SCOCAblog by the California Constitution Center and the Hastings Law Journal

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...

Opinion Analysis: In re Taylor

Opinion Analysis: In re Taylor

On March 2, 2015, the California Supreme Court decided In re Taylor, striking down residency restrictions for registered sex offenders in San Diego County. The opinion is notable both for its unanimity and for its author: Justice Baxter. Facts On November 7, 2006, California voters enacted Proposition 83, the Sexual Predator Punishment and Control Act, otherwise known as “Jessica’s Law.” The goal of this initiative was to “help Californians better protect themselves, their children, and their communities” from sex offenders by carving out 2000-foot “predator-free zones around schools and parks” to prevent sex offenders from living near where children learn...

Righting a Wrong: SCOCA’s decision to admit Hong Yen Chang – 125 years after he applied

Righting a Wrong: SCOCA’s decision to admit Hong Yen Chang – 125 years after he applied

Earlier this week, the California Supreme Court issued an extraordinary order admitting to practice a Chinese-American lawyer named Hong Yen Chang. It is extraordinary because Mr. Chang first applied for admission 125 years ago. His application was originally denied because he was “a person of Mongolian nativity.” It was posthumously granted by the court this week. Tracing the sordid history of discrimination against Chinese immigrants in California, and noting that anti-Chinese animus was “a major impetus for the California Constitutional Convention of 1879” and the driving force behind the federal Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the court set out a dismaying string of...

A look forward to arguments in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Bowen

A look forward to arguments in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Bowen

Later this year the Supreme Court of California will hear arguments in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Bowen, a dispute over the scope of the legislature’s power to place so-called “advisory measures” on the ballot for voter consideration. This case poses a number of important questions bearing on separation of powers under the California Constitution, specifically, between the legislative power allocated to the legislature and that reserved for the citizens. Under the California Elections Code, advisory measures allow voters to “voice their opinions on substantive issues,” or to indicate approval or disapproval of the ballot proposal to the “sponsoring legislative...

Johnson v. Department of Justice – an equal protection analysis

Johnson v. Department of Justice – an equal protection analysis

Under Penal Code section 290, all persons convicted of consensual oral copulation with a partner under 18 must register as a sex offender.  In 2006, the California Supreme Court in People v. Hofsheier held 6-1 that the mandatory registration unconstitutionally denied the defendant the equal protection of the laws because a person convicted of consensual sexual intercourse with a partner under 18 (Penal Code section 261.5) would not be subject to mandatory registration.  On January 29, 2015, however, Johnson v. Department of Justice overruled Hofsheier by a 5-2 vote and reinstated the mandatory registration requirement for those convicted of consensual...

Review granted in People v. Buza – Whether California’s DNA collection law violates the U.S. or Cal. Constitution

Review granted in People v. Buza – Whether California’s DNA collection law violates the U.S. or Cal. Constitution

On February 18, the California Supreme Court granted review in People v. Buza, in which the Court of Appeal held that a California law requiring the collection of DNA from every person arrested for a felony violates Article I, section 13 of the California Constitution. Already pending before SCOCA is People v. Lowe, in which another Court of Appeal decision reached the opposite conclusion: that California’s DNA collection scheme did not violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The opinions in Lowe and Buza were both issued after earlier California decisions were vacated in the wake of the U.S....

A look at today’s argument in South Coast Framing v. WCAB

A look at today’s argument in South Coast Framing v. WCAB

Today, the California Supreme Court is hearing arguments in South Coast Framing, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. In this case, the court is asked to consider both the standard and quantum of proof required to satisfy the proximate causation element of claims by the survivors of workers whose deaths are alleged to be the consequence of an otherwise non-fatal industrial injury. This decision is set against a system that provides benefits for workplace injuries and any subsequent injuries or death that result therefrom. While this system defines the requisite nexus between a workplace injury and a compensable consequence in...

Generic Drug Product Liability:  An Emerging SCOCA Issue?

Generic Drug Product Liability:  An Emerging SCOCA Issue?

Even as the Supreme Court of California prepares to hear oral argument in In re Cipro Cases I & II (S198616) on March 3, 2015, another issue involving pharmaceutical science and regulatory law may be headed for consideration at 350 McAllister Street. The decision in Teva Pharms. USA, Inc. v. Superior Ct. (“Pikerie”) — which arguably broadened the scope of California product liability claims that may lie against generic drug manufacturers — dodged high court review when the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari on January 20, 2015.  SCOCA had previously denied Teva’s petition for review on September 25, 2013.  Superior...

Seek “Top Court” Review?

Seek “Top Court” Review?

* This posting is an excerpt from the forthcoming 5th Edition of Myron Moskovitz’s book, Winning an Appeal. The Problem Most jurisdictions have two levels of appellate courts: an intermediate appellate court, and what I call the “Top Court.” In New York, the Top Court is called the Court of Appeals. In most other states, it is called the State Supreme Court. And, of course, the “Toppest Court of All” is the U.S. Supreme Court. If you lost in the intermediate appellate court, you can then ask the Top Court to hear your case via a petition—called a “petition for certiorari,”...

Opinion Analysis: Richey v. AutoNation

Opinion Analysis: Richey v. AutoNation

On January 29, 2015, a unanimous California Supreme Court issued its opinion in Richey v. AutoNation, Inc., an important clarification on when a court can overturn an arbitration award. Facts Plaintiff Richey worked as an at-will employee for defendant Power Toyota. His employment terms included acceptance of (1) a company policy that prohibited outside work while on approved medical leave and (2) an agreement to resolve any employment dispute through arbitration. The arbitration agreement provided that any decision would be “final and binding.” The agreement did not expressly provide that courts could review any arbitration award for legal error. Richey...