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

April 2016 Archives

The public could be getting access to Martin's Beach again, after a ruling by the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco yesterday. Surfers, picnickers, and beach goers had accessed Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay for decades, crossing private land to get to the secluded shoreline. That is, until 2010, when billionaire tech investor Vinod Khosla bought up the land and cut off public access.

Despite the California Constitution's grant of public access to public beaches, a trial court dismissed a suit seeking to reestablish public access. Now, in a unanimous ruling, an appellate panel has reinstated the suit, finding that a trial could show that the property's former owners had created a public right to access Martin's Beach.

CA Inverse Condemnation Case Is Affirmed Against Landowners

A California appellate court case is illustrative of the state's rather rigid doctrines against compensation to landowners for alleged injury to their property. The City of Beverly Hills prevailed against in a demurrer involving homeowners who claimed injury against the city for planting some redwood trees in a park some ways from their home. The injury? Spoiling their lovely view.

James Cameron Wins Again in Avatar Suit

Director James Cameron won another legal victory in California appeals court recently when a judge affirmed a lower court ruling generally finding that Cameron did not steal ideas from another writer in making his blockbuster hit Avatar.

So far, the courts have been favorable to Mr. Cameron. It is unclear whether or not the complainants plan to appeal this to a higher court, but with a portion of $3 billion at stake, we wouldn't be surprised.

We have to say it: we're a little disappointed in the Uber settlement -- and not because it doesn't give drivers enough cash, or because we'd rather not tip. The settlement means that one of the biggest questions of the modern "gig economy" goes unanswered. We still don't know: are the thousands of on-demand workers, at companies like Uber, Lyft, and Postmates, employees or independent contractors?

Uber announced yesterday that it was settling two massive class actions brought by its drivers. As part of the settlement, Uber will pay $100 million and allow drivers to solicit tips from passengers, but those same drivers will continue to be considered independent contractors by the company.

Quality School Education Is Not a Fundamental Right in CA

California's State Constitution does not guarantee children a minimum quality K-12 education, according to the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco. The decision was reached amidst broad attention being directed towards the K-12 spending debate.

The disappointed plaintiffs have announced that they will appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Attorney-Client Privilege Is Sacred, Even When Used for Abuse

The attorney-client privilege is one of the most closely guarded layman-professional relationships, but California takes it to a whole new level. It even has codified the attorney-client privilege (unlike other states which rely on rules derived from the ABA rules) in Cal. Evid. Code section 900 et seq.

It turns out that even when privilege has been used for abuse, California jurisdiction is highly unwilling to question the practice. In the case of Dp Pham, LLC v. Cheadle, a prima facie showing of privilege turned out to be one heck of a shield against disclosure.

L.A. County Seal Is Unconstitutional, Rules Federal Judge

According to federal district judge Christina A. Snyder, the County of Los Angeles' Official Seal is unconstitutional. Controversy began when a group of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim congregation leaders represented by the ACLU sued the LA County Board in 2014, alleging that the addition of a tiny cross in the seal's imagery violated the Establishment Clause.

Warrantless Searches of Electronics OK for Probation Condition, CA Court Rules

A California appeals court recently affirmed a juvenile court's probation order that conditioned a young man's probationary status on warrantless searches of his "electronics including passwords." The decision relies on a broad court reading of a 1975 California case called People v. Lent and its stance on Fourth Amendment rights.

Under the applicable law, conditions of probation need to be pretty darn broad in order to be invalidated.

California Supreme Court Makes It Easier to Sue Over Seats

California's highest court jumped into a surprisingly controversial area of the law yesterday: seating. The California Supreme Court provided guidance to the Ninth Circuit on Monday in a case brought by retail and banking employees trying to sue their bosses over lack of adequate seating -- and trying to form a class action to do it.

The row is over the proper interpretation of key California labor law requiring businesses to provide "suitable seats." So, just what on earth is a "suitable seat" anyway?

May Day came a bit early for workers in the Golden State as the Supreme Court and the state government handed organized labor two major wins. In Washington, D.C., a deadlocked Supreme Court decision helped save public labor unions from a major challenge. In Sacramento, Governor Jerry Brown announced that he would raise the state's minimum wage by 50 percent, to $15 an hour.

Let's take a look at these recent victories.