Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
In re Kowalczyk
Kowalczyk was charged with felony vandalism, three felony counts of identity theft, misdemeanor petty theft of lost property, and one misdemeanor count of identity theft. The court set bail at $75,000 and denied a motion seeking release on his own recognizance with drug conditions and electronic monitoring. Kowalczyk was on probation and had 64 prior offenses, across several states. The court viewed Kowalczyk’s property crimes as a significant public safety issue. He received the maximum score of 14 on the Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument, and the pretrial services report indicated he failed to abide by conditions of supervision in the last five years. Kowalczyk was unhoused and unemployed. Different judges later denied additional motions to reduce bail.Kowalczyk filed a habeas petition. On remand from the California Supreme Court, the court of appeal addressed the state constitutional provisions governing bail in noncapital cases—Article I, section 12(b), (c); Article I, section 28(f)(3) and concluded that the provisions can be reconciled. Section 12’s general right to bail in noncapital cases remains intact, while full effect must be given to section 28(f)(3)’s mandate that the rights of crime victims be respected in bail and release determinations. Section 12 does not guarantee an unqualified right to pretrial release or necessarily require courts to set bail at an amount a defendant can afford. View "In re Kowalczyk" on Justia Law
Price v. Victor Valley Union High School Dist.
La Vonya Price worked intermittently as a part-time substitute special education aide at the Victor Valley Unified School District (the District) before applying for a full-time position. She received an offer for a full-time position that was contingent on passing a physical exam. When she failed the physical exam for not being “medically suitable for the position,” the District rescinded the offer, terminated her as a substitute, and disqualified her from any future employment with the District. Price sued the District for retaliation and various disability-related claims, but the trial court granted summary judgment to the District. Price appealed, contending the trial court erroneously granted summary judgment to the District because there were triable issues of fact concerning all of her claims. The Court of Appeal agreed as to her first claim for disability discrimination, but disagreed as to the rest of her claims. View "Price v. Victor Valley Union High School Dist." on Justia Law
People v. Buchanan
Officers separately arrested the defendants for DUI and released each with a Notice to Appear. Each signed their respective Notice, agreeing to appear in court on a specified date more than 25 days later. Each Notice included the issuing officer’s declaration alleging the facts of the misdemeanor violation. The specified court dates passed without the filing of charges. The District Attorney filed charges against each defendant just as the one-year statute of limitations for misdemeanor DUIs was about to expire. Both were arraigned about 90 days later, nearly 15 months after arrest. The defendants asserted violations of their speedy trial rights.The trial court determined that the defendants were and remained “accused” for purposes of the Sixth Amendment speedy trial guarantee from the day officers arrested and released them on Notices; the lapse of more than one year from the issuance of the Notices was presumptively prejudicial; and although the delay between arrest and the filing of the complaints was justified by a commensurate delay in analyzing blood specimens, the further delay between the filing of the complaint and arraignment was unjustified. The court of appeal reversed the dismissals. Although the citation was an accusation otherwise sufficient to initiate Sixth Amendment protection against delay, the District Attorney’s election not to file formal charges by the appearance date ceased any legal restraint upon the defendants and had the same effect, for constitutional speedy trial purposes, as a dismissal of charges. View "People v. Buchanan" on Justia Law
Doe v. Software One
Plaintiff Jane Doe was the founder and owner of a company called House of Lync, which was purchased by defendant SoftwareONE Inc. As part of the acquisition, plaintiff was offered a position with defendant as “Head Solutions Sales, Skype for Business,” which she accepted. At the time, plaintiff was 49 years old. Nine months later, defendant hosted a “National Sales Kick-off” event in Cancun, Mexico. Plaintiff attended, and felt the event was “full of outlandish behavior.” Plaintiff refused to participate, and later complained to the president of defendant’s American division. Beginning shortly after the event, defendant received complaints about plaintiff, including her “demeaning manner, withholding of important information, bullying, humiliation, and other unacceptable behaviors.” Defendant reassigned plaintiff to a new position: “Global Alliances and Practice Development Leader, Skype for Business.” About six months after plaintiff’s reassignment, Jason Cochran, defendant’s director of technical solutions told plaintiff, during an after-work event, that defendant “is a guy’s club,” plaintiff was “never going to make it” working for defendant, and called plaintiff a “bitch.” After plaintiff complained, defendant’s human resources manager investigated, “coached” Cochran, and informed plaintiff that defendant did not condone this behavior. A few months later, defendant purchased another company similar to plaintiff’s. Defendant then terminated plaintiff, citing poor performance and redundancy. Plaintiff sued defendant, alleging her firing was discriminatory and retaliatory. