Wednesday, December 31, 2015
2015 IN REVIEW
END OF THE YEAR:
Ninth Circuit Ends Barry Bonds Legal Saga by Throwing Out Conviction for Obstruction of Justice…Governor Appoints First Gay Justice to This District’s Court of Appeal, on Same Day U.S. High Court Throws Out Same-Sex Marriage Bans….Court of Appeal Says Concert Promoter Not Responsible for Michael Jackson’s Death
1—Retired Court of Appeal Justice Richard Neal of this district’s Div. Seven died at the age of 67.
5—The state Supreme Court affirmed the death sentence for a Shasta County man, saying the exclusion of evidence by which the defendant attempted to deflect blame to a deceased accomplice was harmless. In a 4-3 decision, the court said hearsay statements attributed to John Morris—who killed himself in jail the day after his arrest for the murder of Betty Bone—might have been admissible as declarations against interest in the trial of Gary Grimes. The justices held, however, that admission of the statements would not have changed the outcome of Grimes’ trial because they were not inconsistent with the prosecution theory that Grimes ordered Morris and Patrick Wilson to commit the murder.
7—The Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys voted to “disaffiliate” itself with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a national union with more than 1.6 million members.
8—Security guards who patrol construction sites by day and must remain at those sites overnight in order to respond to emergencies, but are permitted to sleep during those overnight hours, must be paid for all hours they are required to remain onsite, the state Supreme Court ruled. The state wage order governing compensation of security guards requires that they be paid for the entire period they are under the employer’s control, Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for a unanimous court.
12—A statute that tolls the time for filing suit where the defendant has paid an unrepresented injured party a portion of his or her damages and has not advised the injured party of the filing deadline applies to the one-year limitation for the filing of medical malpractice suits, the Court of Appeal for this district, Div. Six ruled.
13—A party’s denials, or lack of admission, of requests for admissions cannot be used for impeachment, the First District Court of Appeal ruled.
15—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of antitrust claims in a lawsuit by the city of San Jose against Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig, whom the city accused of illegally blocking a proposed move of the Oakland Athletics to the area. MLB defended its actions on the ground that its constitution gives exclusive territorial rights to the area to the San Francisco Giants, while San Jose argued that the grant of such rights restrains trade.
16— The Fourth District Court of Appeal revived a civil rights suit by the owner of a Santa Ana hilltop mansion and a dozen guests at his 2007 Halloween party that was raided by a Sheriff’s Department SWAT team. Div. Three said the plaintiffs, including custom limousine builder and party host Carl Vini Bergman, presented sufficient evidence to have a jury decide their claim that Orange County sheriff’s investigator Michelle Hill violated their civil rights through prolonged detention after executing a search warrant.
20— A city’s transfer of revenues from its municipal utility to its general fund requires two-thirds voter approval unless the city can show that the amount of money involved does not exceed the costs of providing electrical service, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled.
22—The Supreme Court of California unanimously voted to eliminate an exception in Canon 2C of the California Code of Judicial Ethics that permitted judges to belong to nonprofit youth organizations that practice invidious discrimination….A statute reducing retirement benefits for some public employees may be applied to workers hired between the law’s effective date and the expiration of collective bargaining agreements otherwise requiring a greater benefit, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.
26—The Court of Appeal for this district affirmed the conviction of Michael Goodwin for the murders of motorsports pioneer Mickey Thompson and his wife Trudy. Goodwin had been a business associate of Thompson, but their relationship had ended acrimoniously, and Goodwin was long suspected of the crimes, but not charged with the 1988 slayings until 2004.
28—Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Senior Judge Arthur L. Alarcon died at 89….A Sacramento-area man convicted of using an axe to kill a man he mistakenly believed had broken into his house was not entitled to sua sponte jury instructions on mistake of fact or justifiable homicide, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled.
29—Chief Deputy District Attorney Sharon Matsumoto retired….California laws giving judges discretion to decide whether a defendant convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor must register as a sex offender, but mandating that those committed of other non-forcible sexual offenses against minors register, are not unconstitutional, the state Supreme Court ruled. In a 5-2 decision, the justices concluded that People v. Hofsheier (2006) 37 Cal.4th 1185, was wrongly decided. The court held in that case that mandating sex offender registration for defendants convicted of oral copulation of a minor was unconstitutional because there was no rational basis for treating that offense differently than unlawful sexual intercourse.
30—Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Carolyn Kuhl hailed District Attorney Jackie Lacey as “the emblem and embodiment of prosecutorial professionalism,” and thanked Sheriff Jim McDonnell for his “integrity and …commitment to constitutional principles and to public safety,” at the 27th annual Metropolitan News-Enterprise “Persons of the Year” dinner. Lacey and McDonnell were honored at the event along with “teddy bear attorney” L. Ernestine Fields, whose “heart, soul and inspired efforts provide an anchor for the most vulnerable children in our community,” McDonnell said….The Court of Appeal for this district rejected all claims made by Michael Jackson’s mother against concert promoter AEG Live, LLC in connection with her son’s death. Justice Sandy Kriegler, writing for Div. Five, said Katherine Jackson, who sued on her own behalf and as guardian ad litem for Michael Jackson’s children, failed to show that AEG was responsible for the actions of Dr. Conrad Murray, whom the promoter hired to care for the singer during his “This Is It” Tour. he California Supreme Court granted a law license to a man who has been living in the U.S. illegally for two decades. With Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye writing for a unanimous court, the justices said a new state law, which took effect the previous day, eliminated any legal obstacle to Sergio Garcia’s admission to the State Bar of California.
