Friday, April 23, 2010
S.C. Declines to Dismiss Silberman Bribery Case
By Kenneth Ofgang, Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court has rejected a bid to throw out charges that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge and two campaign consultants tried to induce the judge’s opponent not to run.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, unanimously denied petitions by Judge Harvey Silberman and consultants Evelyn Jerome Alexander and Randy Steinberg. Results of the conference were not made public until yesterday because Wednesday was the monthly budget-related court holiday.
The three defendants sought the aid of the high court after this district’s Court of Appeal summarily denied their petitions for writ of mandate or prohibition challenging Judge Richard M. King’s denial of their motions to dismiss.
King, an Orange Superior Court judge hearing the case by assignment, ruled in December that there was sufficient evidence to try the defendants for solicitation to induce a candidate not to run for public office. The jurist did, however, dismiss related charges of soliciting bribes.
All of the charges are felonies.
The three are accused of offering monetary inducements to Deputy District Attorney Serena Murillo, whom Silberman—then a Superior Court commissioner—defeated in the June 2008 primary, to withdraw from the contest for that seat. Grand jury transcripts suggest that the consultants used Superior Court Commissioner Lori-Ann C. Jones as an intermediary with Murillo.
Commissioner Jones Retiring
Jones, who was placed on paid administrative leave after the transcripts became public, notified the court yesterday that she would retire at the end of this month. (See story, Page 3.)
In other conference action, the justices:
•Denied Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s request the court transfer to itself seven appeals regarding the administration’s furloughs of some 200,000 employees. The suits by public employee unions challenge Schwarzenegger’s furloughs of state employees for three days each month.
The court also denied the administration’s request to delay more than 20 challenges in appellate and trial courts while the high court considered the seven appeals. Justice Joyce Kennard was the sole dissenter.
Employee Furlough Cases
The seven cases include three from Alameda County, where a judge has ruled the governor cannot furlough employees who are paid through fees and federal funds rather than the state’s general fund, and four from Sacramento County.
•Agreed to decide whether the City of Manhattan Beach needs to prepare an environmental impact report before it can ban retailers from providing plastic bags to customers. This district’s Court of Appeal, Div. Five, answered that question in the affirmative in Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach, 181 Cal.App.4th 521.
The Court of Appeal ruled 2-1 that the city was required to prepare an EIR in light of evidence that increased paper bag use might significantly affect the environment. That ruling was a victory for the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition—a group of manufacturers, distributors and suppliers.
The city passed its ordinance in July 2008, citing concern over the marine environment. It prohibits certain retailers, including grocery stores, from providing plastic bags to customers at the point of sale, but allows them to provide reusable or recyclable paper bags.
The city concluded an environmental impact report was not required after an initial study found the ban was likely to have “some modest impact on improving water quality and removing a potential biohazard” and only limited negative effects from increased paper bag use.
Opponents claim the ban would lead to increased paper bag use and that paper bags have comparatively greater negative effects, including greater nonrenewable energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, solid waste production and acid rain.
Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Paul A. Turner and Justice Sandy R. Kriegler agreed with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe, who ruled for the opponents. Turner, writing for the court, emphasized that the “fair argument” standard sets a low threshold and that the ordinance might ultimately be upheld on the merits.
Justice Richard M. Mosk dissented, saying the impact of a ban by the small residential city was not significant enough to require the report.
•Agreed to decide whether an employer’s legitimate, performance-related reasons for an employee’s termination constitute a complete defense to the employee’s suit for pregnancy discrimination.
Div. Eight of this district’s Court of Appeal threw out a $177,000 award in favor of former Santa Monica bus driver Wynona Harris, citing Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Soussan G. Bruguera’s denial of a “mixed-motives” instruction.
The court said in an opinion by Justice Laurence D. Rubin that a new trial is required because the instructions as given permitted Harris to prevail by showing her pregnancy led to her termination, even if other factors contributed to it and she would have been fired regardless.
The case is Harris v. City of Santa Monica, 181 Cal.App.4th 1094.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company