevented by local policy.

In a move that surprised many, the California's Supreme Court declined to revisit a controversial January ruling on mandatory registration for certain offenders. The case the court declined to rehear, Johnson v. Department of Justice, revived a mandatory registration law that many argued was homophobic and unjustly subjected gay and lesbian defendants to greater punishments than their straight counterparts.

The Johnson decision received a strong dissent from two Justices. Court observers had expected Governor Brown's recent appointees to push the court more to the left and to rehear the case. The decision this week is one sign that those predictions may have been misguided.

California's three strikes law can lead to some complicated baseball. In general, the law is supposed to be fairly straightforward. Your second felony, or "strike," results in twice the term it would get if you didn't have a prior felony. If that second strike is for a serious felony, then five more years are added on. Thus, for second strikers, the court determines the base sentence, doubles it and adds on five more years.

Of course, real life isn't always that simple. In many cases, the second strike is a conviction for several offenses, with multiple terms. Does the serious felony enhancement apply to each term, meaning your five extra years can pile up to become extra decades? Not according a state Supreme Court decision last Thursday which held that the serious felony enhancement may be added only once as part of a second-strike sentence.

In a decision that could undermine California's ability to respond to increasingly dire drought conditions, a state appellate court has ruled that San Juan Capistrano cannot implement tiered water rates that are not based on the cost of service provision. Under the city's plan, the rate charged for water usage increased depending on the overall amount of water used. Users in the lowest tier paid about $2.50 per unit -- the most profligate water users paid over three times that rate.

The city's plan is designed to encourage water conservation by increasing water's cost the more one uses. It also violates a state law prohibiting government agencies from charging more than the cost of a service, the court found.

Charter schools are a burgeoning business. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, public charter schools comprised 5.8% of all public schools in 2011-12, and 2.1 million students were enrolled in them.

In 2000, California voters passed Proposition 39, which requires public schools to share some proportion of their facilities to charter schools so that charter students have access to a "reasonably equivalent" education. How the share is calculated is the subject of a California Supreme Court opinion from earlier this month, finding that the Los Angeles Unified School District's formula didn't make the cut.