Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
In 2006, police arrested defendant Daniel Marquez in Ventura County on a drug possession offense. Without his consent, authorities collected Marquez’s DNA sample and entered his DNA profile into a statewide database. Marquez was never charged with the drug offense. In 2008, investigators retrieved DNA evidence from an Orange County robbery, and that evidence matched Marquez’s DNA profile in the database. Police contacted Marquez, and with his consent they collected a second DNA sample, which matched the DNA evidence from the robbery. The State filed two robbery counts and a related offense. The trial court denied Marquez’s motion to suppress the DNA evidence, and a jury convicted him of the charged offenses. The court sentenced Marquez to 25 years to life in state prison, plus an additional 15 years for three alleged prior serious felony convictions. The Court of Appeal held that the 2006 collection of Marquez’s DNA sample was unlawful under the Fourth Amendment; the prosecution failed to prove that Marquez was validly arrested or that his DNA was collected as part of a routine booking procedure. However, the trial court properly admitted the 2008 DNA evidence under a well-established exception to the exclusionary rule: the attenuation doctrine. Additionally, due to a recent statutory change, the Court remanded for the trial court to consider striking the additional punishment for Marquez’s three prior serious felony convictions. The Court also ordered the trial court to modify Marquez’s custody credits. In all other respects, the judgment was affirmed. View "California v. Marquez" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Andy Hem fatally shot his brother, victim Sokorng “Sok” Hem in 2014. The State argued the shooting was first degree murder; defendant claimed self-defense. The jury found defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter and discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, finding he personally used a firearm. Defendant was sentenced to prison for 16 years. On appeal defendant contended the prosecutor misstated the law in closing argument, the court improperly excluded evidence, the court failed to conduct an adequate (or any) inquiry into a claim of jury misconduct, and he was entitled to a sentencing remand under Senate Bill No. 620 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess.), effective January 1, 2018, which gave trial courts new discretion to strike certain enhancements. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court did not adequately address jury misconduct, which as a matter of law, raised a presumption of prejudice. "The jury deliberations were difficult, as reflected by pointed written questions submitted by the jury, a reported deadlock, and what seems to have been a compromise verdict. In these circumstances, we cannot find that the presumption of prejudice was dispelled by the record and we must reverse the judgment." View "California v. Hem" on Justia Law

by
Loren Prout filed an inverse condemnation action alleging Department of Transportation (Caltrans) violated the Fifth Amendment in 2010 by physically occupying without compensation a long, narrow strip of Prout’s land fronting California Highway 12, to make highway improvements. The land taken was a 1.31-acre strip, 20 feet wide and about 6,095 feet long. Caltrans cross-complained for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and specific performance, alleging Prout agreed to dedicate the strip by deed for highway purposes 20 years earlier when he obtained an encroachment permit for a subdivision he was developing. Prout’s subdivision map stated the strip of land fronting Highway 12, shown by hash marks on the map, was “IN THE PROCESS OF BEING DEEDED TO CALTRANS FOR HIGHWAY PURPOSES.” No deed was ever signed or recorded. After a bench trial on the bifurcated issue of liability, the trial court found Caltrans validly accepted the offer of dedication by physically occupying the strip for its highway improvements, and the court awarded specific performance on Caltrans’s cross-complaint and ordered Prout to execute a deed. On appeal, Prout claims the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that he agreed to dedicate the entire strip of land, as opposed to just a small area needed to connect the subdivision’s private road to the state highway. The Court of Appeal concluded Prout’s challenge was barred by his failure to file a timely petition for writ of mandamus, and his inverse condemnation claim failed because substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding that Prout made an offer to dedicate the entire strip of land in 1990 and did not revoke the offer before Caltrans accepted it by physically using the strip to make highway improvements in 2010-2011. View "Prout v. Dept. of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
Chaz Nasjhee Pride was convicted by jury of robbery, which found true allegations he committed the robbery for the benefit of, or at the direction of, and in association with a criminal street gang. In a bifurcated proceeding, Pride admitted two prior prison offenses and the court found true allegations Pride previously committed a strike offense and a serious felony prior. The court sentenced Pride to 21 years in prison based upon six years for the robbery (double the midterm of three years) plus 10 years for the gang enhancement and five years for the serious felony prior. The court struck one of the prison prior allegations and stayed punishment on the second prison prior because it arose from the same conduct that resulted in the serious felony prior. On appeal, Pride contended his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act were violated when a police detective viewed and saved a copy of a video Pride posted on a social media account shortly after the robbery depicting Pride wearing a chain taken in the robbery. The Court of Appeal concluded there was no violation of Pride's rights. In supplemental briefing, however, the State conceded the matter should have been remanded for the court to consider whether to exercise its newly conferred discretion to strike the five-year serious felony enhancement pursuant to recently enacted amendments to California Penal Code sections 667 and 1385. Accordingly, the matter was remanded for the limited purpose of allowing the trial court to consider whether to dismiss or strike the Penal Code section 667 (a) enhancement and, if so, to resentence Pride accordingly. In all other respects, the Court affirmed Pride's conviction. View "California v. Pride" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the City in an action alleging that the City engaged in a pattern and practice of illegally exempting certain development projects in Venice from permitting requirements in the Venice Land Use Plan (LUP) and in the California Coastal Act. The court held that the Venice Sign-Off (VSO) process was ministerial and did not trigger due process protections; the director of planning was not required to review VSO projects for compliance with the LUP; additions to existing structures were eligible for exemptions under the Coastal Act; and Venice Coalition was not entitled to injunctive relief. View "Venice Coalition to Preserve Unique Community Character v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

