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

September 2011 Archives

Appellate Court Reverses, Orders Augustin Uribe Back to Trial

When California's Sixth Appellate District set aside Augustin Uribe's child molestation conviction last year due to prosecutorial misconduct, the legal community took note of Santa Clara County prosecutors' unscrupulous tactics. Uribe's case was one of the 159 in which California courts "set aside convictions or sentences, declared mistrials, or barred evidence" as a result of prosecutorial misconduct, according to a Northern California Innocence Project report.

Now the Sixth Appellate District says it erred in dismissing the information, and has ordered a new trial against Uribe.

Demurrer Sustained: Child Support Mishandling Claim Dismissed

Child support battles are usually emotional, but a child support claim that devolves into negligent infliction of emotional distress claims and demurrer pleadings stands out from the child support crowd.

L.K.'s son was born in 1988. The father, P.G. (Father), was obligated to pay child support until the child's 18th birthday in 2006.

In 2007, the Los Angeles Child Support Services Department (CSSD) filed a motion to determine child support arrears. The attorney declaration attached to the motion stated that an audit conducted by the CSSD had determined that Father owed $43,104.02 in child support arrears as of August 3, 2007.

Court Reinstates SVPA Petition, Citing "Good Faith" Mistake

The Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA) authorizes California to identify prisoners who suffer from mental disorders that predispose them to commit violent sexual crimes, and to confine and treat them until they no longer threaten society. The confinement process requires multiple prisoner evaluations from the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

So what happens when the state extends a potential SVPA-eligible prisoner's incarceration beyond his release date because it didn't have adequate staff to complete the SVPA evaluations?

Michael O'Connor was sentenced to 24 years in prison for 14 counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14 years. While in prison, O'Connor sustained numerous rules violations, including possession of lewd sexual material involving minors and drawing pornographic sketches of children.

Jaycee Dugard Suing the Government for Phillip Garrido Failures

The California government approved a $20 million settlement with kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard last year, after the California Inspector General's office determined that state parole officers had missed numerous opportunities to locate and rescue Dugard.

Now, Dugard is suing the government again.

Dugard filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. government this week, claiming that probation officers failed to adequately monitor Phillip Garrido, the man who kidnapped and held her for 18 years. Dugard, who is requesting unspecified damages, has pledged to donate the judgment money to a foundation that supports families recovering from kidnappings and traumatic experiences, reports The Washington Post.

Appeals Court: Kissing a Vampire Freak Can Be a Lewd Act

No one likes a lewd act conviction. With that in mind, we bring you FindLaw's Dating Tips for Avoiding Criminal Convictions.

  • Tip 1: Despite the unrelenting popularity of the Twilight series, you should not troll for dates if you are over the age of 18. It's not worth the risk of picking up a tween-age Twi-hard.
  • Tip 2: If you insist upon ignoring Tip 1, avoid potential dates that take place at the library. Grown-ups meet over coffee; 13-year-olds ask their parents to drop them off at the library.
  • Tip 3: If after disregarding Tips 1 and 2, you think your VampIre Freak match looks too young to get a driver's license, demand a birth certificate or passport to prove your date's age before proceeding on any front.

John Stuart Moses could have benefited from these tips.

Court Upholds Prop 14 Bans on Write-In Votes, Unqualified Parties

A California appeals court has refused to enjoin Prop 14, the open primary law that California voters approved in June 2010. Prop 14 critics claim that the court's decision signals the end of independent-candidate viability in California elections by demonstrating a preference for qualified party candidates.

Last year, California voters tossed traditional party primaries in favor of one open primary for a number of state and federal elected positions, referred to in the measure and legislation as "voter-nominated" offices. Among the now-voter-nominated offices? Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, United States Senators, and Members of the United States House of Representatives.

Exploding Bottle of Bubbly No Match for Collateral Estoppel

Jerry Bailey suffered an eye injury when a bottle of Cook’s Champagne exploded as he was erecting a sales display in a Safeway grocery store. Bailey sued the manufacturer of the champagne bottle, Saint-Gobain Containers, Inc. for strict liability design defect under the consumer expectation theory; Bailey also sued Safeway under that same theory and for negligence.

