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, August 13, 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.
City of Montebello v. Vasquez (Arakelian Enterprises), S219052—Review Granted—August 13, 2014
This case presents the following issue: Did votes by city officials to approve a contract constitute conduct protected under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP statute) despite the allegation that they had a financial interest in the contract?
The City of Montebello Vasquez sued four city council members for violations of Government Code section 1090 based on the council members’ votes to award Arakelian Enterprises an exclusive waste hauling contract in the city. Arakelian had made significant contributions to the council members’ campaigns and interest groups. The defendants filed anti-SLAPP motions to strike the City’s complaint arguing their voting conduct was protected under the statute. The city opposed the motion invoking the anti-SLAPP statute’s “public enforcement exception.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16, subd. (d).) The trial court denied the defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion.
The Court of Appeal, Second District, Division One, affirmed In a published opinion, City of Montebello v. Vasquez (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1084. It held the public enforcement exception was not applicable, as this was not an action brought on behalf of the people of California nor was it an issue of statewide concern. The court went on to explain that because the defendants’ conduct did not implicate First Amendment protections (it was conduct arising out of their official duties, not the First Amendment), it did not qualify as protected conduct under the anti-SLAPP statute. Because no protected conduct was at issue, the court did not reach the question whether the City had demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits.
People v. American Contractors Indemnity Co., S219842—Review Granted and Held—August 13, 2014
The court granted review and ordered briefing deferred pending decision in People v. Safety National Casualty Ins. Co., S218712, which presents the following issue: May Penal Code section 977, subdivision (b)(1), be utilized to determine whether a proceeding at which a defendant charged with a felony failed to appear was a proceeding at which the defendant was “lawfully required” to appear for purposes of forfeiting bail under Penal Code section 1305, subdivision (a)(4)?
American Contractors Indemnity Company (American) and El Primo Bail Bonds posted a $30,000 bail bond for Jose Abraham Maldonado for felony charges. Although the court did not expressly order Maldonado to appear at a continued settlement conference, when he did not appear, the court ordered the bail bond forfeited and entered summary judgment on that basis. American moved to set aside the summary judgment and to discharge the forfeiture. It asserted that (1) the notice of the forfeiture was legally deficient, and (2) since the court had not expressly ordered Maldonado to appear at the conference, he had not failed to appear at a hearing he was “lawfully required” to attend under Penal Code section 1305. The trial court denied American’s motion.
In a published opinion, People v. American Contractors Indemnity Company (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1059, the Court of Appeal, First District, Division One, affirmed. It held that because American is a sophisticated, licensed insurer who routinely works with section 1305, the defects in the notice (not citing the statutory provisions leading to forfeiture and not citing what relief is available and the time restrictions on seeking relief) would not render the notice deficient. The court further held that Penal Code section 977, subdivision (b)(1), is sufficient to satisfy section 1305’s requirement that a defendant’s presence be “lawfully required” to justify bail forfeiture.
Order to Show Cause Issued
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association v. Bowen (Legislature of the State of California), S220289—Order to Show Cause Issued—August 11, 2014
Original proceeding. The Court issued an order directing the parties to show cause why the relief prayed for in the petition for writ of mandate should not be granted. This case involves the validity of proposed Proposition 49 for the November 2014 General Election — specifically, whether the Legislature had the authority to place on the ballot a non-binding measure in the form of an advisory question seeking the views of the electorate. We have blogged about this case before (see these posts).
Review Denied (with dissenting justices)