Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Family Code section 271 does not authorize the court to award sanctions to non-parties, but rather is intended to promote settlement of family law litigation through shifting fees between the parties to the litigation. In this case, the Court of Appeal agreed that the trial court was without authority to award sanctions to respondents because they were not parties to this action. The court reasoned that sanctions may not be awarded under section 271 to a party's attorney when it was that attorney who was requesting the sanctions for the sole benefit of the attorney. Accordingly, the court reversed the order for sanctions. View "Webb v. Webb" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs and appellants Eugene G. Plantier, as Trustee of the Plantier Family Trust (Plantier); Progressive Properties Incorporated (Progressive); and Premium Development LLC (Premium), on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated (collectively plaintiffs), appeal the judgment in favor of defendant and respondent Ramona Municipal Water District (District or RMWD). On appeal, plaintiffs contend the trial court erred when it found there was a mandatory exhaustion requirement in section 6 of article XIII D. Plaintiffs further contended they satisfied the administrative remedy in the Ramona Municipal Water District Legislative Code, and that, in any event, the exhaustion doctrine in section 6 should not have been applied to them because the remedy therein was inadequate and because it was "futile" to purse any administrative remedy under this constitutional provision. The Court of Appeal concluded plaintiffs' class action was not barred by their failure to exhaust the administrative remedies set forth in section 6 because plaintiffs' substantive challenge involving the method used by District to calculate its wastewater service fees or charges was outside the scope of the administrative remedies, and because, under the facts of this case, those remedies were, in any event, inadequate. View "Plantier v. Ramona Municipal Water Dist." on Justia Law

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About four months before his 20th birthday, defendant-appellant Jesse S. filed, in propria persona, a request under section 388.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code to return to juvenile court jurisdiction and the foster care system, because the couple who adopted him the day before his 18th birthday was no longer supporting him, even though they were receiving payments on his behalf from California’s Adoption Assistance Program (AAP). The judge denied the request, noting that under the literal language of section 388.1 the very fact the couple were still receiving AAP payments on Jesse’s behalf precluded Jesse from reentry into the juvenile dependency system. The Court of Appeal "reluctantly" affirmed: the trial judge understood the plain language of the statue and concluded there was no question Jesse’s adoptive parents were still collecting adoption assistance program payments on Jesse’s behalf, the judge was forced to conclude Jesse was not eligible for reentry under the statute. View "In re Jesse S." on Justia Law

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David, age 17 years 11 months, was a victim of past gun violence and is a wheelchair-bound diabetic in need of day-to-day medical assistance. He was living in a homeless shelter when a dependency petition was filed, alleging that he was abandoned by his mother and left without means of support. An investigation revealed that David had not been forthcoming about his family. The court dismissed the petition, finding that David had a support system in place but had chosen to leave it behind to be on his own. Had the petition not been dismissed, David would likely have qualified for transitional support as a nonminor dependent until age 21. The court of appeals dismissed an appeal. Dependency jurisdiction may not be initiated in the first instance over someone who is over age 18; it must be initiated before age 18, and by the plain terms of the Juvenile Court Law, may only be “retain[ed],” “continu[ed]” or “resum[ed]” for nonminors in certain circumstances until age 21. David’s case is now moot because he is 18 and any error by the juvenile court in failing to assume dependency jurisdiction is effectively unreviewable. View "In re David B." on Justia Law

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IAR believed that defendant, its former CEO, had embezzled money. IAR, represented by Valla, sued defendant. Valla, on behalf of IAR, reported the crimes to the Foster City Police. The district attorney charged defendant with felony embezzlement. In response to defendant’s subpoena, Valla produced over 600 documents and moved to quash other requests on attorney-client privilege grounds. Defendant filed another subpoena, seeking documents relating to an email from the district attorney to Valla, discussing the need for a forensic accountant. Valla sought a protective order. Defendant asserted Valla was part of the prosecution team, subject to the Brady disclosure requirement. Valla and deputy district attorneys testified that Valla did not conduct legal research or investigate solely at the request of the police or district attorney, take action with respect to defendant other than as IAR's attorneys, nor ask for assistance in the civil matter. IAR retained a forensic accountant in the civil action, who also testified in the criminal matter, after being prepared by the district attorney. IAR paid the expert for both. There were other instances of cooperation, including exchanges of legal authority. The court found Valla to be a part of the prosecution team. The court of appeals reversed. The focus is on whether the third party has been acting under the government’s direction and control. Valla engaged in few, if any, activities that would render it part of the prosecution team. View "IAR Systems Software, Inc. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Where a plaintiff brings a lawsuit against a defendant, and the trial court denies a motion by the defendant for summary judgment or for nonsuit made after the plaintiff's case-in-chief, or the trier of fact returns a verdict for the plaintiff, that ruling or verdict—if decided on the merits and not procured by fraud—establishes as a matter of law that the plaintiff had probable cause to bring its lawsuit and precludes a subsequent claim against the plaintiff for maliciously prosecuting that lawsuit, even if the trier of fact later rules for the defendant or the verdict is later overturned. The Court of Appeal held that this rule applies when the trial court in the prior lawsuit denied the defendant's motion for judgment under Code of Civil Procedure section 631.8 but went on to rule in the defendant's favor. In this case, the court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the malicious prosecution action. View "Hart v. Darwish" on Justia Law

