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

September 2015 Archives

It's been six years since a federal three-judge court ordered California to drastically reduce its prison population and four years since the Supreme Court affirmed that ruling. At the time, the order brought cries that there would be "blood in the streets" if state prison populations were reduced.

Of course, California didn't just open the prison gates and let inmates walk free. Instead, it instituted a realignment program, moving prisoners from state to local jails, and adopted changes to "tough on crime" laws. Since then, a new report shows, crime has continued to drop, while 18,000 inmates have been removed from California prisons.

When it comes to protecting animal rights, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn't monkey around. Their message is simple: "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." Oh, and they should have access to intellectual property rights, too. Yep, according to a PETA lawsuit in San Francisco, animals should have the ability to copyright works they create.

In particular, PETA is looking to have a macaque monkey who took a world-famous selfie declared copyright owner of the photos. You remember the photos -- the ones taken when an Indonesian monkey named Naruto grabbed nature photographer David Slater's unattended camera, smiled, and began posing for the camera. Slater threatened to sue Wikipedia when they published the photo and now PETA is suing Slater, arguing that Naruto should be declared the photo's author -- and that PETA should administer the profits from the photo on the monkey's behalf.

Two weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen granted class status to a group of drivers suing Uber. The drivers allege that Uber misclassifies them as independent contractors when they are in fact employees and entitled to employee benefits.

While the ruling itself is news worthy (we covered it here), so too was Judge Chen's handling of the lawyers, indicating that neither Uber nor the drivers have an easy road ahead of them.

Incarceration is no good for families. For parents, one of the worst parts of a prison sentence is being separated from one's children. For kids, incarceration can lead to stress, developmental delays, and financial and emotional trauma. In such situations, incarceration can injure the families of offenders "as much as, and sometimes more than, offenders themselves," according to studies.

Recognizing the problems caused by incarcerating offenders with minor children, California created an Alternative Custody Program in 2010. California's ACP program allows participants to spend a portion of their sentence outside of prison, maintaining contact with their children. The program, previously limited to mothers, must now be made available to all eligible inmates, a federal court has ruled.

A federal court in California granted class action status to all eligible Uber drivers in the Golden State. Drivers are currently suing the company, alleging that Uber illegally classifies them as independent contractors when they are in fact employees. In getting class certification, the drivers have overcome the first hurdle in a massive lawsuit that, should they succeed, could see them getting paid for past taxes, wear to their cars, and other expenses.

The lawsuit threatens to upend business as usual in the so-called "sharing" or "on demand" economies -- those tech companies which let users order goods or services instantly and who depend heavily on contractors to make it work.

California will strictly limit its use of solitary confinement in prisons, the state announced on Tuesday. The changes are expected to greatly reduce the number of inmates held in isolation. Currently, inmates are often kept in small, windowless cells for 22 hours a day, often suffering severe psychological distress as a result.

The changes come as part of a settlement to a landmark class action lawsuit brought by prisoners. Those prisoners had been held in solitary confinement for 10 years or longer in Pelican Bay State Prison, near the Oregon border.