Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

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This appeal stemmed from an application for a conditional water storage right filed by United Water and Sanitation District, a special water district formed in Elbert County, Colorado, acting through the United Water Acquisition Project Water Activity Enterprise (“United”). United sought to secure various water rights in Weld County. United’s original applications were consolidated in a set of four cases. In response to a motion for determination of questions of law from opposer Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (“FRICO”) in the consolidated cases, the District Court for Water Division 1 (“water court”) concluded that United’s applications failed to demonstrate non-speculative intent to appropriate water. In response to this ruling, United withdrew its applications in the consolidated cases and, a week later, filed a new application in Case No. 16CW3053 for a conditional water storage right that was the subject of this appeal. Pertinent here, United sought to appropriate water for use in a proposed residential development in another county. In support of its new application for a conditional storage right, United offered a new, purportedly binding contract with the landowners of the proposed development. United also claimed for the first time that its status as a special district qualified it for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. FRICO opposed United's application, and the water court determined United's new application likewise failed to demonstrated non-speculative intent to appropriate water. The water court found that United was acting as a water broker to sell to third parties for their use, and not as a governmental agency seeking to procure water to serve its own municipal customers. Consequently, the water court held, United did not qualify for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. United appealed. But concurring with the water court's judgment, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed: United was ineligible for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. View "United Water & Sanitation Dist. v. Burlington Ditch Reservoir & Land Co." on Justia Law

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In 2001, a Minnesota state court ordered James to pay $89,582.15 in child support arrears to his ex-wife, Rosemary, for their two children. James was then living in California. In 2005 the Minnesota order was registered for enforcement purposes in Santa Cruz County Superior Court under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act. In 2018, in connection with registration in California of a renewed judgment from Minnesota, the Santa Cruz County court stayed enforcement of a portion of James’s child support arrears determined by the 2001 Minnesota order because the children had intermittently lived with James between 1993 and 2002. The trial court found the remainder of the arrears enforceable. The Santa Cruz County Department of Child Support Services, which has assisted in the enforcement and collection of James’s child support arrears, contends that the court lacked authority under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act to stay the arrears owed by James because the 2001 Minnesota order at issue was registered and confirmed in California in 2005, and James did not timely challenge its registration. The court of appeal agreed and reversed the portion of the 2018 order staying enforcement of $28,890 of the arrears, while affirming that the remainder of the arrears ($60,692.15) was enforceable. View "Marriage of Sawyer" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent Sarah Coughenour worked for defendant-appellant Del Taco, LLC, starting when she was 16 years old. When she was first employed by Del Taco, she signed a “Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate” (Agreement). After Coughenour reached the age of 18, she continued working for Del Taco for four months. Coughenour quit and filed a lawsuit against Del Taco for sexual harassment committed by one of their employees, wage and hour claims brought pursuant to the Labor Code, and other claims under the Fair Housing and Employment Housing Act. Del Taco moved to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the Motion, finding that Coughenour’s filing of the lawsuit was a disaffirmance of the Agreement within the meaning of Family Code section 6710, which allowed a person upon reaching majority age to disaffirm a contract entered into while a minor. Del Taco appealed the denial of its motion, arguing that by working for Del Taco for four months after she reached the age of majority, Coughenour ratified the Agreement, which estopped her power to disaffirm the Agreement. In the alternative, Del Taco argued that Coughenour did not disaffirm the Agreement within a “reasonable time” after reaching the age of 18 as required by Family Code section 6710. The Court of Appeal affirmed denial of Del Taco's motion: [t]he filing of the lawsuit was notice that [Coughenour] disaffirmed the Agreement." The trial court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that Coughenour disaffirmed the Agreement within a reasonable time. View "Coughenour v. Del Taco" on Justia Law

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In this case, the real parties in interest and plaintiffs were former store managers for petitioner-defendant Big Lots Inc., who claimed they spent less than 50 percent of their worktime on managerial tasks and, as a result, should have been paid overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of a standard 40-hour week. Big Lots was an Ohio corporation. When this lawsuit was first filed, it retained a California law firm, Haight Brown & Bonesteel LLP (Haight Brown), as counsel of record. Big Lots later sought the superior court’s permission for attorneys from an Ohio law firm, Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease LLP (Vorys), to also represent it. The trial judge ultimately granted applications filed by three different attorneys in the Vorys firm. But after later being advised that these Ohio attorneys were attempting to represent various current and former Big Lots managers in depositions noticed by plaintiffs, the court revoked pro hac vice authorization for all three lawyers. Big Lots petitioned for a writ of mandamus to overturn that order. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge that there was a between an attorney’s representation of the defendant corporation in a lawsuit and his or her representation of current or former employee witnesses. "Pro hac vice admission as to one client does not necessarily allow a lawyer to represent a different client even if substantive law does not otherwise prohibit it." The Court nonetheless concluded the total revocation of pro hac vice status for the Vorys attorneys was not supported by the record then before the trial court. The petition to vacated the revocation order was granted, but the matter was returned to the trial court for additional hearings/orders deemed necessary. View "Big Lots Stores v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the circuit court granting Respondents' motions to dismiss, holding that Petitioners' pleading stated a sufficient basis upon which relief could be granted and that Respondents failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Petitioners could prove no set of facts in support of their claims that would entitle them to relief.On appeal, Petitioners argued that in granting Respondents' motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) the circuit court failed to consider all the Petitioners' factual allegations. Further, Petitioners alleged that for the few allegations it did consider, the circuit court improperly imputed inferences favorable to Respondents. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Respondents failed to establish beyond doubt that Petitioners' pleading did not state a claim upon which relief may be granted; and (2) Petitioners sufficiently alleged a claim for aiding and abetting tortious interference. View "Mountaineer Fire & Rescue Equipment, LLC v. City National Bank of West Virginia" on Justia Law