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Pacific Bay treated an individual who was a subscriber to a Blue Shield health plan. It submitted invoices to Blue Shield for payment for the services rendered to the subscriber. Pacific Bay contends it was underpaid and brought suit against Blue Shield to recover the additional amount it claimed to be owed. The court sustained Blue Shield's demurrer to the first amended complaint (FAC) without leave to amend, finding that Pacific Bay had not shown that it was entitled to any payment from Blue Shield. As an out-of-network, nonemergency service provider, Pacific Bay was entitled to payment for treating Blue Shield's subscriber under the terms of the applicable evidence of coverage (EOC). Pacific Bay did not allege Blue Shield paid it improperly under the EOC, nor did it argue that it could allege additional facts to support such a claim. Pacific Bay claimed it was underpaid. Against this backdrop, Pacific Bay's other allegations did not give rise to any valid cause of action. View "Pacific Bay Recovery v. Cal. Physicians' Services" on Justia Law

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This case concerned residual pollutant discharges from public fireworks displays over the waters of the United States within the jurisdiction of the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, San Diego Region (the Regional Board), which included a large portion of San Diego County, portions of south Orange County, and the southwestern portion of Riverside County (San Diego Region). The Regional Board approved a general permit for public displays of fireworks over the region's surface waters. Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) appealed the trial court's denial of its petition for writ of mandamus challenging the approval of the Fireworks Permit. CERF contended: (1) the trial court applied the wrong standard of review in denying its petition, (2) the Fireworks Permit violates federal law regarding water quality monitoring, and (3) the Fireworks Permit violated prohibitions in the State Water Resources Control Board's 2009 California Ocean Plan concerning discharges in areas of special biological significance (ASBS). After review, the Court of Appeal rejected CERF's arguments and affirmed the judgment. View "Coastal Environ. Rights v. Cal. Reg. Wat. Quality Control Bd." on Justia Law

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The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Commission) notified Cornelius Oluseyi Ogunsalu that it had found probable cause to recommend the suspension of his preliminary teaching credentials for 21 days and that Ogunsalu's application for a clear credential would be granted only upon completion of the suspension. Ogunsalu requested a continuance of the administrative hearing before the Commission. An administrative law judge (ALJ) of the OAH denied the continuance on the ground Ogunsalu had not shown good cause for it. Ogunsalu was a vexatious litigant, and sought to challenge the denial of the continuance request by filing a petition for writ of mandate with the superior court. Ogunsalu then requested permission from the Court of Appeal to file a petition for a writ directing the superior court to vacate its order denying his request to file the petition for writ of mandate in that court. In the proposed filing, he contended that the superior court had abused its discretion by relying on his status as a vexatious litigant to deny his request to file the petition for writ of mandate, because he was a "defendant" in the administrative hearing before the Commission and sought to "appeal" a ruling against him in that proceeding. The Court of Appeal concluded that the vexatious litigant prefiling requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 391.7 applied to a self-represented litigant, previously declared a vexatious litigant, who filed a writ of mandate proceeding in the superior court to challenge the denial of his request to continue an administrative proceeding where the vexatious litigant was the respondent in the administrative proceeding. Accordingly, the superior court correctly subjected the vexatious litigant to the prefiling requirements of section 391.7. Because subsequent events have rendered effective relief impossible, the petition was dismissed as moot. View "Ogunsalu v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Notwithstanding the parties’ stipulated retroactivity provision, the California Court of Appeals concluded the trial court erred in awarding Russell Stover a child care credit for any period before May 10, 2011, when he filed his motion to modify support, because any such credits effectively modified the support award and incurred arrearages retroactively in contravention of the Family Code statutes governing modification of support orders. Furthermore, the Court concluded that while Eileen Bruntz failed to timely challenge an April 2007 order containing the stipulated retroactivity provision, public policy considerations precluded the Court of Appeal from judicially estopping her from challenging the order now. Bruntz and respondent Stover shared two children and years of acrimony-fueled court contests following the demise of their romantic relationship. Bruntz challenged several orders related to Stover’s alleged failure over the ensuing years to fully pay $1,000 in monthly child support under an April 2007 support order, which contained a contested stipulated retroactivity provision. View "Stover v. Bruntz" on Justia Law