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Therapists Must Report Child Porn Users

A state appeals court has upheld a law requiring therapists to report patients who view child porn online or in other digital forms.

California's Second District Court of Appeal said that society's interest in protecting children outweighs the privacy rights of patients who view child pornography. Under the Child Abuse Neglect and Reporting Act, the court said, therapists are mandated to report anyone who has accessed child pornography through electronic or digital media. Children are "sexually exploited" by the act of downloading, streaming or accessing child pornography, the court said.

"Not only is it illegal, the conduct is reprehensible, shameful and abhorred by any decent and normal standards of society," the unanimous panel said.

California's Execution Speed-Up Law Goes to State's Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court is considering briefs on whether to uphold a voter-approved law to speed up death penalty cases.

Approved by voters in November 2016, Prop. 66 authorizes more lawyers to take death penalty cases and sets a five-year timeline for appeals. Opponents sued to invalidate the measure, which was set to take effect last month, but the high court stayed implementation and ordered briefing on the case this month.

"There are individual provisions of this measure that raise serious constitutional issues," said Gerald Uelmen, a Santa Clara law professor emeritus who served as the chief executive of a state commission that examined California's death penalty system. "I would expect the court is going to strike down at least some provisions."

Volkswagen won't be able to escape a proposed securities fraud class action against it, after the District Court for the Northern District of California rejected the company's motion to dismiss yesterday. The suit stems from the revelation in September 2015 that Volkswagen had been using software designed to cheat emissions tests in its "clean diesel" vehicles. Members of the class action, largely municipal pension funds, accuse Volkswagen of making material misrepresentations over its compliance with environmental regulations.

Volkswagen argued that the alleged securities offenses were outside the reach of U.S. securities law, since they involved foreign shares on a foreign exchange in Germany -- an argument Judge Charles Breyer rejected.

CA Begins Zero Tolerance for Drivers Holding Cell Phones

This just in: Hold a cell phone, get a ticket.

California's new cell phone law makes it illegal to hold a cell phone while driving. It doesn't matter whether you are just listening to music or checking the GPS for directions, it's against the law.

The fine for holding a cell phone is $20 for the first offense; $50 for subsequent tickets. It is the same for using a hand-held cell phone, but increases to $76 for the first offense, $190 thereafter, with penalties and assessments.

The California Supreme Court has rejected a petition to release Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted in the infamous Manson murders half a century ago.

Van Houten, 67, was a follower of Charles Manson in the 1969 slaughter of seven people in the Los Angeles area. She participated in the stabbing deaths of Leo and Rosemary LaBianca, but not the killings of actress Sharon Tate and four of her friends. Tate, who was pregnant, was stabbed 16 times.

The supreme court refused to hear Van Houten's petition, which sought to overturn Governor Jerry Brown's decision to reject a parole board recommendation for her release in July. A judge upheld the governor's decision in October, leading to the petition to the high court.

CA Supreme Court Slows Down Speedy Death Law

The California Supreme Court has stayed a voter-approved measure to speed up death penalty cases, giving opponents time to press their case through the court

Prop. 66, which was certified for implementation last week, authorizes more lawyers to take death penalty cases and sets a five-year timeline for appeals. Opponents have sued to invalidate the measure.

In a one-page order, the court said it was providing "time for further consideration" of a pending legal challenge "to permit the filing and consideration of papers in opposition to the petition." The court said the parties should complete their briefs in January.

Court Revives CNN Discrimination Suit

Slapping back an employer's free speech defense, a state appeals court said a fired producer may proceed in his discrimination case against CNN.

The Second District Court of Appeal reversed a decision on the network's motion under California's law limiting strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP). An appellate panel rejected the company's claim, saying the law did not apply to an employer's allegedly discriminatory actions.

In a split decision, the Second District said CNN failed to show the plaintiff's claim "arises from an act in furtherance" of the employer's right of free speech in connection with a public issue. The alleged acts of discrimination and retaliation against Wilson "are not acts in furtherance" of CNN's free speech rights, Justice Elwood Lui wrote for the majority.

California's 16 specialty bar sections may be leaving the California Bar Association in the near future. Those specialty groups, which California attorneys may join as part of their membership in the bar, cover everything from antitrust law, to environmental law, to workers' comp. But they've been struggling under new bar rules meant to balance the state bar's role as both a regulator and a trade group, according to Courthouse News Service.

On Monday, the California State Bar's Board of Trustees gave those sections the go ahead to start deunification discussions with the legislature and state Supreme Court.

Appeals Courts Shoots Down Microstamping Gun Control Law

A California appeals court just affirmed a substantial roadblock to the 2007 "microstamp" bullets law. The law was touted as the first of its kind to help law enforcement fight gun crimes with microstamp technology linking bullet casings to guns. However, the Fifth District Court of Appeal said the law wrongly required a technology that gun manufacturers could not produce.

"It is unreasonable to require an individual to attempt what is impossible to accomplish," the justices said in reversing and remanding the case.

The State Bar of California is currently considering a radical change to the state's Rules of Professional Conduct: a bar on lawyer-client sex.

Under the current rules, lawyers are allowed to sleep with their clients, so long as they do not coerce them into the sack or condition representation on sexual relations. (Lawyers must end representation if their lusty lawyer-client relationship interferes with competent representation as well.) The new rules, if adopted, would put an end to California's permissiveness, prohibiting virtually all attorney-client lovemaking.