April 24, 2014
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, April 23, 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.
Review Denied (with dissenting justices)
Gonzalez v. Santa Clara County Department of Social Services, S216797—Review Denied [Werdegar, J., voting for review]—April 23, 2014
The questions presented were: (1) whether the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act’s (CANRA) definitions of what constitutes “willful harming or injuring of a child” (Pen. Code, § 11165.3) and “unlawful corporal punishment or injury” (Pen. Code, § 11165.4) incorporate the parental privilege to impose reasonable physical discipline upon a child; (2) whether a hearing officer abuses discretion and denies a parent a fair hearing by preventing the allegedly abused child from testifying without a determination of good cause for the exclusion, supported by evidence; and (3) whether a hearing officer has the duty to evaluate the evidence and decide whether a child abuse allegation is substantiated, independent of a social worker’s investigation.
The Court of Appeal, Sixth District, held, in a published opinion, Gonzalez v. Santa Clara County Department of Social Services (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 72, that: (1) CANRA’s definitions incorporate the parental privilege to impose reasonable physical discipline and, therefore, a hearing officer must determine whether the privilege applies when determining if a report of child abuse is substantiated by the evidence; (2) a hearing officer abuses his or her discretion and denies a parent a fair hearing by excluding the allegedly abused child’s testimony without a finding of good cause for the exclusion, supported by the evidence; and (3) a hearing officer has a duty to independently evaluate the evidence presented by a social worker’s investigation in order to decide whether the allegations of child abuse are substantiated and reportable.