by
When a student accused of sexual misconduct faces severe disciplinary sanctions, and the credibility of witnesses (whether the accusing student, other witnesses, or both) is central to the adjudication of the allegation, fundamental fairness requires, at a minimum, that the university provide a mechanism by which the accused may cross–examine those witnesses, directly or indirectly, at a hearing in which the witnesses appear in person or by other means (such as means provided by technology like videoconferencing) before a neutral adjudicator with the power independently to find facts and make credibility assessments. A former USC undergraduate student appealed the trial court's denial of his petition for writ of administrative mandate seeking to set aside his expulsion. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that, although the student failed to meet his burden of proving that defendants were actually biased against him, USC's disciplinary procedure failed to provide the student with a fair hearing. In this case, USC's disciplinary review process failed to provide fundamental fairness protections after it expelled the student based on allegations of nonconsensual sexual misconduct. View "Doe v. Allee" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Markece Chatman was convicted of pandering, Penal Code section 266i (a)(1). The jury’s verdict finding defendant guilty of pimping and pandering was based on the testimony of a prostitute, who admitted lying and told vastly different stories each time she gave a statement or testified, the text messages she exchanged with defendant, and a letter defendant wrote to a woman in Texas pleading with her to claim in an affidavit that she sent the text messages to the prostitute. On appeal, defendant contended the trial court erred by refusing his proposed modification to CALCRIM No. 1151 and his lawyer provided constitutionally deficient representation by failing to request additional modifications. Having conducted a de novo review of the alleged instructional error, the Court of Appeal concluded his arguments were without merit. View "California v. Chatman" on Justia Law

by
Labor Code section 226.2, a recently enacted law articulating wage requirements applicable where an employer uses a piece-rate method of compensating its employees, is not unconstitutionally vague. The Court of Appeal held that the demurrer was properly sustained as to constitutional challenges to the statute, and the statutory phrase "other nonproductive time" as "time under the employer's control, exclusive of rest and recovery periods, that is not directly related to the activity being compensated on a piece-rate basis" provides an adequately discernable standard that possesses a reasonable degree of specificity. Furthermore, because the substance of the declaratory relief cause of action, to the extent that it went beyond the basic issues the court has clarified, constituted a nonjusticiable request for an advisory opinion, the court concluded that it was properly dismissed. View "Nisei Farmers League v. California Labor & Workforce Development Agency" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs-appellants San Diego Unified School District, Clovis Unified School District, Poway Unified School District, San Jose Unified School District, Newport-Mesa Unified School District, and Grossmont Union High School District (the Districts) appealed an order sustaining without leave to amend the demurrer of defendant-respondent State Controller Betty Yee (the Controller) to the Districts' first amended petition for writ of mandate and complaint. The Districts had challenged the Controller's reduction the reimbursement of monies from state funds to the Districts, but the trial court ruled the action was barred by the 90-day statute of limitations set forth in Code of Civil Procedure section 341.5. The trial court implicitly found the action was one "challenging the constitutionality of any statute relating to state funding for . . . school districts" within the meaning of section 341.5. The Districts argued on appeal that under its plain language, section 341.5 did not apply because, among other reasons, their challenge involved subvention, not state funding; the dispute was focused on the Controller's actions, not the constitutionality of the statutes under which the Controller acted; and their challenge was not a facial challenge subject to section 341.5. The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions, and concluded section 341.5 applied to the Districts' action, the gravamen of which was a challenge to the constitutional validity of the statued providing one-time general state funding for school districts. View "San Diego Unified School Dist. v. Yee" on Justia Law

by
A jury convicted Melvin Hiram Thomas II in 2003 for receiving a stolen vehicle and active participation in a criminal street gang. To support the gang conviction, the State offered a gang expert whose testimony included testimonial, out-of-court statements about the specific facts of Thomas’s case. On direct appeal, Thomas challenged the admissibility of the gang expert’s testimony as testimonial hearsay which violated his Sixth Amendment confrontation rights under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). Another panel of the Court of Appeal court concluded Crawford did not undermine the established rule that experts may testify about the bases of their opinions without running afoul of hearsay and confrontation clause problems because such evidence was not submitted for the truth of the matter, as the California Supreme Court held in California v. Gardeley, 14 Cal.4th 605 (1996). Subsequently, in California v. Sanchez, 63 Cal.4th 665 (2016), the California Supreme Court rejected the Gardeley rule and held introducing out-of-court testimonial statements about case-specific facts through an expert witness violated the confrontation clause (as interpreted in Crawford) unless the person who made the statement is unavailable and the defendant had a prior opportunity for cross-examination. Thomas sought habeas relief from the Court of Appeal, claiming his conviction for active participation in a criminal street gang was invalid after Sanchez, which established a new rule the Court should apply retrospectively to his case. The Court of Appeal concluded the Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288 (1989) retroactivity standard governing federal habeas petitions didn't govern California habeas petitions, but concluded Sanchez wasn't retroactive under the three-factor analysis set out by the California Supreme Court in In re Johnson, 3 Cal.3d 404 (1970) and other decisions. The Court therefore denied relief. View "In re Thomas" on Justia Law