The following is our summary of the Supreme Court’s actions on petitions for review in civil cases from the Court’s conference on Wednesday, September 10, 2014. The summary includes those civil cases in which (1) review has been granted, (2) review has been denied but one or more justices has voted for review, or (3) the Court has ordered depublished an opinion of the Court of Appeal.
Wheatherford v. City of San Rafael, S219567—Review Granted—September 10, 2014
This case presents the following issue: Must a plaintiff have paid or be liable to pay a property tax to a government entity in order to bring a taxpayer waste action against that entity under Code of Civil Procedure section 526a (section 526a), or can the payment of other taxes confer standing?
The plaintiff filed a complaint challenging the enforcement practices of the City of San Rafael with respect to the impoundment of vehicles. In her complaint, the plaintiff asserted she had taxpayer standing under section 526a because she paid sales tax, gasoline tax, and water and sewage fees in the City of San Rafael. The plaintiff conceded that appellate courts have twice held that payment of property tax was necessary in order for a party to have taxpayer standing under section 526a (see Torres v. City of Yorbal Linda (1993) 13 Cal.App.4th 1035; Cornelius v. Los Angeles County etc. Authority (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1761); the plaintiff did not pay property taxes. Despite the holdings in Torres and Cornelius, the plaintiff argued she nevertheless had taxpayer standing under Tobe v. City of Santa Ana (1995) 9 Cal.4th 1069. There, the California Supreme Court held two homeless plaintiffs had taxpayer standing under section 526a. Further, the plaintiff asserted she had taxpayer standing under section 526a because (1) the plain language of the statute establishes that any tax payment is sufficient for taxpayer standing, (2) the legislative intent of the statute supports her broad interpretation of 526a, and (3) a narrow interpretation of 526a that requires the payment of a property tax violates constitutional principles of equal protection. The trial court rejected the plaintiff’s position and entered a stipulated judgment of dismissal.
In a published opinion, Wheatherford v. City of San Rafael (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 460, the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division One, affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court rejected the plaintiff’s reliance on Tobe and her effort to distinguish Torres and Cornelius. The court made clear that Cornelius, decided one year after Tobe, was the controlling precedent. Moreover, the court acknowledged that, although the Supreme Court in Tobe held the homeless plaintiffs had taxpayer standing under 526a, “[t]here [was] no indication . . . that the Court considered the issue of what taxes plaintiffs had paid to enjoy this standing . . . [t]he main focus of the case was geared toward separate constitutional concerns.” Cornelius, on the other hand, directly answered the question and “held that proof of payment of real property tax is required by section 526a; payment of sales, gasoline, and income taxes will not suffice.” Accordingly, since the plaintiff did not pay property taxes, she does not have taxpayer status under section 526a.
In re Abbigail, S220187—Review Granted—September 10, 2014
This case presents the following issue: Do rules 5.482(c) and 5.484(c)(2) of the California Rules of Court conflict with Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.1, subdivision (a), by requiring the juvenile court to apply the provision of the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. § 1901 et seq.) to a child found by a tribe to be eligible for tribal membership if the child has not yet obtained formal enrollment?
A juvenile court placed Abbigail A. in the custody of her maternal grandmother. The court then directed the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Safety (DHHS) to enroll Abbigail in the tribe of her paternal great-aunt and great-grandmother even though her presumed biological father was not himself a member of the tribe. The directive was ordered under California Rules of Court, rules 5.428(c) and 5.484(c)(2) that include certain affirmative duties owed by agencies to children who are eligible for tribal membership but are not “Indian children” as defined in the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and state law. Under the ICWA and state law, a minor is an “Indian child” if she is a member of the tribe herself or is a biological child of a tribe member and eligible for tribal membership. The DHHS appealed, asserting that “federal law preempts the extension of services in the two rules [Cal. Rules of Court, rules 5.482(c) and 5.484(c)(2)] to minors who are not Indian children under the ICWA.” Moreover, the rules are inconsistent with California’s own state definitions of an Indian child for purposes of ICWA protections.
In a published opinion, In re Abbigail A. (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1450, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed with directions to enter a new judgment that did not provide Abbigail any of the protections afforded an Indian child under the ICWA and state law, until either she or her father were enrolled in an Indian tribe. The court agreed with DHHS’s point, concluding that the “two rules [were] inconsistent with the legislative definition of the class of protected Indian children, and therefore the Judicial Council lacked authority to expand the definition.” The court further emphasized the legislature’s clear intent of developing a limited definition for “Indian child.” Accordingly, since neither Abbigail nor her father were tribal members, the juvenile court did not have the authority to order the DHHS to make active efforts to enroll her in the tribe.
Review Denied (with dissenting justices)
Rea v. Blue Shield of California, S220084—Review Denied [Baxter, J., voting for review]—September 10, 2014
This case presents the following issue: Does the California Mental Health Parity Act of 1999 require health care service providers to cover “medically necessary” residential treatment for the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa when the patient’s health plan does not cover such treatment?
Two women suffering from eating disorders were advised that residential treatment was medically necessary. Their Blue Shield of California health plans covered the treatment of mental illness but excluded residential treatment. To obtain residential treatment, the women filed suit, arguing that the Parity Act—which requires coverage for the “medically necessary treatment of severe mental illnesses . . . under the same terms and conditions applied to other medical conditions,” such as physical illnesses—should be read to include residential treatment for their eating disorders because it was “medically necessary,” even though their plans had no residential treatment analog for physical illnesses.
The trial court sustained Blue Shield’s demurrer without leave to amend because the Knox-Keene Health Care Service Plan Act of 1975, of which the Parity Act is a part, requires coverage of physical illnesses to consist only of “basic health care services,” which did not include residential treatment. In a published opinion, Rea v. Blue Shield of California (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1209, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division One, reversed, holding that the principle of parity does not require identical treatment of mental and physical illnesses but does require “treatment of mental illnesses sufficient to reach the same quality of care afforded physical illnesses.”
Young v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, S220292—Review Denied [Corrigan, J., voting for review]—September 10, 2014
This case presents the following issue: May a county jail correctional sergeant obtain workers’ compensation for an off-duty injury sustained while exercising when a departmental order required correctional officers to “maintain themselves in good physical condition so that they can handle the strenuous physical contacts often required of a law enforcement officer”?
A county jail correctional sergeant sustained an injury while performing jumping jacks at home as part of his regular warm-up exercise regimen. The workers’ compensation judge found the injury compensable under Labor Code section 3600, subdivision (a)(9), which precludes compensation for injuries arising out of “voluntary participation in any off-duty recreational, social, or athletic activity not constituting part of the employee’s work-related duties, except where these activities are a reasonable expectancy of, or are expressly or impliedly required by, the employment.”
The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board annulled that decision, concluding the sergeant’s belief that he was expected to engage in a physical fitness regimen was not objectively reasonable. In a published decision, Young v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 472, the Third District Court of Appeal disagreed, annulled the WCAB’s decision, and remanded for further proceedings.