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing: (1) plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case for discrimination or retaliation; (2) defendant had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for terminating plaintiff; and (3) plaintiff could not show defendant’s nondiscriminatory reasons were pretextual. The trial court granted defendant’s motion and entered judgment for defendant. In moving for a new trial, plaintiff argued, among other things, that even absent evidence of pretext, her claims could and should have survived summary judgment because she made a sufficient showing of retaliatory intent. The trial court agreed and granted plaintiff’s motion. Defendant timely appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision overturning summary judgment. View "Doe v. Software One" on Justia Law
Roe v. Hesperia Unified School Dist.
From August 2018 through January 2019, plaintiffs were six-year-old first grade students who attended Maple Elementary School (Maple) within the Hesperia Unified School District (the District). Pedro Martinez worked at Maple as a janitor. Martinez’s position as a janitor did not require him to have any one-on-one contact with the students. Martinez engaged in a variety of activities with the students that plaintiffs characterized as “‘grooming’ activities” that were “designed to lure minor students, including [p]laintiffs, into a false sense of security around him.” Plaintiffs alleged that numerous District employees who were mandated reporters under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), witnessed Martinez’s behavior and did not report it to school officials or to law enforcement, in violation of the District’s policies. In January 2019, the State charged Martinez with numerous felonies involving his alleged sexual abuse of minors. In February 2019, plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the District and Martinez, alleging numerous claims arising from Martinez’s alleged sexual abuse of plaintiffs. The trial court was persuaded by the District's argument, concluding that plaintiffs did not adequately plead a negligence cause of action against the District, because they failed to state any facts “establishing that [the] District knew of any prior acts of sexual abuse by Martinez and/or that the District had actual or constructive knowledge that Martinez was abusing [p]laintiffs so as to impose liability upon [the] District.” One month after plaintiffs sought reconsideration, the trial court entered judgment against plaintiffs. Plaintiffs argued on appeal that they were not required to plead facts demonstrating that the District had actual knowledge of past sexual abuse by Martinez, and that they otherwise pled sufficient facts to state negligence causes of action against the District. The Court of Appeal agreed with plaintiffs on all of those points. The Court disagreed with plaintiffs' contention that the trial court erred by dismissing their sex discrimination claims under Title IX and California Education Code section 220: plaintiffs’ allegations are insufficient to constitute actual notice of a violation of Title IX or Education Code section 220. The judgment of dismissal was reversed, the order sustaining the demurrer to the third amended complaint was vacated, and the trial court was directed to enter a new order sustaining the demurrer without leave to amend as to the causes of action under Title IX, Education Code section 220, and the Unruh Civil Rights Act but otherwise overruling the demurrer. View "Roe v. Hesperia Unified School Dist." on Justia Law
Wisner v. Dignity Health
Pro se plaintiff Gary Wisner, M.D. filed a complaint alleging that defendants Dignity Health and the Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center (collectively, SJMC) falsely reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) that Wisner surrendered his clinical privileges while under criminal investigation for insurance fraud. The trial court granted a special motion to strike the complaint after concluding that Wisner’s claims arose from a protected activity and that Wisner failed to establish a probability of prevailing on the merits. Wisner contested both aspects of the trial court’s order, and he also argued the court erred by denying his motion to conduct limited discovery prior to the hearing on the anti-SLAPP motion. Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Wisner v. Dignity Health" on Justia Law
Shouse v. County of Riverside
