California Municipal Law Blog

Municipal Law Blog

Legal updates on current legislation and court cases affecting California local government

Category Archives: Recent Court Decisions

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Proposition 26 Does Not Impose A Fundamental Right To Vote On Limited Purpose Assessments

Posted in Propositions 13/26/218, Recent Court Decisions, Uncategorized
The electorate does not have a fundamental right to vote on an assessment levied upon a specific group of taxpayers for a limited (non-general governmental) purpose, a California Appellate court found in Reid et al. v. City of San Diego et al.  In Reid, plaintiffs challenged a two percent assessment levied on lodging businesses operating in the… Continue Reading

Paid Administrative Leave Now Considered Adverse Employment Action

Posted in Employment Law, Recent Court Decisions
Paid administrative leave may be considered an adverse employment action, a California Appellate court found in Whitehall v. Cty. of San Bernardino.  In Whitehall, the plaintiff was employed by San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) and was assigned to investigate a case in which a nine-month old baby died under suspicious circumstances. Plaintiff obtained… Continue Reading

Court Confirms Heads of Government Agencies Are Generally Not Subject to Deposition

Posted in Recent Court Decisions
The First Appellate District recently issued a decision confirming that California law generally prohibits the deposition of a highly placed public officer absent a limited exception to that rule.  The two-pronged exception applies when: (1) the high-ranking official has personal knowledge relating to material issues in the lawsuit and (2) the deposing party demonstrates the… Continue Reading

Recent Court Decision Highlights Due Process Requirements for Building Enforcement Appeals

Posted in Recent Court Decisions
A recent court ruling in the First Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal may require cities to make changes to their procedures for hearing administrative appeals of substandard housing citations. In Lippman v. City of Oakland, a landlord who owns rental property in Oakland appealed citations he received from the City’s Building Services… Continue Reading

Court Upholds Election Official’s Refusal to Qualify Initiative Based on “Full Text” Rule

Posted in Elections, Recent Court Decisions
In Napa County, a group of voters proposed an initiative that would enact a number of measures to protect the quality of watersheds and oak resources.  In Wilson v. County of Napa, an appellate court recently found their initiative proposal defective because it did not comply with an important procedural requirement known as the “full text”… Continue Reading

Urgent: State Supreme Court Holds Emails or Text Messages Sent on Personal Accounts are Disclosable Public Records

Posted in Public Records Act, Recent Court Decisions
The California Supreme Court has issued its long-awaited decision on whether public employee emails or text messages, sent and stored on the employees’ personal accounts, are public records.  A unanimous Court held that such emails and text messages are disclosable records under the California Public Records Act.  (City of San Jose v. Superior Court, decided… Continue Reading

Court Holds that Obstruction of Views Does Not Inversely Condemn Private Property

Posted in Inverse Condemnation, Recent Court Decisions
In what can only be described as a classic example of a “First World problem,” a Beverly Hills couple sued their city for ruining their beautiful views.  From their hilltop estate, the coupled had for years enjoyed unobstructed views of Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Hills, and other iconic Southern California landmarks.  But when Sequoia redwood… Continue Reading

Court of Appeals Holds MMBA Fact-finding Applies to all Impasses, not Just Those Concerning MOUs

Posted in Employment Law, Recent Court Decisions, Unions
The Fourth District Court of Appeals issued two decisions yesterday that held that fact-finding under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act (“MMBA”) applies to all impasses between exclusive representatives and MMBA public agencies such as cities, counties, and special districts.  The results in these cases means that when impasse is reached in negotiations involving a city, county or special… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Divides Equally Over Union Fees Case

Posted in Employment Law, Recent Court Decisions, U.S. Supreme Court, Unions
Previously we wrote about Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (a link to our previous article is here), a case involving whether public-sector union fair share arrangements are invalid because they violate individual first amendment rights. Today, the Supreme court divided equally in deciding the case and issued a one-sentence decision affirming the Appellate Court decision and leaving… Continue Reading

In Public Records Case, State Supreme Court Holds Inadvertent Disclosure of Privileged Records Request Doesn’t Waive Privilege

Posted in Public Records Act, Recent Court Decisions
As this Blog previously noted, the State Supreme Court had before it two cases in which inadvertent disclosures of attorney-client privileged records were made in response to requests under the California Public Records Act (“CPRA”).  In both cases, the question was whether the mistaken releases waived the privileges.   (Our previous updates about these cases are… Continue Reading

Dual Use of Trail for Recreational and Non-Recreational Purposes Does Not Preclude Government Code Trail Immunity

Posted in Immunities, Recent Court Decisions
In a favorable ruling for public agencies, the Sixth Appellate District recently held that the Regents of the University of California were not liable for the death of a University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) student who was killed along the Great Meadow Parkway in a fatal bicycle accident as he was returning home from… Continue Reading

Court Holds Amendments to Heritage Tree Ordinance Are not Exempt from CEQA

Posted in CEQA, Recent Court Decisions
The California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) exempts governmental actions to protect natural resources and the environment from the requirement to prepare an environmental impact report.  In a recent case, a court clarified what standard agencies must meet to justify the use of these exemptions, known by practitioners as the “Class 7” and “Class 8” exemptions.… Continue Reading

Condemnation that Separates Land into Discrete Parts does not “Divide” Land Under Subdivision Map Act

Posted in Eminent Domain, Recent Court Decisions, Subdivisions
When government condemns a strip of land across a single parcel of property for a public improvement (such as a road), does the condemnation create two legal parcels (one on each side of the strip)?  No, says a recent appellate court opinion.  In Save Mount Diablo v. Contra Costa County, the court held that the… Continue Reading

State Supreme Court Expands Government Liability for Dangerous Condition of Public Property

Posted in Damages, Public Works, Recent Court Decisions, Streets and Sidewalks
A car driving along a road is sideswiped by another car, causing it to veer into a median and hit a tree.  Tragically, all but one of the car’s occupants is killed; the sole survivor is seriously injured.  Although the driver of the other car was clearly at fault, the city that maintained the tree… Continue Reading

New Public Records Case Holds that Mistaken Release of Privileged Documents Does Not Waive Privilege

Posted in Public Records Act, Recent Court Decisions
When an agency mistakenly releases privileged documents in response to a Public Records Act (“PRA”) request, it does not waive the privilege it possesses in those documents.  So ruled the San Francisco-Based First District Court of Appeal on July 31, 2015 in Newark Unified School District v. Superior Court.  The court’s ruling contradicts the December… Continue Reading

Court Holds Mistaken Agenda Reference Does Not Prevent Holding of Closed Session

Posted in Meetings, Recent Court Decisions
What happens when a meeting agenda refers to the wrong legal authority for a closed-session item an agency considers?  If it’s clear to the public what action the agency may take, there is no Brown Act violation.  According to a recent court opinion, which dismissed a lawsuit as “hypertechnical,” a mistaken code reference used to describe a… Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies How and When Local Agencies Must Communicate Denials of Cell Tower Applications

Posted in Recent Court Decisions, Zoning
A cellular carrier applies for entitlements to erect a cell tower that a city council finds objectionable.  The council wishes to deny the application.  How and when must the council communicate the reasons for the denial to the applicant? In T-Mobile South, LLC v. City of Roswell, the United States Supreme Court answered these questions. … Continue Reading

Court Holds New Pension Formulas Do Not Constitutionally Impair Existing MOUs

Posted in Employee Benefits, Recent Court Decisions, Retirement
The California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, recently held, in Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego County v. County of San Diego, that the implementation of new defined benefit formula provisions for “new members” does not impermissibly impair agreements with employee groups where the pre-existing agreements contain conflicting terms.… Continue Reading