Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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The case revolves around plaintiff Rynold Dwayne Jackson, who alleged malicious prosecution and unfair business practices after an altercation at a hotel lounge. Jackson was refused service on the basis of intoxication. Following a dispute, Jackson and the hotel's director of security, Mario Lara, had physical contact leading to Jackson's prosecution for battery. After being found not guilty, Jackson filed a civil complaint against Lara and DT Management, LLC, the company managing the hotel and lounge.Jackson alleged malicious prosecution against Lara, claiming the criminal prosecution was based on a false assault accusation. He also alleged DT Management violated the Unfair Competition Law by denying equal access, permitting discriminatory behavior by employees, and selectively deleting incident footage.The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the lower court granted. The court considered Jackson's failure to appear at the motion hearing as a submission on the tentative ruling. Jackson appealed this judgment.The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One, State of California, affirmed the lower court's judgment. They cited the interim adverse judgment rule, which establishes that a trial court judgment in favor of the plaintiff or prosecutor, unless obtained fraudulently, forms probable cause to bring the underlying action. The court found this rule applicable as Jackson's motion for acquittal in his criminal trial was denied, thus establishing probable cause for Lara's accusation.As for the unfair business practices claim, Jackson failed to substantiate his allegations with legal authority or argument, resulting in the dismissal of his claim. Furthermore, a new theory he proposed on appeal was disregarded as it was raised for the first time and not considered in the trial court. View "Jackson v. Lara" on Justia Law

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This case pertains to Jeremiah Paul, a parolee, who was convicted of possession of a firearm due to his prior violent conviction, after police officers discovered a firearm in his vehicle. The discovery occurred after the officers asked him about his parole status during an encounter, which he contends was an unlawful detention that led to the discovery of the firearm. Paul argued that the evidence of the firearm should have been suppressed as it was only discovered following his unlawful detention.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Five, disagreed with the trial court's ruling that the initial encounter between Paul and the police officers was consensual. The appellate court highlighted several factors such as the positioning of the police officers, their use of flashlights on Paul, the fact that Paul was engaged in a phone conversation when the officers approached, and the opening of the vehicle's door, which would have led a reasonable person to believe that they were not free to leave. This, they concluded, constituted an unlawful detention.Consequently, the appellate court reversed the trial court's ruling stating the initial encounter was consensual. The court held that Paul's motion to suppress the evidence of the firearm, which was discovered as a result of the unlawful detention, should have been granted. The court reversed the judgment, vacated the conviction, and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to grant Paul's motion to suppress the evidence of the firearm. View "People v. Paul" on Justia Law

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The case involves Jeremiah Paul, who was convicted of possession of a firearm with a prior violent conviction. Paul had pleaded no contest following the denial of his motion to suppress evidence of a firearm by the trial court, pursuant to Penal Code section 1538.5. He contended that the evidence of the firearm should have been excluded because law enforcement officers discovered it only after they unlawfully detained him to verify his parole status. The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Five found that the initial encounter between Paul and the officers was indeed an unlawful detention. The court pointed to several factors leading to this conclusion such as the positioning of the officers that blocked Paul from leaving, the officers approaching Paul from both sides of his car and shining their flashlights into his car, and the fact that the officers approached Paul while he was on his phone in a legally parked vehicle. The court held that these factors would lead a reasonable person to believe they are not free to leave, thus constituting a detention. Therefore, the court reversed the trial court’s judgment and vacated its order denying Paul's motion to suppress evidence. The court concluded that the officers would not have obtained Paul's parole status if they had not first unlawfully detained him and thus, the firearm was not lawfully obtained and should be suppressed. View "P. v. Paul" on Justia Law

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The case involves a defendant, Tommy Bonds, who was stopped by Officer Ryan Cameron of the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) leading to his arrest for a misdemeanor concealed firearm violation. Bonds claimed he was stopped because he was Black and filed a motion for relief under the California Racial Justice Act of 2020, alleging racial bias in his stop. The Superior Court of San Diego County denied the motion, accepting the officer's testimony that race played no role in his decision to stop the vehicle as he could not determine the race of the occupants from outside. The court did not consider the possibility of implicit bias, i.e., unconscious bias that could be influencing the officer's decisions.On appeal, the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California, held that the trial court applied the wrong legal standard by focusing on whether the officer intended to discriminate on the basis of race, rather than considering the possibility of implicit bias. The Court of Appeal stated that the Racial Justice Act addresses both intentional and unintentional racial bias. The court remanded the case back to the trial court to conduct a new hearing, considering whether the officer's actions exhibited implicit bias on the basis of race.The appellate court also commented on the admissibility of statistical evidence regarding police practices, stating that according to the Racial Justice Act, such evidence is admissible for determining whether a violation of the Act has occurred. View "In re H.D." on Justia Law