6—The Court of Appeal for this district declined to seal records lodged by the National Collegiate Athletic Association in connection with the defamation action brought against it by former USC running backs coach Todd McNair. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frederick C. Shaller on Nov. 21, 2012, held that about 400 pages of documents the NCAA wanted withheld from public view do not meet the standards for sealing. The Court of Appeal’s Div. Three agreed and ordered that the documents be returned to the NCAA.
13—The man who was once the highest-paid municipal official in the state, even though the city he worked for had barely more than 100 residents, lost a court bid to prevent the California Public Employees’ Retirement System from cutting his pension by nearly 80 percent. Div. Seven upheld a Los Angeles Superior Court judge’s rulings that former Vernon City Administrator Bruce Malkenhorst Sr. failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and that he cannot sue CalPERS in Los Angeles based on claims that are essentially identical to those he raised in an unsuccessful Orange Superior Court action.
18—A San Fernando Valley attorney and former Los Angeles Superior Court candidate was sentenced to two years in custody for smuggling drugs to a client in jail. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Veals sentenced Stephen Beecher based on his December no-contest plea to delivering $30,000 worth of heroin inside a greeting card on Dec. 28, 2012 at the North County Correctional Facility.
19—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas White retired.
20—Building companies can sue a competitor whose violations of the prevailing wage law allegedly enabled it to submit lower bids and thereby gain contracts that would otherwise have gone to the plaintiffs, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.
23—Federal law bars cable subscribers from suing over exclusive rights deals with professional sports teams, the costs of which are passed on to all customers—including those who don’t watch the games—in the form of higher charges, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled.
24—The First District Court of Appeal rejected a challenge by environmental groups to the “cap-and-trade” rules instituted by the California Air Resources Board. Citizens Climate Lobby and Our Children’s Earth Foundation argued that by adopting protocols, rather than issuing offsets on a case-by-case basis, the board violated the requirement that any offset credits for voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions be “in addition to” any reduction that is otherwise required by law or that would otherwise occur….A Kern Superior Court judge correctly dismissed child molestation charges against Efrain Velasco-Palacios after learning that the prosecutor provided defense counsel with an altered translation of the defendant’s statements to police, the Fifth District Court of Appeal ruled. Justice Rosendo Pena Jr. said Deputy District Attorney Robert Murray’s conduct, which Murray described as a joke, “was outrageous or conscience shocking in a constitutional sense.” Disciplinary charges against Murray remained pending in the State Bar Court as of Dec. 30.
25— Gov. Jerry Brown reappointed former U.S. Marshal for the Central District of California Adam Torres, as a public member, and Northern California litigator Nanci Nishimura, as an attorney member, to the Commission on Judicial Performance.
26—Dan Potter, assistant clerk/administrator of the Second District Court of Appeal and a 34-year employee of that court, told the METNEWs he was leaving that post to become clerk/administrator of the Sixth District Court of Appeal….The state Supreme Court upheld the death sentence in the killing of a Lake County woman, rejecting the defense argument that the defendant should get a new trial because the judge and the prosecutor had close personal, political, and professional ties. Jerrold Johnson admitted that he killed 76-year-old Ellen Salling in her home, and stole her car and other property…. The California Highway Patrol is potentially liable for the negligence of tow truck drivers whose companies have contracted to assist disabled motorists under a program supervised by the CHP, the state Supreme Court ruled. The justices agreed that statutes governing the Freeway Service Patrol program do not make the CHP the “special employer” of drivers participating in the program. But they unanimously reversed a Fourth District Court of Appeal, Div. Three ruling that broadly freed the CHP from liability for the negligence of program participants.
28—Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Loren DiFrank retired Feb. 28.
2—The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the state cannot, on a blanket basis, enforce a provision of Proposition 83—also known as Jessica’s Law—barring sex offenders from living within a 2,000 feet of a school or park….An airline pilot who reached his 60th birthday six days before Congress enacted legislation allowing pilots to fly until age 65 is not protected by the law and has no claim against his employer, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
5—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment absolving the City of Glendale and two officers of liability resulting from the arrest of attorney Robert Yousefian. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, writing for the panel, agreed that one of the defendants, former Officer Michael Lizarraga, engaged in “reprehensible” conduct by having an affair with Yousefian’s wife following his arrest, and actively concealing it from his superiors and from the prosecutors in Yousefian’s case. But that does not undermine the district judge’s conclusion that there was probable cause for Yousefian’s arrest on charges of abusing and assaulting his elderly father-in-law, Reinhardt said.
6—A family law contempt proceeding is civil, rather than criminal, for purposes of the vexatious litigant statutes, the First District Court of Appeal ruled.
11—The California Supreme Court voted to reconsider its decision upholding the death sentence for Gary Grimes. Justices Mariano-Florentino Cuellar and Leondra Kruger, appointees of Gov. Jerry Brown who were sworn in Jan. 5—the same day the court voted 4-3 to affirm Grimes’s conviction and sentence—joined Justices Kathryn M. Werdegar and Goodwin H. Liu in voting to grant rehearing. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and Justices Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan, who together with retired Justice Marvin Baxter formed the original majority, voted to allow the decision to stand.