Bailey settled with Saint-Gobain and others for $1 million plus an assignment of Saint-Gobain’s equitable indemnity rights against Safeway. After the settlement was confirmed, the case went to trial only against Safeway. The jury found that Safeway was not negligent, but that it was liable under the separate strict liability design defect cause of action.

AOC Wishlist Proposes Frivolous Spending in Wake of Deficit

California Supreme Court Chief Justice denounced cuts to the state judiciary budget as "a blow against justice" earlier this year, but a recent report suggests that that state should have made deeper cuts to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the central court bureaucracy that is frequently criticized for bad ideas and irresponsible spending.

The California court system lost $350 million through state budget cuts in the 2011-2012 fiscal year. According to the Judicial Council of California (Judicial Council) the legislature cut an additional $310 million from the State Court Facilities Construction Fund, which will delay some courthouse projects for up to year. Although the judiciary accounts for 2.88 percent of the state budget, the FY 2012 judiciary budget adjustments represent 3.5 percent of the state's budget solution.

Did Your Firm Make the Cut? 50 Top Firms for Women Lawyers

What are the best law firms for women?

The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) and Flex-Time Lawyers recently announced that they have identified the 50 top firms for women lawyers through an intensive study of retention and promotion of female lawyers at firms with at least 50 attorneys.

When compared to the launch of the Best Law Firms for Women initiative in 2007, the 2011 Firms have increased female representation at the Counsel (41 percent), Non-Equity Partner (28 percent), and Equity Partner (19 percent) levels. At the winning firms, women hold 18 percent of compensation, 19 percent of executive, and 23 percent of equity partner promotion committee seats.

Standing on Solid Ground? Hearing Favorable for ProtectMarriage

The California Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday to decide whether the official proponents of Proposition 8 have legal standing to defend the measure in the case now pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Standing is a critical issue for Prop 8 because Gov. Jerry Brown and Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris refused to appeal retired-Chief Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 federal ruling striking down Prop 8. ProtectMarriage, the group that sponsored the 2008 ballot proposition, took up the cause of defending the controversial California measure.

Stark Raving Mad? Cal Court Says Ecstasy Not Controlled Substance

Drug conviction appeals can be monotonous. They're always full of "it wasn't mine" and "illegal search and seizure."

That's why Jean Ballantine, the court-appointed attorney in People v. Richie Quang Le, wins our newly-created - and unlikely to be again bestowed - FindLaw Defense of the Week award for her zealous challenge of her client's Ecstasy possession conviction.

A jury convicted Ballantine's client, Richie Quang Le, of one count of transportation for sale and one count of possession for sale of a controlled substance in violation of California law. The trial court sentenced Le to seven years in state prison.

Goodwin Liu Sworn into California Supreme Court

Berkeley Law Professor Goodwin Liu was sworn into the California Supreme Court last week, just over a month after Governor Jerry Brown nominated Liu to the bench.

The speed in the state confirmation process surprised Liu, who quipped, “I never thought the words nomination and confirmation could be separated by a mere 36 days. It has been a long journey for my family and me,” to the San Jose Mercury News.

Liu’s confirmation and swearing-in comes on the heels of more good news: Last week a California State Bar panel gave Liu their highest rating, complimenting his “brilliant intellect … impartiality, integrity, collegiality, and a work ethic second to none,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Bummer: Cannabis Crusader Can't Change Name to

Ed Forchion, a New Jersey resident, has managed a Rastafarian temple in Los Angeles and operated a medical marijuana dispensary since 2009. He has devoted his adult life to promoting the legalization of marijuana.

Forchion has a national reputation as a marijuana advocate and is popularly known as NJWeedman. He is perennial candidate for various New Jersey elected offices, where he campaigns on a single issue, marijuana legalization, as part of the subtly-named Legalize Marijuana Party. As part of his cannabis campaign, Forchion operates a Web site,, which discusses his efforts to legalize the drug.