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In this case, the issue at hand revolves around the California Racial Justice Act (CRJA). The petitioner, Michael Earl Mosby III, was charged with the drive-by shooting of Darryl King-Divens, along with a gun enhancement and three special circumstances, including having committed multiple murders. The District Attorney sought the death penalty for Mosby, who had been previously convicted in Los Angeles County of two additional murders and attempted murder. Mosby filed a motion claiming that the District Attorney's decision to seek the death penalty violated the CRJA, which prohibits seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction on the basis of race. The trial court denied Mosby's motion, ruling that he had failed to make a prima facie showing of racial discrimination under the CRJA.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District granted the writ petition and directed the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing. The court held that under the CRJA, a defendant must present not only statistical evidence of racial disparity in the charging of the death penalty but also evidence of nonminority defendants who were engaged in similar conduct and were similarly situated but charged with lesser offenses, to establish a prima facie case. The court found that Mosby had met his burden of establishing a prima facie case under the CRJA. Therefore, the trial court should have ordered an evidentiary hearing at which the District Attorney could produce evidence of the relevant factors that were used to determine the charges against the nonminority defendants who were involved in similar conduct, and who were similarly situated to Mosby; and to provide any race-neutral reasons that it considered in deciding to charge Mosby with the death penalty. View "Mosby v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The case involves Michael Earl Mosby III, an African-American man charged with multiple murders, including a drive-by shooting, by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office in California. The District Attorney sought the death penalty in Mosby's case. Mosby filed a motion claiming that the decision to seek the death penalty violated the California Racial Justice Act of 2020, which prohibits the state from seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction or sentence on the basis of race. The motion was denied by the trial court, which ruled that Mosby had failed to make a prima facie showing of a violation as required under the Act.Mosby then petitioned the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division Two, for a writ of mandate directing the superior court to vacate its order denying his request for a hearing on his Racial Justice Act claim and to enter a new order granting an evidentiary hearing. The appellate court agreed in part with the trial court that Mosby was required to present not only statistical evidence of racial disparity in the charging of the death penalty by the District Attorney but also evidence of nonminority defendants who were engaged in similar conduct and were similarly situated but charged with lesser offenses, to establish a prima facie case.However, based on the evidence presented in this case, which included factual examples of nonminority defendants who committed murder but were not charged with the death penalty in cases involving similar conduct and who were similarly situated, e.g., had prior records or committed multiple murders, and statistical evidence that there was a history of racial disparity in charging the death penalty by the District Attorney, the appellate court concluded that Mosby met his burden of establishing a prima facie case under section 745, subdivision (a)(3). Therefore, the appellate court granted the writ petition and directed the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing. View "Mosby v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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A sex offender, who was convicted in the 1980s and had lived a law-abiding life for 37 subsequent years, petitioned the trial court to be removed from California’s registry of sex offenders. The People opposed the petition, arguing that one of the offender’s sex crimes would render him ineligible for removal from the registry if prosecuted today under a statute enacted 21 years after his conviction. The court had to decide whether a petition for removal from the sex offender registry could be denied on the grounds that the offender's underlying sex crime also constitutes a different, later-enacted sex crime that requires lifetime registration. The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Two held that the trial court erred in giving controlling weight to the nature of the underlying sex offenses and ignoring the defendant's lack of reoffending over the years. The court's decision was reversed, and the defendant was ruled eligible for removal from the registry. View "People v. Franco" on Justia Law

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In this case, the defendant, James McCray, appealed from a 2022 order that recommitted him for another one-year term under a statutory scheme governing violent offenders with mental health disorders. McCray argued that there was insufficient evidence that he represented a substantial danger of physical harm to others due to a severe mental health disorder, that he voluntarily absented himself from his recommitment trial, and that the trial court failed to obtain from him a knowing and intelligent waiver of his right to a jury. The California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Four, found that McCray's appeal was moot due to his subsequent recommitment in 2023. However, the court decided to address the trial court's failure to engage in a robust enough oral colloquy with McCray to establish that he knowingly and intelligently waived his right to a jury trial. The court concluded that the record is insufficient to support the determination that McCray made a valid waiver of his right to a jury. Therefore, the court dismissed the appeal as moot but found that McCray's waiver of his right to a jury trial was not knowing and intelligent. View "People v. McCray" on Justia Law

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In the early morning hours of August 1, 2018, Gwendolyn Adams and Glenn Tyler Bolden were pursued in a high-speed chase by Michael William Becker, a peace officer employed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Becker suspected Adams and Bolden of wrongdoing, although his suspicions were unfounded. The pursuit resulted in a catastrophic accident that caused severe injuries and, ultimately, the death of Adams's son, D'son Woods.Adams and Bolden filed a lawsuit against the CDCR, alleging negligence causing wrongful death, assault and battery, and violation of the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. The CDCR sought summary judgment, arguing that Becker was not acting within the scope of his employment during the pursuit. The trial court agreed and entered judgment in favor of CDCR.On appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Three reversed and remanded the case. The appellate court found that whether Becker was acting within the scope of his employment when he pursued Adams and Bolden was a question of fact that should be decided by a jury. The court noted that Becker’s actions may have been influenced by his role as a peace officer, and it was not clear whether he was acting as a private citizen or a law enforcement officer during the pursuit. Therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the CDCR. View "Adams v. Dept of Corrections and Rehabilitation" on Justia Law

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In the case from the Court of Appeal of the State of California, First Appellate District, Division Five, the defendant, who was convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances and an enhancement for personally and intentionally discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury or death, appealed his conviction on the grounds that his trial counsel exhibited racial bias towards him in violation of the California Racial Justice Act of 2020. He argued that his counsel's advice to testify in his natural linguistic style, which included the use of slang terms and a certain accent, displayed racial bias or animus. The court disagreed, ruling that advising a defendant to testify in an authentic and genuine manner did not indicate racial bias or animus and did not violate the Racial Justice Act. The defendant also argued that the trial court erred in imposing two sentence enhancements and a parole revocation restitution fine. The court agreed that the parole revocation restitution fine should be stricken, as the defendant was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The judgment was thus modified to remove the parole revocation restitution fine, but otherwise affirmed. View "People v. Coleman" on Justia Law