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Plaintiff Dennis Ponte demanded defendant County of Calaveras (County) to pay him over $150,000 to reimburse him for work purportedly performed on the County’s behalf pursuant to an oral contract. The contract did not contain any fixed payment, and no bid was submitted nor approved pursuant to relevant county ordinances governing public contracts. Ponte disregarded opportunities to abandon his claims after the County provided him with pertinent legal authority demonstrating that his claims lacked merit. After multiple sustained demurrers, the trial court granted summary judgment to the County on Ponte’s third amended complaint. The court later awarded substantial attorney fees, finding Ponte’s claims, including those based on promissory estoppel, were not brought or maintained in both subjective and objective good faith. Ponte appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Ponte v. County of Calaveras" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit held that the district court abused its discretion by not staying this federal case in deference to pending state court proceedings under Colo. River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 817-19 (1976). Accordingly, the panel reversed the district court's condemnation order, and remanded for the district court to stay the proceedings. On cross-appeal, the panel affirmed the district court's decision to deny Montanore's motion to determine the validity of the Subject Claims. View "Montanore Minerals Corp. v. Bakie" on Justia Law

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Litigation under the Public Records Act (PRA) (Gov. Code, sec. 6250 et seq.) is one of the rare instances where a losing party may still be deemed a prevailing party entitled to an attorney fee award. Ponani Sukumar appeals an order denying his motion for prevailing party attorney fees against the City of San Diego (City). Sukumar owns a home in San Diego (the Property). In about 1992, Sukumar's neighbors began complaining to the City about Sukumar's use of the Property. These complaints mostly involved parking issues and noise. In 2006 the City ordered Sukumar to take "immediate action to correct" municipal code violations occurring on the Property that constituted "a public nuisance." However, the City decided to not pursue the matter absent additional neighbor complaints. In 2015, Sukumar's attorney delivered a request to the City for "production of documents and information" under the PRA. The request sought 54 separate categories of documents, all relating to any neighbor's complaints about Sukumar. Twenty-four days after the request, the City wrote to Sukumar's attorney, stating that some potentially responsive documents were exempt from disclosure, and responsive, nonexempt records would be made available for Sukumar's review. Sukumar's attorney remained unconvinced that the City had produced all documents responsive to its request, and sought a writ of mandate or used other mechanisms to compel the documents' production. Though every time the City offered to certify it produced "everything," it would release additional documents. The trial court ultimately denied Sukumar's writ petition, finding that by 2016, the City had "in some fashion" produced all responsive documents. After stating Sukumar's writ petition was "moot" because all responsive documents had now been produced, the court stated, "Now, you might argue that you're the prevailing party, because the City didn't comply until after the lawsuit was filed. That's another issue." Asserting the litigation "motivated productions of a substantial amount of responsive public documents, even after the City represented to this [c]ourt there was nothing left to produce," Sukumar sought $93,695 in fees (plus $5,390 incurred in preparing the fee motion). Sukumar appealed the order denying his motion for prevailing party attorney fees against the City. The Court of Appeal reversed because the undisputed evidence established the City produced, among other things, five photographs of Sukumar's property and 146 pages of e-mails directly as a result of court-ordered depositions in this litigation. The Court remanded for the trial court to determine the amount of attorney fees to which Sukumar is entitled. View "Sukumar v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Aleksei Sviridov was terminated as a police officer for the City of San Diego. In the first appeal, Sviridov challenged an order denying his petition for administrative mandamus in which he sought a determination by the Civil Service Commission of the City on the merits of his challenge to his first termination. The Court of Appeal concluded Sviridov's administrative claim was moot in light of the decision to reinstate Sviridov and to pay his back pay and benefits. In a second appeal, the Court affirmed summary judgment on Sviridov's third amended complaint asserting claims for wrongful termination stemming from his second termination (among others). The Cout reversed the trial court's order sustaining defendants' demurrer to Sviridov's ninth breach of contract cause of action and remanded the matter with directions to grant Sviridov leave to amend his complaint to state a cause of actin under the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act ("POBRA") or to seek mandamus relief. Following remand, Sviridov filed a fourth amended complaint seeking relief under POBRA without pursuing a writ of mandate. The court entered judgment after a bench trial ordering Sviridov's reinstatement as a police officer and awarding him back pay and benefits. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in "Sviridov III" concluding Sviridov was not entitled to POBRA relief because Sviridov did not timely appeal his termination with the office of the chief of police as required by a memorandum of understanding with the San Diego Police Officers' Association. The matter was remanded again with directions to enter judgment in favor of the City and stated the City was entitled to costs on appeal. In the present appeal, Sviridov appealed the award of costs to the City, arguing the City was not entitled to costs based upon Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist., 61 Cal.4th 97, (2015), which held that in actions based upon the California Fair Employment and Housing Act costs should not be awarded under Government Code section 12965(b), to a defendant against an unsuccessful FEHA plaintiff "unless the plaintiff brought or continued litigating the action without an objective basis for believing it had potential merit." Sviridov also argued POBRA prohibited an award of costs for the defense of his POBRA claim unless the action was frivolous or brought in bad faith. The City argued neither of these statutes applied because the City was entitled to its costs pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 9981 since Sviridov rejected multiple statutory settlement offers and did not obtain a more favorable result. The Court of Appeal agreed with the City and affirmed the cost award. View "Sviridov v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The sperm of Brian Cole was used to inseminate Mie Tsuchimoto, who gave birth to a boy (the child). When the child was six years old, the County of Orange filed a complaint to declare Cole to be the child’s father and to seek child support from Cole. Cole defended on the ground that under Family Code section 7613, he could not be the child’s parent. The trial court found that, notwithstanding section 7613: (1) there was a rebuttable presumption under section 7611(d) that Cole was the child’s parent because Cole had received the child into his home as his natural child and openly held out the child as his own; and (2) Cole had not rebutted that presumption. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the trial court’s findings regarding section 7611(d) were supported by substantial evidence. "The inability to establish parenthood under section 7613 does not preclude a finding of parenthood under section 7611(d)." View "County of Orange v. Cole" on Justia Law

