California Case Law: February 2012 Archives
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February 2012 Archives

'Desperate' Employment Lawsuit Heads to Trial

Jury selection started this week in Nicollette Sheridan's wrongful termination employment lawsuit against Desperate Housewives Creator and Executive Producer Mark Cherry, and it already sounds as though the cast’s real-life drama will be more interesting than the on-screen drama.

For those of you who don't watch Desperate Housewives, and don't understand why this lawsuit is happening, let's recap the high points of Sheridan’s claim.

San Francisco Exhibition Looks at Law and Art

Law and art regularly collide. There are intestacy and divorce battles over art collections. There are copyright infringement lawsuits against pop stars who base their music videos on famous photographs. There are models charged with public lewdness for posing nude ... among nude paintings.

From March 9 through April 19, SOMArts, located at 934 Brannan Street in San Francisco, will take a closer look at the intersection between law and art in a special exhibition called, "I Am Crime: Art on the Edge of Law."

Karen Golinski Wins: Will DOMA Ruling Prompt Litigation Spree?

A Northern California federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. For California's same-sex couples, however, the ruling will not provide immediate relief.

Karen Golinski, a staff attorney for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, sued the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to obtain health insurance benefits for her spouse, Amy Cunninghis. While same-sex marriages are still on hold in California pending the outcome of further appeals in the state's Proposition 8 battle, Golinski and Cunninghis were legally married during the brief period in 2008 when the state permitted same-sex marriages.

Best Buy Burglary: Blow Torch Conviction Reversed

A jury convicted Gabriel Anthony Cardwell of grand theft and burglary by use of an acetylene torch, among other crimes, after Cardwell took over $24,000 in merchandise from a Murrieta Best Buy store. Cardwell appealed, arguing that the burglary by acetylene torch conviction should be reversed. The Fourth Appellate District agreed, and reversed the conviction this week.

Here’s why this appeal is interesting.

Landlord Wins Hot Tub Time Machine Dispute

There are unpleasant issues that come to mind with the phrase, “hot tub time machine.” First, there’s the epic cinematic failure, featuring John Cusack, which we unfortunately watched last year.

Second, there’s the first-world problem of landlords adjusting hot tub heating times in apartment buildings to save money, without passing those savings along to the tenants through rent reduction.

California’s Second Appellate District Court can only resolve one of those hot tub time machine issues, and, sadly, it is not the John Cusack one.

Appellate Panel Keeps Media Access to Children's Court Proceedings

Earlier this month, Los Angeles County Children's Court Presiding Judge Michael Nash opened the super-secret juvenile courtrooms to the press, except in cases in which an open hearing would be harmful to the child involved, reports the Los Angeles Times. Judge Nash believes the move will bring accountability to court proceedings, and comply with a state law giving people with a "legitimate interest" access to court proceedings.

It's an idea that Judge Nash has been touting for months, arguing that media access to these proceedings will improve "transparency for a branch of the legal system that handles child abuse, child neglect and foster care placements." The order, which applies only to dependency proceedings and not delinquency cases, was not universally well-received.

Will the Ninth Circuit Strike Proposition 209?

While most Court-watchers are waiting for a Supreme Court announcement regarding a grant or denial of cert in Fisher v. Texas, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is taking up the university affirmative action issue on its own. Monday, the court heard arguments in Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Brown, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 209.

Proposition 209 is the 1996 voter initiative that banned racial, ethnic and gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting. Both the California Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have previously upheld the law, reports the Huffington Post, but plaintiffs claim that the court should reconsider its position in light of the Supreme Court’s 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger ruling that upheld race-based admissions at the University of Michigan Law School.

A Whale of a Claim: Sea World Orcas Lack Article III Standing

Today we have a case waged by five orca whales — Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka and Ulises — through their Next Friends, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), against Sea World. Proving that Justice isn’t blind to plaintiffs of the water-based mammal variety, a federal court dismissed the claim this week with prejudice.

PETA and the whales claimed that Sea World violated the Thirteenth Amendment’s prohibitions against slavery and involuntary servitude by capturing the plaintiffs, and forcing them to live in grotesquely unnatural conditions and perform tricks. Sea World argued that whales aren’t people.

Okay, so it was a little more complicated than that.

Plaintiff Can Bring Slip and Fall Case Under Respondeat Superior

The California Supreme Court revived a plaintiff's slip and fall case against a jewelry store this week under the theory of respondeat superior, noting that it was no ordinary slip and fall case.

The difference in this premises liability case? The plaintiff was not a customer, but an independent contractor who was injured in an employees-only area.

Perry v. Brown: What the California Prop 8 Ruling Means for Gay Couples

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision today in Perry v. Brown did not say that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed, (like Judge Vaughn Walker's previous ruling in the case), nor did it immediately lift the California Prop 8 same-sex marriage ban.

Instead, Judge Stephen Reinhardt's narrowly-tailored decision relied on Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's reasoning in the 1996 case, Romer v. Evans, to find that, after the gay community won marriage equality, a law rescinding that right was unconstitutional.

So why Romer v. Evans? And why no constitutional right to marriage equality? Perhaps because Judge Reinhardt was trying to keep this case out of the Supreme Court.

Anaheim Pimp Gary Galen Brents Wins Death Penalty Appeal

An Anaheim pimp prevailed in a death penalty appeal before the California Supreme Court yesterday for the 1995 burning death of a prostitute. The unanimous court ruled trial judge failed to articulate that jurors had to find that the pimp meant to kidnap his victim, as well as kill her, to warrant the death penalty, reports the Associated Press.

The victim, Kelly Gordon, was a prostitute who worked for defendant Gary Galen Brents. Gordon agreed to sell $100 in methamphetamine for him. When Gordon failed to return either the drugs or the money to Brents, he killed her.

AB 1208 Passes Assembly: Cal Court Budget Back to Legislature?

California Courts could face a new budget structure if Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) has his way.

Calderon is the author of AB 1208, a California court budget restructuring proposal that narrowly won approval in the legislature this week. The bill would strip the Judicial Council — and the court bureaucracy, the Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) — of its control over the court system’s $3 billion budget, and return control over the budget to the legislature, reports the Associated Press.