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August 2017 Archives

Court Ends Marijuana Tax Dispute: Local Voters Can Tax Themselves

Ulysses, fearing he would heed the tempting Siren's song, ordered his men to lash him to the mast of his boat.

Upland, fearing a prohibited tax aimed at marijuana businesses, kept it off the special election ballot. That's a slight twist on the California Supreme Court's mythical reference in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland.

"As Ulysses once tied himself to the mast so he could resist the Sirens' tempting song (Homer, The Odyssey, Book XII), voters too can conceivably make the clear and important choice to bind themselves by making it more difficult to enact initiatives in the future," the court said.

It was a tax powers case and more complicated than a Greek myth. But the story ends something like this: voters have the power to tax themselves.

Recently, a line of cases have all been filed against Apple and other device makers as a result of auto accidents caused by smartphone-induced distracted driving. Following a federal decision in a similar case against Apple out of Texas, a California court rejected the theory that device makers are liable for distracted driving accidents caused when drivers are using their devices.

In sustaining the demurrer, the court explained that:

The chain of causation alleged by plaintiffs in this case is far too attenuated for a reasonable person to conclude that Apple's conduct is or was a substantial factor in causing plaintiffs' harm.

L.A. to Join Sanctuary City Lawsuit

Los Angeles has filed in federal court to join a lawsuit against the Department of Justice for threatening to withhold law enforcement funds from sanctuary cities.

If approved, L.A. will become the third major city to sue the government over the sanctuary city controversy. San Francisco and Chicago sued after Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the DOJ would cut off grants to cities that do not cooperate with the Trump Administration's campaign against illegal immigrants.

"This administration will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety," Sessions said. "So it's this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars."

In November 2016, California voters passed Proposition 66 which sought to speed up the time between a death penalty conviction and sentence and the actual execution. Most notably, Prop. 66 imposed a mandatory five-year deadline for the California courts to finish a capital appeal. Almost immediately after passing, opponents filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the proposition, and specifically, that five-year deadline.

After reviewing the challenge, the California Supreme Court issued their ruling, in Briggs v. Brown, effectively striking down the five-year deadline (at least for the time being), while upholding other portions of the proposition.

One mother's disturbing discovery has led a California appellate court to distinguish the rules on when secret recordings are permissible. Although California is one of the few "all party consent" states, meaning everyone who is audio recorded must consent to being recorded, there are a few exceptions to that rule.

One of the main exceptions to the "all party consent" rule allows a person to obtain evidence of a violent felony, extortion, bribery, or kidnapping via a secret recording. However, at issue in the In Re: Trever P. case isn't whether a person involved in the conversation can make a secret recording, but rather, whether a parent can consent on behalf of their child and make a secret recording of the child and a babysitter.

Sperm Donor Must Pay Child Support

There are two words a sperm donor does not expect to hear: "Hi, Dad."

But that's about what a California appeals court said while interpreting the Family Code in County of Orange v. Brian Jeffrey Cole. The appellate panel said Brian Jeffrey Cole could not escape child support because he acted like he was the father -- except around his wife who knew nothing about his relationship with the child's mother.

"The statute does not require that Cole hold out the child as his own in every situation and it does not protect fathers who lead double lives," the court said.

Vinod Kholsa, one of the founders of Sun Microsystems, and a Silicon Valley billionaire, just lost in court again. Kholsa isn't losing in court on anything tech related, but rather, he is losing his private beach.

The California Court of Appeal denied Kholsa's appeal and ordered the beach-restricting-billionaire to reopen public access. The beach in question is called Martins Beach, which is located just south of Half Moon Bay, which is about 30 minutes south of San Francisco along the Pacific coast. Although the beach used to have public access, Kholsa, who purchased the property for $37 million, closed it down in 2009.

Court Agrees Not to Suspend Licenses of Drivers Too Poor to Pay Traffic Fines

Traffic tickets may not seem like a civil rights matter, but they were important enough for civil liberties groups to take action in Northern California.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and others sued the Solano County Superior Court last year for suspending driver's licenses of people too poor to pay traffic tickets. After a year of litigation and negotiation, the parties have settled the issue.

"We were able to work with the court to find a system that will provide notice to people about their rights and ability to pay," said Raegan Joern, a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid.

The Rutter Group's Federal Civil Procedure Before Trial, California and Ninth Circuit Edition has been updated for 2017 with new case law, statutes, and important info to help guide you through the procedural minefield that is federal litigation in California. Updates are still available for current subscribers. (Disclosure: The Rutter Group is part of Thomson Reuters, FindLaw's parent company.)

For federal litigators in California that don't have The Rutter Group's best selling guide, or that might have missed a few updates, it's never too late to start using the industry leading practice guide.

Rap Lyrics Condemn Murder Defendant

It's bad enough when a rapper talks about killing people, but when a rapper actually kills somebody ...

Ravinseh Singh, more a killer than a rapper, murdered Joe Montoya when he shot him point-blank in the face. Singh added three more shots to make sure: twice in the stomach and once in the groin.

Appealing his conviction, Singh argued the trial judge should not have allowed jurors to hear rap lyrics he wrote, including "two to the gut, watch you shut your eyes slow." The appeals court called any mistake "harmless" and affirmed in People v. Singh.

California's Court of Appeal for the First District issued a ruling reversing a family court judgment terminating support to an immigrant spouse. Specifically, the court was forced to decide whether the I-864 affidavit of a spouse to their immigrating spouse creates an agreement that can impact a subsequent spousal support order.

The Court of Appeals found that the I-864 affidavit promising support was enforceable in a proceeding over spousal support, and created a separate obligation apart from spousal support. Additionally, the court found that the beneficiary of the I-864 promise to support is not under any legal obligation to mitigate their damages. The court explained that this reflects the concept that an immigrant's sponsor should shoulder the burden of the immigrant, not society. The case is IN RE: the Marriage of ASHLYNE and VIKASH KUMAR.