Tagged: Analysis

Opinion Analysis: Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Company, LLC

Opinion Analysis: Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Company, LLC

The California Supreme Court has continued its dialogue with the U.S. Supreme Court about arbitration agreements in a recent ruling that affirmed the use of California unconscionability law to determine the validity of arbitration agreements, but declined to invalidate the agreement before it. In the course of this years-long dialogue, the California Supreme Court has tended to apply principles of California law to invalidate arbitration provisions, while the U.S. Supreme Court has tended to invoke the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) to uphold arbitration provisions. Prior Decisions Over thirty years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on arbitration imposed...

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...

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...

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...

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...