16—The California Supreme Court unanimously granted posthumous admission to the State Bar to a native of China who was denied that privilege in 1890 solely because of his race and national origin. “Even if we cannot undo history, we can acknowledge it and, in so doing, accord a full measure of recognition to [Hong Yen] Chang’s pathbreaking efforts to become the first lawyer of Chinese descent in the United States,” the justices said in a per curiam opinion.
17—Absent definitive action by the Food and Drug Administration, it is not illegal to market a product containing milk protein concentrate as “yogurt,” the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.
18—A legal malpractice suit cannot be based on erroneous advice by an attorney urging a client to settle, if the advice is given during the course of mediation, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled….The agency that runs public transit in the Seattle area did not violate the First Amendment when it banned an anti-Israel group from running an ad on the sides of buses, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. King County officials reasonably concluded that running the ad would place the buses at risk of vandalism and the drivers and passengers at risk of violence, Judge Paul Watford wrote for a divided panel, even though both the contractor who oversees the advertising program and the county had initially accepted the ad.
20—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Rose retired.
27—Gov. Jerry Brown named George F. Bird, Frank J. Menetrez, Michael C. Small and Kevin P. Stennis to the Los Angeles Superior Court.
28—Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Marshall Rieger retired.
30—The First District Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of a disbarred lawyer’s defamation suit against the State Bar, based on the anti-SLAPP statute. Div. Four upheld a San Francisco Superior Court judge’s ruling that Patrick A. Missud’s complaint, in which he claimed to have been libeled by the publication of a State Bar Court opinion recommending his disbarment, arose from protected activity in connection with an official proceeding, and that he failed to show a likelihood that he would prevail.
31—Court of Appeal Justice Fred Woods of this district’s Div. Seven retired on his 80th birthday....Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Patrick Hegarty and Patricia Schnegg retired. .
1—The California Supreme Court depublished a Court of Appeal ruling upholding a controversial Los Angeles Police Department policy on impoundment of vehicles of unlicensed drivers, but eliminated the ruling’s effect on future cases. This district’s Div. Eight held in the case that Police Chief Charlie Beck had the authority to issue “Special Order 7” which limits circumstances under which officers may, pursuant to state statute, impound a vehicle being driven by a person lacking a driver’s license.
3—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction and seven-year prison sentence handed to a former partner in a major law firm for obstructing the Securities and Exchange Commission’s investigation into a client’s multimillion dollar investment fraud. The panel rejected former Nixon Peabody LLP partner David Tamman’s claim that U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez of the Central District of California should not have accepted his waiver of jury trial, absent further questioning, once he told the judge he was using medications.
5—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Irving Feffer died at 84.
8—A Department of Insurance regulation governing the content of replacement-cost estimates for homeowner’s insurance is invalid, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled. Div. One agreed with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon that the rule was not adopted under the process mandated by law.
9—A method used by the Los Angeles Unified School District to assign classroom space to charter schools, before a Los Angeles Superior Court judge enjoined it from doing so, violates Proposition 39, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled. Reversing Div. Five of this district’s Court of Appeal, the high court said the use of “norming ratios”—by which LAUSD allocated space to charter schools based on what it calculated as the districtwide student/teacher ratio in a given grade level—is inconsistent with a State Board of Education regulation enacted pursuant to the initiative....Retired Inglewood Municipal Court Judge Roosevelt Robinson Jr. died at the age of 87.
13—Gail J. Standish, previously a partner at Winston & Strawn LLP, was sworn in as U.S. magistrate judge for the Central District of California.
15—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge’s findings that Maricopa County, Ariz. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies racially profiled Latinos, and largely kept in place an injunction designed to end the practice. The panel said U.S. District Judge Murray Snow did not commit clear error in finding that deputies employed an unconstitutional policy of considering race as a factor in determining where to conduct patrol operations, in deciding whom to stop and investigate for civil immigration violations, and in prolonging the detentions of Latinos while their immigration status was confirmed.
17—Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner John Murphy retired.
20—The Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled that San Juan Capistrano’s tiered water rates are unconstitutional, potentially dealing a blow to agencies statewide that have used the pricing structure to encourage people to save water. Div. Three upheld an Orange Superior Court judge’s decision that charging bigger water users incrementally higher rates, absent a relationship between the rate and the cost of the water, violates Proposition 218, which treats such fees and charges as taxes subject to voter approval….Los Angeles Superior Court judges elected sole practitioners J. Christopher Smith of Los Angeles and Maria Puente-Porras of Bellflower as commissioners.
22—Barry Bonds’s obstruction of justice conviction was thrown out by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled 10-1 that the former baseball star’s meandering answer to a question about steroid use before a grand jury in 2003 was not material to the government’s investigation into illegal steroids distribution.
23—The Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected a claim that the biological daughter of a former Olympic cyclist is entitled to inherit his estate. Jackie Stennett, a Harvard Business School graduate, lost her claim that her daughter, now a teenager, is the legal heir of Amine Britel. Britel, a cyclist who competed in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona as a member of the 4 x 400 meter Moroccan relay team, was hit by a car while cycling in Orange County in 2011. Because Britel never held the child out as his own, and paternity was not adjudicated during his lifetime, she is not his legal heir, even though DNA testing showed that she was, with near 100 percent certainty, his biological child.