Petitioner Andrew Shouse was terminated from his employment as a captain of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO, the Department, or respondent), following an administrative hearing. Findings on the record reflected petitioner engaged in improper sexual relationships with subordinates under his command, misappropriated county equipment and electronic mail for his personal use, was insubordinate in violating a direct order prohibiting him from contacting any person with whom he had had a personal relationship during the pendency of the investigation, and unbecoming conduct discrediting the Sheriff’s Department. Following an administrative appeal, the findings were sustained. Petitioner petitioned for writ of mandate seeking review of his dismissal, and, upon denial of that petition, he appealed. The sole legal issue presented was whether petitioner’s rights pursuant to the Public Safety Officer’s Bill of Rights (POBRA) were violated where the investigation into his alleged improper conduct was not completed within one year of discovery. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Shouse v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law
Mills v. Facility Solutions Group
Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer, Facility Solutions Group, Inc. (FSG), for disability discrimination and related causes of action under the Fair Employment & Housing Act. The same month Plaintiff filed this class action against FSG for Labor Code violations, which also included a claim under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004. The trial court in this action denied FSG’s motion, finding unconscionability permeated the arbitration agreement because it had a low to moderate level of procedural unconscionability and at least six substantively unconscionable terms, making severance infeasible. On appeal, FSG contends claim and issue preclusion required the trial court in this action to enforce the arbitration agreement. The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court agreed with the trial court that the arbitration agreement is permeated with unconscionability, and the court cannot simply sever the offending provisions. Rather, the court would need to rewrite the agreement, creating a new agreement to which the parties never agreed. Moreover, upholding this type of agreement with multiple unconscionable terms would create an incentive for an employer to draft a onesided arbitration agreement in the hope employees would not challenge the unlawful provisions, but if they do, the court would simply modify the agreement to include the bilateral terms the employer should have included in the first place. View "Mills v. Facility Solutions Group" on Justia Law
GC Brothers Entertainment v. Alcoholic Beverage Control etc.
The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (Department) revoked a nightclub’s liquor license after the club’s owner, GC Brothers Entertainment LLC dba The Palms (Petitioner), failed to respond to an accusation alleging several violations of California statutes and regulations. Petitioner appealed the Department’s decision to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board (Appeals Board), which affirmed it, and now seeks a writ of mandate directing the Department to vacate its decision. The Second Appellate District granted the writ. The court held that the licensing scheme and strong state policy in favor of resolving cases on the merits grant an ALJ discretion to issue an OSC when he or she receives even an arguably deficient motion for relief from default. It thus runs contrary to the spirit of the licensing scheme to insist that a licensee present its complete and best case for relief within seven days of service of a notice of default. Here, the ALJ not only apparently believed he had no discretion to liberally construe Respondent’s motion for relief, but also found that Respondent’s failure to establish an irrelevant issue—proper service—constituted a failure to show good cause for relief. The ALJ’s failure to appreciate the scope of his discretion and application of an improper standard requires that we remand the matter to afford the ALJ an opportunity to exercise his discretion in the first instance and, applying the proper standard, determine whether Petitioner has shown good cause for relief from default. View "GC Brothers Entertainment v. Alcoholic Beverage Control etc." on Justia Law
Allen v. Staples, Inc.
Plaintiff began working for the defendant Employer in 2006 as a sales representative. In March 2015, she accepted a position as an Area Sales Manager, which she held until June 2017, when she was promoted to the position of Field Sales Director. Later in 2017, as part of a corporate reorganization, Plaintiff's position was eliminated and she was terminated. Plaintiff raised several claims under FEHA and the Equal Pay Act. The trial court granted summary judgment to Employer.The Second Appellate District reversed in part, finding that Plaintiff raise triable issues of fact on her Equal Pay Act claims. The court otherwise affirmed. View "Allen v. Staples, Inc." on Justia Law