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Former Howmedica Sales Representatives, all California natives, signed employment agreements with confidentiality, non-compete, and forum-selection clauses, designating New Jersey (or Michigan) as the forum for any litigation arising out of the agreements. After clashes with Howmedica, the Sales Representatives resigned and became independent contractors representing Howmedica’s competitor, DePuy. Some of Howmedica’s customers, previously assigned to the Sales Representatives, followed them. Howmedica suspected that the Sales Representatives and DePuy conspired to convert those customers before the Sales Representatives’ resignations. Howmedica filed suit in New Jersey, joining DePuy’s regional distributor, Golden State as a “necessary party.” The defendants successfully moved to transfer the case to California under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a), which, for “the convenience of parties and witnesses” and “in the interest of justice,” allows transfer to a district where the case “might have been brought.” The Third Circuit directed the district court to transfer claims against only the two corporate defendants who did not agree to any forum-selection clause. Where contracting parties have specified the forum in which they will litigate disputes arising from their contract, federal courts must honor the forum-selection clause “[i]n all but the most unusual cases.” In this case, all defendants sought transfer to one district; some, but not all, defendants are parties to forum-selection clauses. View "In re: Howmedica Osteonics Corp" on Justia Law

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In an amendment to the Clean Air Act (CAA), Congress directed the EPA to operate a Renewable Fuel Standards Program (the RFS Program) to increase oil refineries’ use of renewable fuels. But for small refineries that would suffer a “disproportionate economic hardship” in complying with the RFS Program, the statute required the EPA to grant exemptions on a case-by-case basis. Petitioner Sinclair Wyoming Refining Company owned and operated two refineries in Wyoming: one in Sinclair, and another in Casper. Both fell within the RFS Program’s definition of “small refinery” and were exempt from the RFS requirements until 2011. Those exemptions were extended until 2013 after the Department of Energy found Sinclair’s Wyoming refineries to be among the 13 of 59 small refineries that would continue to face “disproportionate economic hardship” if required to comply with the RFS Program. Sinclair then petitioned the EPA to extend their small-refinery exemptions. The EPA denied Sinclair’s petitions in two separate decisions, finding that both refineries appeared to be profitable enough to pay the cost of the RFS Program. Sinclair filed a timely petition for review with the Tenth Circuit court, which concluded the EPA exceeded its statutory authority under the CAA in interpreting the hardship exemption to require a threat to a refinery’s survival as an ongoing operation. Because the Court found the EPA exceeded its statutory authority, it vacated the EPA’s decisions and remanded to the EPA for further proceedings. View "Sinclair Wyoming Refining v. EPA" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court dismissing Plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory claims against the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services and two Department employees. Plaintiffs alleged the same facts in an earlier action filed in federal court arising out of the same allegedly wrongful acts. The federal court dismissed all claims against the Commission for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and dismissed the claims against one of the employees for Plaintiffs’ failure timely to serve her. Approximately one year later, Plaintiffs filed this action. The superior court dismissed all of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the claims against all three defendants were barred by the claim preclusion component of the doctrine of res judicata. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err by dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims against the two employees on claim preclusion grounds because the employees had a sufficiently close relationship to the Commissioner to satisfy the requirement of claim preclusion of “sufficient identically between the parties in the two actions.” View "Estate of Paul F. Treworgy v. Commissioner, Department of Health & Human Services" on Justia Law

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Respondent Harry Dow, IV appealed a circuit court order requiring him to pay alimony to petitioner Leslie Dow in the amount of $750 per month for three years. When it calculated the amount of alimony, the trial court declined to impute income to petitioner, concluding that it had no authority to do so under RSA 458:19 (Supp. 2016). On appeal, respondent argued, among other things, that the trial court erred because RSA 458:19 authorized the imputation of income for the purpose of determining the amount of alimony. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with respondent and, therefore, vacated and remanded. View "In the Matter of Leslie Dow & Harry Dow, IV" on Justia Law

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Walker, classified as a sexually violent person, has lived in the Rushville Treatment & Detention Center since 2007 when he finished serving a sentence in an Illinois prison. Walker's treatment team assigned him a “decision-making model,” which is an exercise or treatment tool in which the detainee examines his thought processes associated with a particular decision; Walker believed the assignment was retaliation for his exercise of his First Amendment rights. He brought suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983. At trial, Walker represented himself, but he received help from standby counsel recruited by the court. Walker took an active role in managing his case; he testified, questioned witnesses, introduced exhibits into evidence, and objected to defense counsel’s questions at several points. The jury found for the defendants on all counts. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting a claim that the district court’s jury instructions on the First Amendment retaliation claim were erroneous. Walker failed to object to the instructions, and he cannot clear the high bar for showing a plain error. Walker also waived an argument that the court erred in admitting privileged and prejudicial treatment records into evidence. View "Walker v. Groot" on Justia Law