27—A defendant on Death Row is entitled to a new sentencing trial because the judge improperly excluded defense experts from testifying in the penalty phase of the original trial that the defendant wouldn’t be an undue risk to prison security, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled. Paul Gordon Smith Jr. admitted his role in the killing 20-year-old Lora Sinner during an extended 1998 camping trip with Smith, a male friend of his, and two other women. Sinner apparently drew the ire of the other women when she began flirting with the defendant.
28—An attorney who agrees to represent a client in a claim to trust property on a contingency basis may enforce a fee lien against that property, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled. Div. Five reversed a probate court judgment in favor of Michael Fay, who resisted paying Encino attorney Mark S. Novak’s fees for representing Douglas Kelly in a claim against the Dana Teitler Trust.
30—Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Arthur H. Jean Owen Kwong, and Ronald Skyers retired….The California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the death sentence for a former Riverside resident convicted of the strangulation murders of his wife and 3-year-old daughter. Justice Ming Chin said any error committed at the trial of Kim Kopatz for the 1999 murders of Mary Kopatz, who managed a Jenny Craig weight loss center in Riverside, and the couple’s daughter Carley was harmless given the overwhelming evidence of guilt. Prosecutors said Kopatz was in deep financial trouble and that the killing were designed to collect about $800,000 in life insurance.
1—A U.S. district judge did not violate the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure by allowing a jury to deliberate to a verdict with 11 members after one of the jurors was excused with good cause, even though alternates were available, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled….The California attorney general can force a nonprofit advocacy group to disclose its major donors as a condition of its remaining a registered charitable trust, another Ninth Circuit panel ruled, affirming U.S. District Judge Morrison B. England Jr.’s denial of a preliminary injunction that would have barred Attorney General Kamala Harris from requiring the Center for Competitive Politics to disclose the names and contributions of its “significant donors” on Internal Revenue Form 990 Schedule B, which it must file with the state in order to maintain its registered status with the state’s Registry of Charitable Trusts….Rozella Oliver, an assistant U.S. attorney in the district for the past 10 years, and in the District of Columbia for three years before that, was sworn in as a magistrate judge.
4—A defendant who prevails against a Fair Employment and Housing Act claim cannot be awarded court costs or attorney fees unless the plaintiff brought a frivolous action or continued to litigate after it became clear there was no objective merit to the claim, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled.
5—The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction and sentence of a woman who killer her husband and tried to kill their two sons on Mother’s Day 2011, finding an instructional error harmless. Annamaria Gana shot her husband, Antonio Gana, at their home near Tustin. After shooting her husband in the chest, she chased the two boys, one of whom was hit. She then turned the gun on herself, but the bullet merely grazed her neck. Gana, who was struggling with cancer, told police she had planned for weeks to kill her family, then kill herself. Prosecutors said she was selfish, not wanting her family to continue living if she was to die.
7—The California Supreme Court ruled that settlement agreements between pharmaceutical companies that keep cheaper, generic drugs off the market may be illegal if they include excessive cash payments. The court ruled unanimously that such “pay-for-delay” or “reverse payment” deals between brand-name and generic drugmakers can violate the state’s Cartwright anti-trust law.
8—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Leland Harris retired.
14—The Third District Court of Appeal certified for publication its April 23 ruling that criminal defense lawyers must be allowed to meet with their clients in rooms without glass partitions between them, absent individualized security concerns. The court upheld an order by a Nevada Superior Court judge requiring Nevada County jail officials to restore the prior, general policy of allowing attorneys to meet with the clients without barriers between them. The county changed the policy in 2013, saying that as a result of having more inmates and fewer employees, the jail could no longer handle its volume of attorney-client “contact visits.”…A longtime Kern Superior Court judge was publicly admonished by the Commission on Judicial Performance for making inappropriate comments to a court administrator and a lawyer as a result of a court personnel dispute. Judge John Fielder, 67, engaged in “at minimum, improper action” in connection with the two incidents, the commission noted, adding that it found public discipline appropriate, in part because Fielder has been privately disciplined on four prior occasions. Fielder has spent more than 33 years on the local trial bench….Gov. Jerry Brown announced the May revision of his budget proposal, including total funding of $3.8 billion, of which $1.7 billion comes from the General Fund, for the judicial branch of the government.
18—Marc A. Garcia, the youngest and first Latino Superior Court judge in Merced County, was censured by the Commission on Judicial Performance and barred from sitting on assignment or performing court-appointed work. Garcia resigned the preceding Friday as part of his agreement with the commission, which brought to a close an investigation into $250,000 he received from his former law firm. Garcia, who was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, was due the money under an agreement reached when he accepted the judicial appointment. But he never disclosed it to the Fair Political Practices Commission or to lawyers with cases in his court who had a right to know about it when opposing Garcia’s ex-partners….The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police have qualified immunity from a lawsuit arising from the arrest and shooting of a mentally ill woman in San Francisco. The court held that, assuming a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel was correct that the Fourth Amendment requires police to take special precautions when dealing with mentally ill suspects, that right was not “clearly established” at the time of the 2008 incident.
