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

January 2014 Archives

The Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in a duo of cases regarding the constitutionality of searching cell phones as "search incident to lawful arrest" ("SITA"), and one of those cases has its roots in the California courts.

Supreme Court's Review of Final Judgments

Riley v. California, is an unpublished opinion of the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District of California. And if you just did a double take -- then you're on to something. If Riley didn't reach the highest court of the state, how did the Supreme Court grant cert? Because, the Riley decision was based on controlling precedent from the Supreme Court of California. Since the California Court of Appeal was the highest court available to review the decision, Riley was able to petition the Supreme Court for cert.

Bullet Train Fast-Tracked to Appeals Court

Is there a more maligned state project right now than California's High Speed Rail project?

It started as a great idea: a relatively cheap train would go straight from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 160 minutes. State funding would be limited to $9.95 billion in bonds, with the rest coming from federal and private funding. All funding and environmental reports would be done before construction.

That's what voters signed up for. Unfortunately, that's not what is currently in the works. Back in August, a judge ruled against the California High Speed Rail Authority, ordering them to come up with something more than a hypothetical plan to cover the now-$68 billion cost.

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court ordered an expedited review of that ruling, as well as a later ruling, that may have all but derailed the project.

Disgraced Journalist Glass Won't be Admitted to the California Bar

In a narrative nearly as compelling as those penned by Stephen Glass himself, the California Supreme Court just eviscerated the author of largely fictionalized magazine articles that were initially presented as fact-based journalism. He now seeks bar admission.

Will the journalist-turned law graduate ever gain admission to the bar? And has he really changed?

One thing I love about California? It's never boring. Last week we went over some new, and proposed, laws and today, we look at two recent cases initiated in California courts, as well as another proposed law.

One case alleges violation of state labor laws, while the other one is a novel approach to dealing with those pesky mugshot websites -- misappropriation of likeness for commercial gain. Finally, the proposed law would limit the use of antibiotics on livestock.

MCLE Compliance Deadline Is Approaching: Free and Cheap Solutions

Anyone care to help a brotha out with some free or cheap MCLEs?

For us Californians with N-Z monikers, we have less than two weeks to stuff in 25 MCLE credits (less if you were admitted after 2/1/11 or inactive), which basically means we have another week before we'll actually get started on our CLE binging.

If you're like me, you (a) haven't started and (b) are not looking forward to paying hundreds of dollars in dues, plus student loan payments, plus the cost of MCLES.

Let's see what we can do about that, shall we?

Chief Justice Warns of Layoffs and Closures, Proposes 3-Year Plan

"We are rationing justice, and it has become more than a fiscal problem. It is, in my view, it is now a civil rights problem. ... We know we are denying the protections of an American democracy."

The rhetoric, justified or not, is flowing hard after Gov. Jerry Brown released a budget plan that, despite a $105 million increase in court funding, will do little to keep our court system from teetering on collapse. (Existing pension and benefit costs will eat up most of the increase.) Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye's rhetorical flourish was accompanied by her own plan, the "A Three-Year Blueprint for a Fully Functioning Judicial Branch."

California lawmakers have hit the ground running in 2014 and have proposed measures regulating everything from cigarette butts to food safety. We decided to give you a roundup of the proposed bills, and new laws that are making the most waves. First up, the "affluenza" defense ...

Use of the "Affluenza" Defense

You may have heard of the case of the drunken 16-year-old boy in Texas, who killed four people in a car accident, and was sent to rehab instead of prison. The brilliant defense? "Affluenza" -- that is, the boy was raised with too much money, too much privilege and no rules. Well, Mike Gatto, California Assemblyman (D-LA) isn't having it, reports the Los Angeles Times. He proposed Assembly Bill 1508 that would prohibit attorneys from using an "affluenza" defense at trial, or as a mitigating circumstance during sentencing. How the legislature plans to define affluenza, and whether this will pass remains to be seen.

Pervs in Parks: OC Ordinance Preempted by State Sex Offender Laws

You won't find many people who will shed a tear over city and county ordinances that ban sex offenders from parks, except with prior written permission from the sheriff. We'd venture a guess that most people would support such a law, though much like city-specific gun ordinances, the laws face a major obstacle: state preemption.

Hugo Godinez is a registered sex offender. He attended a "mandatory" company picnic on Cinco de Mayo in 2010, at the Mile Square Regional Park. He was prosecuted and convicted, under the Orange County ordinance, but last week, in an unpublished opinion, a California appeals court reversed the conviction, and held that the OC ordinance was preempted by state law.

California is ahead of the curve, and because of its leftward leanings, is often highlighted in the news. And where California leads, other states follow. We've seen this when it comes to gay marriage, medicinal marijuana and revenge porn. That said, it's kind of funny that lawyers (who can be lawyers, and how the job is defined) can be such hot topics in California.

California Lawyers

California has a pretty bad rep when it comes to its bar passage rate, and 2013 was no different. Last year, only 55.8 percent of students passed the bar exam -- the highest pass rate since 2009. But once one passes the California bar exam, things get easier. Last year, Governor Brown signed a law that allows undocumented immigrants to practice law, and on January 2, 2014, Sergio Garcia was admitted to the California Bar. California also is considering adding a new category of people who could give legal advice -- legal technicians.

Let the legal tech jokes begin.

A Few Notes, Court Related, On Gov. Brown's Budget Proposal

An early leak of Gov. Brown's budget proposal led to a sooner-than-expected unveiling of the plan. As with most political events, no one is happy.

Were you hoping for more funding for our beleaguered court system, either to reduce court crowding, or to add more prosecutor and public defender positions? The modest increase in the budget likely won't help.

The budget also addressed two other issues that have made their way through California courts this year: the state's ill-fated High Speed Rail project, and the prison overcrowding issue that has yet to be resolved.

Roundup: State Bar Profiles, Plastic Bags, and Weed Ordinances

It's Blue Monday, a marketing gimmick and excuse to feel depressed, but on the bright side, at least we Californians aren't in the other 90 percent of the country that is currently being assaulted with sub-zero temperatures. Plus, the 49'ers won on Sunday, so there is hope for a brighter tomorrow.

While you're reflecting on your good fortune as a Californian, here is the latest from our state bar, and legal challenges to anti-dispensary and anti-plastic bag ordinances.

Undocumented Immigrant Sergio Garcia Finally Admitted to Cal. Bar

Welcome to the club, Mr. Garcia.

A long-winding case finally came to its expected conclusion when the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sergio Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who, as a 17-month-old, was brought into the country, and has been waiting for a visa since 1995. Garcia passed the California bar exam, but there was a question over whether a person, not legally allowed to be in the United States, could be licensed to practice law by one of the states, especially since a federal statute seemed to prohibit licensing such individuals.

However, after California passed a law allowing the admission of qualified applicants to the bar, regardless of immigration status, the California Supreme Court followed through with a unanimous opinion in Garcia's favor.