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Right-To-Die Lawsuit Rejected by California Appeals Court

The Associated Press reported yesterday that a California appeals court rejected a lawsuit brought by Christy O'Donnell and two other terminally ill patients who sought to legalize the procedure for doctors to prescribe them fatal medication.

The court ruled that current law would criminalize physicians who helped patients commit suicide. The news comes as a blow to the patients in light of this month's signing of the California's physician-assisted suicide law. This is ironic because O'Donnell's face has become synonymous with California's freshly legalized right to drug-assisted suicide.

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.

California may soon be getting rid of the religious and personal exemptions that let parents opt out of vaccinating their children before enrolling them in school, daycares or nurseries. A new bill imposing more robust child vaccination requirements has been approved by the state Senate and is well on its way to becoming law.

The law comes largely as a response to an outbreak of measles in Disneyland this winter, which spread to over 100 individuals across state and even national lines. Measles, like many diseases, is preventable through immunization, but California has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, with more than a quarter of schools having immunization rates below levels recommended by the C.D.C.

Maile Mae Hampton, a young African American woman, attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Sacramento last January to speak out against police violence against minorities -- and ended up being charged with felony lynching. Hampton is accused of pulling a fellow protestor away from police, which prosecutors felt met the definition of lynching in California: "the taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of a peace officer."

Perhaps realizing that the charge was in poor judgment -- or perhaps just poor P.R. -- Sacramento's chief deputy district attorney amended the complaint. Instead of lynching, Hampton now faces a single charge of misdemeanor interference with an officer.

In a move that surprised many, the California's Supreme Court declined to revisit a controversial January ruling on mandatory registration for certain offenders. The case the court declined to rehear, Johnson v. Department of Justice, revived a mandatory registration law that many argued was homophobic and unjustly subjected gay and lesbian defendants to greater punishments than their straight counterparts.

The Johnson decision received a strong dissent from two Justices. Court observers had expected Governor Brown's recent appointees to push the court more to the left and to rehear the case. The decision this week is one sign that those predictions may have been misguided.

A nonprofit representing California sex workers is currently suing to overturn the state's laws against prostitution and solicitation. The organization, Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLER, a very unsexy acronym), argues that the state's prohibitions on sex work violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

So, is California about to go the way of Amsterdam or certain counties in Nevada and decriminalize the world's oldest profession? It's doubtful, but ESPLER thinks it's possible.

Calif.'s Sex Offender Residency Law Is Unconstitutional: Supreme Ct.

Blanket prohibitions on where registered sex offenders can live are unconstitutional, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled yesterday. The case was brought by registered sex offenders in San Diego who objected to mandatory residency restrictions in the penal code.

Sex offenders can't, for example, live within 2,000 feet of a public or private school or a park where children regularly gather. These requirements, the court said, have done more harm than good to registered sex offenders and bear "no rational relationship to advancing the state's goal of protecting children from sexual predators."

The California Supreme Court has unanimously sided with a group of investigative journalists over the Department of Public Health (DPH) in a dispute over public access to regulatory records.

In an investigation into abuse at state-owned and -operated treatment facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled, the Center for Investigative Reporting (the Center) requested from DPH copies of all citations issued to the seven largest state faculties. DPH responded to the request with 55 aggressively redacted citations, giving scant information about the actual violations.

DPH claimed that the redactions of private medical information were justified under the Lanterman Act. The Center, demanding more information under the Long Term Care Act, sued DPH for the unredacted citations.

26 State AGs File Amicus to Oppose S.F.'s 'Gun Locker' Ordinance

Attorneys general from 26 states filed an amici curiae brief in a suit over San Francisco's "gun locker" ordinance last week, increasing the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will take the case (which they were probably going to, anyway).

On March 25, 2014, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit determined that the ordinance, which requires that handguns stored at a residence be kept in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock, didn't violate the Second Amendment.

Appeals Court Strikes Cal. DNA Collection Law for Arrestees

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a Maryland law that allowed police to collect and store DNA from arrestees. This put a wrench in a California case called People v. Buza, centering on the validity of California's own DNA collection law.

The First District Court of Appeal decided Buza in the defendant's favor in 2011. On a petition for review, the state supreme court sent it back for reconsideration in light of King. Last week, the court of appeal reached the same conclusion: California's DNA collection law violates the state constitution.