SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

SCOCA seeks comment

SCOCA seeks comment

The California Supreme Court has released a proposal seeking comment on whether to: (1) amend the rule on publication of appellate opinions to eliminate the automatic depublication of opinions when the Supreme Court grants review; and (2) amend the rule on citation of opinions to address the citation of published appellate opinions while they are under review and following decision on review. The proposal and detailed background materials are available here; click on “Supreme Court” on the Invitation to Comment website.

Opinion Analysis: People v. Banks

Opinion Analysis: People v. Banks

In the 1980s, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two important decisions about whether and when a defendant can get the death penalty for felony murder when the defendant did not personally kill or intend to kill. In Enmund v. Florida (1982), the Court held that a man who served as the getaway driver for a robbery, and who was not present when the unplanned killing occurred, was ineligible for the death penalty. Five years later in Tison v. Arizona (1987), the Court upheld a death sentence for two men who conducted an armed breakout of two convicted murderers after...

Is SB 277 a denial of the right to education?

Is SB 277 a denial of the right to education?

Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 277, which requires all children (except for those exempt due to “medical reasons”) to get vaccinated against many common childhood illnesses, including measles, whooping cough, and chicken pox. Opponents of SB 277 were vocal, characterizing their crusade not as a fight against vaccines, but as a fight for parental rights. SB 277 mandates vaccines as a condition for attending school, public or private. Because children who are not vaccinated may not attend school, it raises the question of whether this bill infringes on those children’s right to education under the California Constitution. Education...

Governor Jerry Brown 2.0:  Judicial Appointments, Now New And Improved

Governor Jerry Brown 2.0:  Judicial Appointments, Now New And Improved

In this article we evaluate two points held by today’s conventional wisdom.  One posits that Jerry Brown has, in his second stint as governor, been slow to fill judicial vacancies, and that there is an unusually high number of open judicial seats.  The other is a suspicion that the judicial appointments by Governor Brown version 2.0 will be in the style of Governor Brown version 1.0.  Our evaluation is that both theories are empirically less than true. (Recognizing that the first Governor Brown was Jerry Brown’s father Pat Brown, for convenience we will ignore that fact.) To the first point about...

SCOCA grants review in pivotal anti-SLAPP case

SCOCA grants review in pivotal anti-SLAPP case

On May 13, 2015, the California Supreme Court granted review in Baral v. Schnitt to resolve the divide among lower courts regarding whether anti-SLAPP motions can strike so-called “mixed” causes of action. In 2003, Defendant David Schnitt formed a new business entity, IQ BackOffice (“IQ”). Schnitt operated the company as a single member single manager LLC from its inception until 2010, when the company was put up for sale. In 2005, Plaintiff Robert Baral made an investment in IQ and became an economic interest holder. At Baral’s request, his son was made a bookkeeper at IQ. In preparation for the...

Arbitrators may decide Pitchess motions

Arbitrators may decide Pitchess motions

A recent California Supreme Court decision raises questions about the extent to which nonjudicial officers should decide disclosure questions. In Riverside County Sheriff’s Department v. Stiglitz, the court ruled that an arbitrator deciding an appeal from disciplinary action against a peace officer could inspect confidential personnel records of other peace officers and determine whether they should be disclosed in the arbitration proceeding. The statutes in question establish a qualified privilege for peace officer personnel records and prescribe a procedure for determining whether they should be disclosed, commonly called Pitchess rights. Under the facts of Pitchess v. Superior Court, Peter Pitchess...

Opinion Analysis: Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire District

Opinion Analysis: Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire District

The California Supreme Court has overturned what many had thought was a well-settled rule, and determined that prevailing defendants in cases under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) are not automatically entitled to their costs of suit. Now, defendants must satisfy the Christiansburg standard, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC, for recovery of attorney’s fees by prevailing defendants. That standard requires a showing that the action was objectively without foundation when brought, or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so. This has long been the accepted standard for an...

Upcoming oral argument in Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Company on arbitration agreement enforcement

Upcoming oral argument in Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Company on arbitration agreement enforcement

On May 5, 2015, the Supreme Court of California will hear arguments in Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Company, LLC. The case will address whether an arbitration clause from a car purchase contract is enforceable. The events of the case arose when plaintiff Gil Sanchez learned that the used Mercedes-Benz car he had purchased could not be repaired despite several attempts by the dealer. Sanchez later discovered that the car he purchased had previously been in an accident and was inadequately repaired. Sanchez sued, seeking class action status, for improper disclosures and other misconduct in the sale. The defendant car dealer,...

The role of a state high court at the intersection of federalism and state sovereignty

The role of a state high court at the intersection of federalism and state sovereignty

The Alabama Supreme Court was in the news recently, after it ordered a halt to same-sex marriage licensing in that state. It became the first state high court in the nation to challenge a federal court order to permit same-sex marriage in its state. Such an action by a state high court raises issues of state sovereignty and federalism. This country has a federal system, in which states as sovereign political entities joined together in a system of collective government and ceded some sovereignty to a uniting central government, while retaining a great measure of self-governance. Federalism describes the principles...

Opinion Analysis: Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley

Opinion Analysis: Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley

On March 2, 2015, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley, which addressed the meaning of the “unusual circumstances” exception to the California Environmental Quality Act’s (“CEQA”) categorical exemptions. Specifically, the Court “granted review to consider the proper interpretation and application” of section 15300.2, subd. (c) of the Guidelines for Implementation of CEQA (“Guidelines”), known as the “unusual circumstances exception.” That provision provides: “Significant Effect. A categorical exemption shall not be used for an activity where there is a reasonable possibility that the activity will have a significant effect on the environment...