21—Church members who have been excommunicated in accordance with the church’s governing documents have no legal remedy because courts cannot question ecclesiastical decisions, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.
22—Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Jones Day attorney and former Justice Elwood Lui, 74, to this district’s Court of Appeal, Div. One; Lamar W. Baker, a special assistant and associate counsel to President Barack Obama, to Div. Five; and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John L. Segal, 54, to Div. Seven.
27—Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Diana Summerhayes retired.
28—Patricia Egan Daehnke, the immediate past president of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and Margaret P. Stevens, who became LACBA’s president-elect on June 25, formed a law partnership, Daehnke Stevens LLP, with have offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas....The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an insured’s internal appeal of the denial of benefits was timely where a 180-day appeal period—as spelled out in his plan, and in the letter denying continued benefits—ended on a Saturday and the appeal was mailed the following Monday. 29—Los Angeles Supreme Court Commissioner Anthony Drewry retired.
1—State officials cannot be held liable to a woman whose sister was killed by a former prison inmate four days after his release, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled….The justices agreed with Elaina Novoa that the State Department of Mental Health—now the State Department of State Hospitals—had a mandatory duty to have Gilton Pitre evaluated by two psychiatrists or psychologists before concluding that his release would not violate the Sexually Violent Predators Act. But the release of Pitre based on a report by a single evaluator was not the legal cause of the rape and murder of 15-year-old Alyssa Gomez, Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for the high court….The high court upheld the death sentence of Edward Charles III for the murders of his mother, father, and brother. The court held that an Orange Superior Court judge did not abuse his discretion in ordering a fourth trial as to penalty after the original jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of the death penalty, the second trial resulted in a death penalty verdict that was thrown out by the trial judge based on juror misconduct, and a third trial ended in another 11-1 deadlock.
2—The Third District Court of Appeal said then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t violate any laws when he reduced the prison term imposed on the son of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez just before leaving office. “We are compelled to conclude that, while Schwarzenegger’s conduct could be seen as deserving of censure and grossly unjust, it was not illegal,” Justice Harry E. Hull Jr. wrote for the court in an opinion that was subsequently ordered published. On his last day in office in 2011, Schwarzenegger’s office announced that he had commuted the 2010 sentence of Esteban Nunez to seven years from 16 years in the stabbing death of college student Luis Santos in San Diego. The commutation had actually been issued two days earlier, and Hull said it was obvious that there were “[b]ack-room dealings” afoot, since Nunez had signed a notice of withdrawal of his appeal more than three weeks before the sentence was commuted, although his lawyer didn’t file the notice until after the commutation was announced.
4—Los Angeles Superior Court Judges Daniel Buckley and Dalila Corral Lyons were named to terms on the Judicial Council of California, effective in September.
9—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Eric Taylor was elected president of the California Judges Association for the 2015-2016 term by the group’s Executive Board. CJA said Taylor, who held the post in 2003-2004, would be the first two-term president in its history. The board also elected Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Ann Murphy as secretary/treasurer.
11—Los Angeles County Counsel Mark J. Saladino resigned, less than eight months after taking office….Former Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge James Bascue was released on bail, after surrendering to police on charges he fired at officers during a standoff at his Los Angeles townhouse.
12— Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L Beckloff granted the State Bar’s request to send to arbitration a whistleblower lawsuit filed by the bar’s former executive director, Joe Dunn. The State Bar insisted that arbitration was compulsory under Dunn’s contract, and that it had the right to terminate him without cause.
15—California cities have broad authority to require builders to set aside a percentage of units in new projects for affordable housing, the state Supreme Court ruled….The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated defamation- and privacy-related claims against a local prosecutor who is also a conservative political blogger, but upheld a district judge’s dismissal of a claim that he violated the plaintiff’s civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983. Nadia Naffe’s allegations regarding comments by Deputy District Attorney John Frey on Patterico’s Pontifications “compel the conclusion that Frey did not act under color of state law when he blogged and Tweeted about Naffe because he did so for purely personal reasons, and the communications were unrelated to his work as a county prosecutor,” Judge Richard Tallman wrote for the panel…. Los Angeles Superior Court judges elected Deputy District Attorney Latonya Hadnot Prioleau and Sherman Oaks sole practitioner Michelle Short-Nagel as commissioners of the court.
16— President Obama nominated Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Young to succeed Judge Audrey B. Collins, who retired from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to join the state Court of Appeal.
22—A Los Angeles city ordinance that allows police officers to inspect hotel registration records without a warrant is unconstitutional on its face, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled….The 5-4 decision struck down a portion of Los Angeles Municipal Code §41.49, which the court said violated the Fourth Amendment insofar as it allowed police to review the records without affording an opportunity for prior judicial review.
24—A lawyer’s participation on a settlement panel bars the attorney’s firm from subsequently representing one of the parties in that litigation, if the settlement officer received confidential information from the opposing party’s counsel, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled. Div. Eight granted a writ of mandate overturning Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu’s order allowing Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt to continue representing Perrin Bernard Supowitz, Inc., in its defense of a wrongful termination and Fair Employment and Housing Act suit by a former employee. Justice Laurence Rubin cited the appearance problem caused by the dual roles played by the firm’s attorneys.
