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

November 2011 Archives

Unopposed Motion for Default Judgment Doesn't Guarantee a Win

The holidays are a time of giving. This week, California's Fourth Appellate District Court was truly in the giving spirit as it handed out tips to attorneys for ways to avoid attorney sanctions for sloppy lawyering.

In fact, the appellate court had so many words of wisdom for attorneys and judges alike in this case of three cautionary tales, that we've decided divvy up the fun for you over the next few days.

The first lucky advisees? Plaintiffs' attorneys.

Three-Strikes Reform in 2012?

It’s no secret that California’s prisons are unconstitutionally over-crowded. After a Supreme Court rebuke earlier this year, California must cut its prison population by 33,000 prisoners.

One contributing factor to the state’s booming prison population is the 17-year-old “three-strikes” law, passed in 1994 after a repeat offender kidnapped and murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas. A proposed revision to the policy could free non-violent offenders, keep defense attorneys busy, and create further strain on the state court dockets.

Great Butterballs of Fire: Answer the Call of Thanksgiving Claims

Do you need something to be thankful for this week? How about new clients?

Thanksgiving is a lawyer’s dream holiday, but you can only get the clients if you stay connected. While we would never condone sitting at the dinner table with a turkey leg in one hand, and your iPhone in the other, you should make a plan to check your phone and email messages periodically throughout the weekend.

Here’s a quick preview of some of the Thanksgiving claims and crimes you might be blessed with:

Occupy Protests Raise Questions About Recording Police Officers

If you’ve been anywhere a television, newspaper, or computer in the last five days, you’ve most likely seen images of a UC Davis campus police officer pepper-spraying a line of peaceful protesters on November 18.

Many people are outraged by what they believe is the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters, and question whether the officer would be protected by qualified immunity. Others are simply debating whether pepper spray is “a food product, essentially.”

Better Than Black Friday: California Amnesty for Traffic Tickets

Everyone loves a Black Friday/Cyber Monday mega-deal, but great deals aren’t restricted to the holidays. Starting in 2012, the California Amnesty Program for Traffic Tickets will give traffic-fine payment-procrastinators a discount on their unpaid tickets.

(We all know that lawyers don’t speed, and they always promptly pay fines, so we’ll pretend that this news doesn’t apply to you. Tell your clients.)

California courts are offering a traffic ticket amnesty program from January 1, 2012 through June 30, 2012. For six months only, drivers who have old, unpaid traffic tickets may be able to get a 50 percent discount on what they owe.

ProtectMarriage Has Prop 8 Standing for Ninth Circuit Appeal

The California Supreme Court ruled today that individual citizens have the right to defend ballot initiatives when the public officials refuse to do so.

In the decision, the court decided that California Proposition 8 proponent ProtectMarriage has standing to challenge a federal judge's ruling that struck down the initiative in 2010.

ProtectMarriage, a conservative coalition that sponsored the 2008 ballot proposition restricting marriage to heterosexual couples, appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after Gov. Jerry Brown and Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris refused to appeal Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 decision invalidating the initiative.

Grandparents Need Clear and Convincing Proof to Overcome Troxel

Last month, we wrote about a California Court of Appeals case in which the court ruled that a surviving parent could not use spite as a reason to deny a grandparent visitation rights. This week, we have another California case that adds context to the” anti-spite” determination.

While California courts will not permit a surviving parent to abuse the Supreme Court’s Troxel v. Granville decision, a grandparent petitioning for visitation rights must provide clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the parent denying visitation is acting in the best interest of the child.

Appellate Court Upholds Marijuana Dispensary Ban

Despite California's reputation a haven for liberal-living, the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law could be in jeopardy following setbacks from a state appellate court, and the promise of pot dispensary crackdowns from California's four federal prosecutors.

A California appellate court ruled this week that state law does not preempt cities or counties from implementing a marijuana dispensary ban in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center.

Voidable or Void? Two Too Many Husbands in Bigamous Marriage Case

Nobody's perfect, so we understand how someone could accidentally wind up married to two people at once...once. But twice? That just seems greedy.

Regardless of a person's efforts to catch multiple fish from the marital sea at the same time, California law provides, with limited exceptions, that an individual can only be married to one person at a time.

The Third Appellate District in Sacramento was asked to decide if Nevada law, like California law, follows the one-spouse-at-a-time rule. The court concluded that in both states, a bigamous marriage is void from its inception, even if it has not been declared void by a court.

Refusal to Exit Car Doesn't Justify Warrantless Search

California's Second Appellate District ruled this week that a suspect's reluctance to leave his car does not trigger probable cause for a warrantless search.

Officers Currie and Prodigalidad stopped Vernon Evans after they observed him commit traffic violations. They claimed that Evans appeared nervous. That nervousness, and the fact that the stop occurred at night in gang territory, prompted Currie to ask Evans to step out of the car.

Are Storage and E-Discovery in the Cloud Right for Your Firm?

Back in our college days, when we spent our summers making court runs for a local law firm, we occasionally got pulled from court run duty to organize files for the firm’s busier attorneys. We’ve never met a sticky label we didn’t like, so we could usually turn two years’ worth of filing into a perfectly-organized system in 10 days.

If cloud computing services had been available in our college days, we would have endured fewer paper cuts.

Cloud computing allows lawyers to store information in a virtual site. Documents stay synched, reducing that amount of time lawyers waste sending different versions of documents their colleagues. More importantly, information stored on the cloud is available to any authorized user with an Internet connection. Cloud computing services are particularly popular among tech-savvy Silicon Valley law firms.

California Lawyers Sanctioned for 9/11 Truther Lawsuit

Two California attorneys were slapped with sanctions last month for filing a frivolous appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The attorneys, William Veale of Walnut Creek and Dennis Cunningham of San Francisco, along with Mustapha Ndanusa of New York, were representing April Gallop, the plaintiff in the 9/11 “Truther” Lawsuit.

California Bar Introduces Ethics and Technology Resources Site

Cocktail parties have been around for a long time, so attorneys have heard for years that legal advice in cocktail party conversation could result in an attorney-client relationship, whether or not the attorney intended to enter such a relationship.

Offering legal advice over the Internet can create similar relationships, without the drinks.

How can a lawyer keep current on latest trends and rulings at the intersection of attorney ethics and technology? Try checking the State Bar of California's Ethics and Technology Resources page.