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

July 2017 Archives

Environmental Review for CA Bullet Train Reinforced by State High Court

Federal railway laws do not categorically preempt the California Environmental Quality Act, the state Supreme Court said, slowing down a Northern California train pending an environmental review.

The Court said CEQA applies to the state North Coast Railroad Authority -- just like any other state agency -- on its projects. The Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act, a federal law that regulates public rails, does not displace state laws in carrying out those projects.

"This decision clears the way for the courts below to begin considering the merits of plaintiffs' CEQA claims, which the courts had previously found to be preempted by the ICCTA as a categorical matter," Justice Leondra Kruger wrote in a concurring opinion in Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority.

Cal. Supreme Court Says 'No-Fault" Parents Can Lose Custody

The California Supreme Court said dependency judges may take children away from parents who cannot supervise or protect their children -- even if the parents are not to blame.

Settling a split of authority in In re. R.T., the court ruled the state's Welfare and Institutions Code authorizes dependency jurisdiction without a finding that a parent is at fault or blameworthy for a failure or inability to supervise or protect a child.

"When that child's behavior places her at substantial risk of serious physical harm, and a parent is unable to protect or supervise that child, the juvenile court's assertion of jurisdiction is authorized under section 300(b)(1)," Justice Goodwin Liu wrote in a concurring opinion to invite the Legislature to revisit the issue.

Suit Revived to Make Glassdoor Identify Anonymous Review Posters

A state appeals court ruled that a company may compel an online review site to identify its anonymous critics.

In the case against Glassdoor, a website for jobseekers and others to post information about employers, California's Second District Court of Appeal said the First Amendment does not protect anonymous posters from making libelous statements in the guise of opinion.

"On the contrary, where an expression of opinion implies a false assertion of fact, the opinion can constitute actionable defamation," said Acting Presiding Justice Maria Rivera in ZL Technologies v. Does 1-7.

Court: Medical Board's Right to Records Outweighs Patients' Privacy Rights

The California Supreme Court said the state medical board did not need a warrant or subpoena to obtain a doctor's prescription history for his patients.

In Lewis v. Superior Court, the court said that the board's interest in protecting the public outweighed any privacy rights. The board acquired the patient information through the state's Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, "CURES."

"[W]e find that the balance tips in favor of the Board's interests in protecting the public from unlawful use and diversion of a particularly dangerous class of prescription drugs and protecting patients from negligent or incompetent physicians," Justice Goodwin Liu wrote.

Judge Keeps Injunction in Place on President's Order Against Sanctuary Cities

Attorney General Jeff Sessions did not help President Trump's case against sanctuary cities that is playing out in San Francisco.

On Wednesday, Sessions gave a speech claiming sanctuary cities have more violent crime on average than those cities that cooperate with the president's campaign against illegal immigrants. On Thursday, a federal judge refused to lift an injunction against the president's order to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities.

"The fundamental problem I see is, as found in my initial order, Section 9 of the executive order is unconstitutional," Judge William Orrick III said, notwithstanding Session's latest memo on the order. "The attorney general's memo can't change that."

CA Supreme Court: Voters Did Not Amend 3 Strikes Law

Californians approved Prop. 47 to reduce sentences for certain drug and theft crimes and to allow some prisoners to petition for lesser sentences after convictions.

But that proposition did not change the Three Strikes Reform Act under Prop. 36, which voters enacted two years earlier to reduce sentences when a defendant's third strike was not serious or violent.

That's the last ruling from the California Supreme Court in People v. Valencia. But it was a hard-fought decision as the justices split 4-3 in their interpretation of the voter-approved laws.

Judge Blocks Law Against High-Capacity Gun Magazines in California

A federal judge has stopped a voter-approved law that would have forced gun owners to surrender magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.

Californians voted Prop. 63 into law last year, outlawing the high-capacity magazines, requiring background checks of people who buy ammunition and imposing other gun restrictions. Judge Roger Benitez said the bullet ban went too far.

"The State of California's desire to criminalize simple possession of a firearm magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds is precisely the type of policy choice that the Constitution takes off the table," he said in granting a preliminary injunction against the law.