26—Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin to Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal. The governor’s office noted in a release that he would be the district’s first openly gay justice. The nomination came on the same day that the Supreme Court ruling in Obergfell v. Hodges made sex-same marriage the law of the land. Lavin is married to Michael Fleming, who oversees the political and charitable endeavors of billionaire David Bohnett, a major donor to Brown and the Democratic Party.
28—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jan Pluim died at 71.
29—The California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of murdering two store clerks during a string of armed robberies in Los Angeles County in 1993. While affirming Richard Leon’s convictions on two counts of first degree murder and other offenses, the high court ruled that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen improperly dismissed three prospective jurors from the case. Though each of the jurors expressed opposition to the death penalty, they also each indicated they could set that view aside if instructed to do so, Justice Carol Corrigan wrote for the court.
1—Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner David Bianchi retired.
2—The California Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the death sentence of a Vietnam veteran convicted of a triple robbery-murder, rejecting his argument that the abuse he suffered as a child, combined with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, render the penalty excessive. Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar, writing for the court said that while Cunningham had a difficult life, those experiences were not the root cause of the 1992 robbery-murders at an office supply business in Ontario.
4—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David B. Finkel, died at age 83.
8—The Fourth District Court of Appeal’s Div. Three granted publication of its June 12 opinion in a case where it ruled that repeated misconduct by a Caltrans lawyer, including multiple attempts to associate the plaintiff with Nazism, require reversal of a jury verdict in favor of the department.
13—The Court of Appeal for this district affirmed the first degree murder conviction of Stephanie Lazarus, a former Los Angeles Police Department detective, in the 1986 killing of her ex-boyfriend’s wife.
16—Gov. Jerry Brown named Michael A. Moodian as a public member of the Commission on Judicial Performance. Moodian, 39, has been an associate professor of social science at Brandman University since last year and an instructor at the Chapman University College of Educational Studies since 2010….Gov. Jerry Brown named eight new Los Angeles Superior Court judges—Los Angeles Supervising Deputy City Attorney Songhai D. Miguda-Armstead; sole practitioner Timothy P. Dillon; Burke, Williams and Sorensen partner Ronald F. Frank; Deputy District Attorney Julian C. Recana; Steptoe and Johnson partner Lawrence P. Riff; Irell and Manella partner Laura A. Seigle; Court of Appeal Judicial Attorney Natalie P. Stone; and Farmers Insurance Group managing attorney Lisa K. Sepe-Wiesenfeld.
20—A married person cannot be considered separated, and thus permitted to keep his or her earnings as separate property, while continuing to live with his or her spouse, the California Supreme Court ruled….Alexander F. McKinnon, formerly a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and a leading intellectual property litigator, was sworn in to succeed retired Magistrate Judge Victor Kenton of the Central District of California.
23—The Board of Trustees of the State Bar of California named Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, dean emerita of McGeorge School of Law, as its executive director/chief executive officer, effective Sept. 1….The Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed four new justices to this district’s Court of Appeal—Elwood Lui to Div. One, Luis Lavin to Div. Three, Lamar W. Baker to Div. Five, and John L. Segal to Div. Seven.
24—The State Bar Board of Trustees, meeting in Los Angeles, elected Century City attorney David J. Pasternak as president of the State Bar for 2015-2016. Another local lawyer, Deputy District Attorney Danette Meyers, was elected treasurer. Former San Mateo County District Attorney James Fox was chosen vice president.
27—The California Supreme Court abrogated the court-made rule that extrinsic evidence may not be admitted to reform a will that is unambiguous.
28—Karen Scott was sworn in to succeed Central District Magistrate Judge Robert Block. She is sitting in Orange County.
30—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Alan Goodman retired.
31—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas McKnew July 31 retired.
1—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Tia Fisher retired.
2—Government Code §6254.5—which provides that where documents are exempt from release in response to a Public Records Act request, but are nonetheless provided, the exemptions have been waived—does not apply to an inadvertent release of privileged documents, the First District Court of Appeal ruled.
7—The State Bar of California announced that Vanessa L. Holton, a veteran of 27 years in state government, had been chosen by the Board of Trustees as the next general counsel. Holton was previously assistant chief counsel of the state Department of Industrial Relations.
8—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marcus O. Tucker Jr., a onetime presiding juvenile court judge, died from heart complications at age 80. 10—Karen L. Stevenson was appointed and sworn in as a magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Stevenson succeeded Margaret A. Nagle, who retired.
13—A plaintiff suing a public entity, on the theory that a dangerous condition of public property and the negligence of a third party were concurrent causes of injury, need not prove that the dangerous condition was a cause of the third party’s negligence, the state Supreme Court ruled.
14—A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who responded literally to a deputy public defender’s sarcastic suggestion that he arrest her if he wanted her immediate presence in court is not protected by qualified immunity, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The panel said U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald of the Central District of California erred in concluding that Deputy Wai Chiu Li acted reasonably in arresting Deputy Public Defender Florentina Demuth after she made the comment….Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert A. Wenke, a former presiding judge of the court, died.
17—Former Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Yonekura joined the Los Angeles office of the international law firm Hogan Lovells as a partner in the Investigations, White Collar and Fraud practice group….A qualifying member of the Judges Retirement System II may collect a monthly disability pension, or a lump sum for retirement based on service, but not both, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.
19—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Leahy died at 78.
