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March 2014 Archives

Private Communications Not Subject to Cal. Public Records Act

A mayor sends an email to a state senator through his official government email account. The California Public Records Act applies, and this email is subject to public disclosure.

A mayor sends an email via a free webmail service, such as Gmail, to that same senator, and per this court decision, it is not subject to public disclosure.

Note to Leland Yee: sign up for Gmail.

Lots of California law updates this week with the 2014 State of the Judiciary, a retiring judge, and a review of laws, pending, passed, and interpreted. Let's jump in:

2014 State of the Judiciary

On March 17, 2014 Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye gave her 2014 State of the Judiciary Address before California judges, legislators and attorneys. The foundation of her statements rested on "fairness and collaboration" -- values that both the judiciary and legislature embody. She went on to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and discussed issues important to her including collaborative courts, self-help centers at the trial courts, JusticeCorps and juvenile justice. To read her remarks in full (or watch a video), click here for the 2014 State of the Judiciary Address.

Legal War Between Courts, Legislature Over Red Light Cameras

Flash. That'll be $980.

Who caught you? A camera, one that can't face you in court. And the person who prepared the picture that is attached to your ticket? She's also not available to cross-examine.

Good luck with your defense.

See why red light cameras and other "Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems" (ATES) are problematic? Hearsay issues and Confrontation Clause rights are at the center of the war on ATES -- one that is set to hit the California Supreme Court next week, and which has inspired a pro se plaintiff's U.S. Supreme Court petition for certiorari, as well as protective legislation that backs the camera operators.

State Sen. Leland Yee Arrested on Bribery Charges

Well, his odds of a successful run for Secretary of State just diminished greatly.

State Sen. Leland Yee, one of the most well-known California lawmakers, was arrested this morning on bribery charges, while houses and office buildings were raided throughout the Bay Area and Sacramento. Also arrested was Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, reportedly the head of Ghee Kung Tong, a fraternal organization in San Francisco's Chinatown.

According to ABC 7, Chow's rap sheet dates back to 1978, but he has been out of prison for more than a decade after claiming that he'd turned his life around. Authorities believe he may be a local leader of a Hong Kong-base crime syndicate.

CA Appellate Opinion Mocks Defendant's Attempts to Kill Detective

"Defendant Nicholas John Smit was charged with a number of drug offenses that exposed him to a maximum of 11 years in state prison. How did defendant attempt to avoid those 11 years? By trying to kill the detective whose testimony was required to convict him, of course.  None of the usual suspects such as Wile E. Coyote, Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam, not even Boris or Natasha, ever eclipsed what defendant did here."

How does one attempt to murder a detective, and in the process, turn an 11-year sentence into four consecutive life sentences with a 40-year garnish? You know, the usual: boobytraps, panji boards, zip guns, and military rockets.

The Golden State is home to Hollywood, and if we can learn anything from celebrities, it's that everyone's got something they want to sell you. California lawyers are no different -- well, sort of. Not quite selling things per se, as lawyers you're selling services, but you need to know a thing or two about marketing.

Legal marketing may not be high up on your "know how" or "to do" list, but that doesn't mean it's not important. It is. It just means you might need some help. Luckily for you, we're here.

Here are the top three things you should know about legal marketing.

Front Yard Variance Challenge Denied: 5 Lessons for Neighbors

California is somewhat famous for its protracted battles over property variances and compliance with zoning restrictions.

In Eskeland v. City of Del Mar, neighbors of a man who wanted to remodel his home fought tooth and nail to keep him from doing so, claiming he was in violation of the city's many municipal codes. In the end, the Court of Appeal denied the neighbor's challenges to his plans.

Here are five lessons all neighbors can learn from the Eskelands:

This week California is making headlines with laws -- enacted and proposed -- that affect gun rights, and the rights of juveniles. A Sunnyvale municipal law banning large-capacity magazines reaches the highest court of the land, while another proposed law would require juveniles to be tried as adults.

Sunnyvale's Controversial Gun Law

Last November, the voters of the City of Sunnyvale passed Measure C, a law that among other things, bans large-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. A group of Sunnyvale gun owners affected by the new law challenged Sunnyvale, California Municipal Code § 9.44.050, in federal district court, seeking an order for a preliminary injunction blocking its enforcement.

Safeway, Albertsons Merger: Cleanup on Aisle 'Settlement'

Safeway, a major grocery store chain that every Californian knows, is being bought up by competitor Albertsons.

Also operating under the name Vons or Pavilions in the Golden State, Safeway is merging with Albertsons in a deal estimated at over $9 million, reports CNNMoney. But the deal won't be finalized until the end of the year, and Safeway has some settlement deals to wrap up first.

Yolo County's Concealed-Carry Permit Law Ruled Unconstitutional

Gun rights activists in Yolo County nabbed a win, as the Ninth Circuit has held that the county's "good cause" concealed-carry handgun policy is unconstitutional.

Yolo County's policy requiring anyone seeking a concealed-carry permit to show "good cause" was initially upheld by the district court. However, following the Ninth Circuit's recent decision on a similar law in San Diego County, it's not a huge shocker that Yolo County's concealed-carry law was also shot down.

It's been a busy few weeks in California with so much legal news to write about that we couldn't just pick one issue. Today, we take a brief look at the teacher tenure case, Propositions 9 and 89, and a new suit filed against U.C. Berkeley.

Vergara v. California

A group of students is challenging five statutes that regulate the dismissal, tenure and layoff of teachers in Vergara v. California, reports LA School Report. The plaintiffs' attorney, Theodore Boutrous argued in court that the challenged laws "put and keep grossly ineffective teachers in the classroom in front of students," reports Reuters. After the plaintiffs presented their case, defendants -- two largest teachers unions and the state of California -- moved to dismiss.

Cal. Sup. Ct. Sets Arguments for Landmark Employee Arbitration Case

The facts of this case are pretty unremarkable. Guy (Arshavir Iskanian) drives a limo, gets into a dispute with his employer (CLS Transportation). Guy sues.

Except, there was an arbitration clause. The trial court ordered arbitration, pursuant to the employment contract. An appellate panel reversed, with instructions for the trial court to consider Gentry v. Superior Court, a California Supreme Court case that, in limited circumstances, allows parties to escape "unconscionable" arbitration clauses.

The trial court certified a class, but then AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion happened, hitting the reset button, and sending the case back to arbitration. Now, the California Supreme Court, on Thursday, April 3, 2014 at 9:00 a.m., will hear arguments about whether Gentry remains good law after AT&T Mobility.

Smartphone GPS and Other Tinkering While Driving Allowed by Court

You can't, absent a handsfree kit, talk on a phone while driving. You can't text or email. But you can do anything and everything else with your smartphone while driving. Kinda.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals, late last week, examined California's hands-free statute and held that it only applies to "listening and talking," not any use of a phone whatsoever. Does this mean navigation software, music, and pretty much any other app is fair game on the streets of the Golden State?

At least under this one statute, that may be the case.