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In 2019, Jones pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine base and was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Jones filed a pro se emergency motion, seeking compassionate release because of the pandemic. Jones may have respiratory issues, is over 40 years old, and is obese. One out of every four prisoners has tested positive for COVID-19 in the prison where Jones is incarcerated.District courts may reduce the sentences of incarcerated persons in “extraordinary and compelling” circumstances, 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A). Previously, only the Bureau of Prisons could file motions for compassionate release. The Bureau rarely did so. The 2018 First Step Act allows incarcerated persons to file their own motions.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of Jones’s motion. In making sentence-modification decisions under section 3582(c)(1)(A), district courts must find both that “extraordinary and compelling reasons" warrant the reduction and that the "reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission” before considering relevant 18 U.S.C. 3553(a)sentencing factors. Sentencing Guideline 1B1.13, which has not been amended to reflect the First Step Act, is not an “applicable” policy statement in cases where prisoners file their own motions. District courts must supply specific factual reasons for their decisions. Here, the court found for the sake of argument that an extraordinary and compelling circumstance existed but that section 3553(a)'s factors counseled against granting release. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

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While plaintiffs sought judicial review in federal district court of their denial of Social Security disability benefits, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lucia v. Securities and Exchange Commission, 138 S. Ct. 2044 (2018), which elucidated a possible constitutional objection to administrative proceedings pursuant to the Appointments Clause. At issue in this appeal is whether plaintiffs may raise an Appointments Clause challenge in federal court that they did not preserve before the agency.The Fourth Circuit held that claimants for Social Security disability benefits do not forfeit Appointments Clause challenges by failing to raise them during their administrative proceedings. Balancing the individual and institutional interests at play, including considering the nature of the claim presented and the characteristics of the ALJ proceedings, the court declined to impose an exhaustion requirement. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgments of the district courts remanding these cases for new administrative hearings before different, constitutionally appointed ALJs. View "Probst v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, generally required local governments obtain voter approval prior to imposing taxes. Plaintiffs Jess Willard Mahon, Jr. and Allan Randall brought this certified class action against the City of San Diego (City) claiming that the City violated Proposition 218 by imposing an illegal tax to fund the City’s undergrounding program. Specifically, plaintiffs contended the City violated Proposition 218 through the adoption of an ordinance that amended a franchise agreement between the City and the San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E). The ordinance, together with a related memorandum of understanding, further specifies that part of the money to fund the undergrounding budget will be collected by SDG&E through a 3.53 percent surcharge on ratepayers in the City that will be remitted to the City for use on undergrounding (Undergrounding Surcharge). Plaintiffs claim that the surcharge is a tax. Plaintiffs further claim that the surcharge violates Proposition 218 because it was never approved by the electorate. Plaintiffs note that the City has imposed more than 200 million dollars in charges pursuant to the Undergrounding Surcharge during the class period. Through this action, plaintiffs seek a refund of those amounts, among other forms of relief. The City moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted on two grounds: (1) the Undergrounding Surcharge constituted compensation for franchise rights and thus was not a tax; alternatively, (2) the Undergrounding Surcharge was a valid regulatory fee and not a tax. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly granted the City’s motion for summary on the ground that the Undergrounding Surcharge was compensation validly given in exchange for franchise rights and thus, was not a tax subject to voter approval. View "Mahon v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether Vermont had to recognize and register an Alabama order granting plaintiff father, W.H., sole physical and legal custody of juvenile M.P., who resided in Vermont and was in the custody of the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) pursuant to a Vermont court order. The family division concluded that Alabama lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate matters related to M.P.’s custody and denied the registration request. On appeal, plaintiff contended Alabama had jurisdiction under the applicable state and federal laws and that Vermont was therefore obligated to recognize and register the Alabama custody order. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "W.H. v. Department for Children and Families" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a domestic dispute between Analli Salla and Duane Siercke, and centered on whether any privilege from defamation claims applied to statements made to law enforcement. Salla appealed the district court’s entry of judgment and denial of her motion for a new trial. After misdemeanor domestic battery charges against him were dropped, Siercke filed a civil action against Salla alleging, among other things, defamation. Following a five-day trial, a jury awarded Siercke $25,000.00 on his defamation claim. Salla filed a motion for a new trial, contending the district court erred in instructing the jury on defamation per se because her statements to law enforcement were privileged and her statements did not allege that Siercke had committed a felony. The district court denied the motion and Salla appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court: (1) affirmed the district court’s decision refusing to apply an absolute litigation privilege to the statements made by Salla to law enforcement officers; (2) could not address whether the district court erred in not giving a qualified privilege instruction because that issue was never raised below; and (3) the district court erred in delivering a defamation per se instruction; and (4) reversed the district court’s final judgment and order on Salla’s motion for a new trial. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Siercke v. Siercke" on Justia Law