21—A Monterey Superior Court judge acted prematurely in dismissing consolidated lawsuits over an April 2009 bus rollover that killed five people and injured dozens more, the Sixth District Court of Appeal ruled. The justices ordered reconsideration of Judge Kay T. Kingsley’s dismissal order in the suits by 26 plaintiffs, who were injured—or whose family members were killed—on the Highway 101 overpass near Soledad. The court said the judge must hold an evidentiary hearing in order to determine whether the plaintiffs’ claims against a French tour operator can actually be litigated in French courts.
24—The lawyer for a Death Row inmate failed to demonstrate that systematic delays in the resolution of capital cases result in an arbitrary process that violates the Eighth Amendment, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled….A law requiring that a firefighter be given notice and a chance to respond before adverse comments are entered into his or her personnel files does not apply to a supervisor’s handwritten and computerized notes that were kept separate from official personnel files, the state high court ruled….The Supreme Court named former State Bar Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation Chair Jason P. Lee to the State Bar Board of Trustees.
25—The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed former powerhouse Los Angeles lawyer Terry N. Christensen’s conviction on charges of illegal eavesdropping and conspiracy….Christensen—who practiced law in Los Angeles for more than 40 years at the famed Wyman Bautzer firm and at the firm he co-founded, Christensen Miller—was convicted along with former private investigator Anthony Pellicano, well known for his work on behalf of rich and famous clients. U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer of the Central District of California sentenced Christensen to three years in prison in 2008, but had been free on bail pending appeal.
28—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Stone retired.
31—The Fourth District Court of Appeal certified for publication its Aug. 12 opinion holding that the City of Los Angeles cannot enforce an ordinance requiring some police officers to repay all of their training costs if they leave the department and take other law enforcement jobs. Div. Two said the ordinance—to the extent it requires repayment of costs for training beyond that required of all California peace officers by statute—violates a Labor Code provision requiring that an employer pay “all necessary expenditures incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.”
3—A Humboldt Superior Court judge was publicly admonished for failing to issue timely decisions in 20 cases and submitting false affidavits that claimed he had no cases under submission for more than 90 days. Judge Dale Reinholtsen, who served as presiding judge in 2013 and 2014, drew private discipline in 2002 for similar misconduct, the commission disclosed in its ruling.
10—An independent consultant’s report on the fatal shooting of an unarmed college student by two Pasadena police officers is largely subject to public disclosure under the California Public Records Act, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled. Div. One, in an opinion by Justice Jeffrey Johnson, said the report by the Office of Independent Review Group was a public record within the meaning of the statute. The panel also agreed that portions of the report fall under the CPRA exemption for police officer personnel records, but said the trial judge’s ordered redactions went too far.
16—A teenaged plaintiff whom an attorney for the Los Angeles Unified School District blamed for a sexual relationship with her eighth grade math teacher won a new trial in a ruling by this district’s Court of Appeal. Div. Five said Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lawrence H. Cho committed several prejudicial errors, including allowing the jury to find comparative fault or consent. “[C]omparative fault has no application in a case involving the sexual abuse of a minor student by an adult teacher in a position of authority in a public school setting,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard H. Kirschner, sitting on assignment, wrote for the Court of Appeal.
21—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Reva G. Goetz retired.
22—A woman who claims that basketball player Kris Humphries knowingly gave her herpes lacks substantial evidence that he was the person who infected her, and can’t force him to be tested for the virus, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.
24—The United States District Court for the Central District of California named Kiry K. Gray clerk of the court. Gray had been the acting clerk since July.
28—A California worker cannot be barred by contract from litigating a representative claim under the Private Attorneys Generals Act, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
25—The American Bar Association presented its 2015 Difference Makers Award to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Allen J. Webster Jr. at a meeting in Boston.
1—A professional athlete who suffered cumulative work-related injury while playing for multiple teams, including a California team, is entitled to collect California workers’ compensation benefits, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled in a case brought by Rudy Macklin, who was released by the Los Angeles Clippers without having played in a regular season game for the team.
5—Justice Patti S. Kitching retired from Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal.
8—Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have funded 12 previously authorized judgeships, including one in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Brown said he wanted “to develop a more systemwide approach to balance the workload and the distribution of judgeships around the state.”
14—When a case involves two different fee-shifting statutes, and each side prevails on a claim that permits it to recover fees, the court can apply both statutes and give offsetting awards, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.
15—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Charles E. Frisco died at the age of 92.
19—A Board of Immigration Appeals ruling calling for deportation of a twice-convicted burglar is invalid because the statute defining each of his crimes as an “aggravated felony” is unconstitutionally vague, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
20—An employee who claims to have been retaliated against for complaining about misconduct in the workplace need not exhaust administrative remedies before suing, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled. Div. Four reinstated actress Nicolette Sheridan’s whistleblower claim under Labor Code §6310, the last remaining piece of the lawsuit she filed against Touchstone Pictures and “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry in 2010.
26—Death Row inmate Steven Crittenden is entitled to a new trial because a potential juror was removed from the venire for what were substantially reasons of race, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled….A class action waiver in an employment arbitration agreement signed by a truck driver is unenforceable because California, not federal, law applies to claims by transportation workers, the Court of Appeal for this district held.
29—U.S. District Magistrate Judge Margaret Morrow took senior status.
31—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James N. Reese died Oct. 31 at the age of 96.
2—Chancery Club President Edith R. Matthai, former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Nash, and Pepperdine University School of Law Dean Deanell Reece Tacha were named the Metropolitan News-Enterprise “persons of the year.”
4—“Troubling” search-and-seizure violations committed by Navy investigators are not grounds for suppressing evidence that resulted in a civilian’s child pornography conviction, the en banc Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The surveillance by a U.S. Navy investigator that led to Michael Dreyer’s conviction violated the Posse Comitatus Act’s prohibition on the use of the military in civilian law enforcement activities, the court said. But the military was taking steps to ensure the violation didn’t occur again, so suppressing the evidence was not needed, the panel held.
5—A former Los Angeles Superior Court clerk was sentenced to 500 hours of community service for stealing more than $6,000 in court fees. Linda Mascorro, 60, was placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay $6,345 in restitution….State laws requiring that a hearing be held before a local planning commission prior to the adoption of new zoning restrictions do not apply to voter-approved measures, the Los Angeles Superior Court Appellate Division ruled in affirming the conviction of a marijuana dispensary operator under City of Los Angeles Proposition D, which regulates medical marijuana businesses.
12—California’s death penalty survived a legal challenge when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that had found it was unconstitutional because of excessive delays. The panel, without reaching the merits of U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney’s decision, said the claim was barred under Teague v. Lane (1989) 489 U.S. 288, which generally holds that a “new rule” of criminal procedure cannot be applied retroactively on habeas corpus.
16—Former Los Angeles Clippers co-owner Rochelle “Shelly” Sterling acted in the best interests of the Sterling Family Trust by removing her estranged husband as trustee and selling the NBA team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled.
17—The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors named Mary Wickham county counsel, a position she had held on an interim basis for five months….Gov. Jerry Brown named Michelle M. Ahnn, Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong, Stephen I. Goorvitch, Maurice A. Leiter, Catherine J. Pratt, Theresa M. Traber and Joshua D. Wayser.
19—Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David A. Thomas died at the age of 93.
20—The Fourth District Court of Appeal ordered publication of its Oct. 23 opinion affirming judgment in favor of the operator of a Halloween attraction, who was sued after a patron fell and injured himself. Scott Griffin sued after being injured in October 2011 at Balboa Park’s “Haunted Trail.” Griffin fell while running away from an actor who was wielding what the plaintiff believed to be an operable chainsaw. The device was actually a prop, the chain having been removed.
22—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ellen C. DeShazer died at 76.
30—The Department of Fish and Wildlife must reconsider its conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the proposed Newhall Ranch development in the Santa Clarita Valley will not significantly impact the environment, the state Supreme Court ruled.
1—A railway owned by a foreign government is not subject to suit in the United States for injuries sustained abroad, merely because the plaintiff purchased her ticket from a U.S. travel agent, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled….The Commission on Judicial Performance ordered the removal of Tulare Superior Court Judge Valeriano Saucedo for “deceitful, The judge violated several canons of the Code of Judicial Ethics by writing an anonymous letter accusing a court clerk of an affair in his effort to strike up a personal relationship with her, showering her with gifts that included a BMW and a Disneyland trip, and lying about his actions, the commission said.
3—The California Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for Micky Ray Cage, convicted of murdering his mother-in-law and brother-in-law in Moreno Valley on Nov. 9, 1998, in what prosecutors said was an effort to exact revenge after his wife left him and took their children….The state high court said consumers have a right to file lawsuits under California law alleging food products are falsely labeled “organic,” overturning a lower court ruling that state law was preempted by the federal regulatory scheme governing certification of organic growers.
4—Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Winikow resigned after three years on the bench.
10—A public entity need not show that the official who approved the design of a road or other public work followed, or even knew, what the entity’s design standards were in order to claim design immunity, the state Supreme Court ruled.
11—Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson assumed senior status at the age of 92, ending 44 years of active status on the federal bench. His son, U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson of the Central District of California, 64, is scheduled to take senior status Jan. 28.
14—The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California customers of DirecTV cannot sue the satellite provider or bring class-wide claims in arbitration. In a 6-3 decision, the justices said that DirecTV’s contracts can specifically prohibit customers from banding together to sue the company, even if California law in effect when the contract was signed provided otherwise….Counties may continue to pay benefits to local trial judges, including those who took office after the Legislature applied a “fix” in response to a prior decision that such benefits were unconstitutional under conditions then in effect, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled.
16—President Obama nominated Magistrate Judge Paul L. Abrams for a vacant judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
17—The state of California has failed to provide judges with salary increases mandated by statute, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle ruled, in a class action brought by retired Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Robert Mallano.
23—Gov. Jerry Brown named Francis B. Bennett II, Joel L. Lofton, Thomas D. Long and David A. Rosen to judgeships in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Brown also named San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman to Div. Six of this district’s Court of Appeal and San Bernardino Superior Court Presiding Judge Marsha Slough to the Fourth District’s Div. Two, those nominations being subject to confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.
27—The California Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the death sentence for a gang member who shot and killed a Long Beach police officer in April 2000. Ramon Sandoval Jr. fired 28 shots from an assault rifle at the unmarked patrol car occupied by Detectives Daryle Black and Rick Delfin, beginning his shooting spree from about 15 feet away.
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