February 14, 2014

Summary of February 11, 2014 conference report for civil cases

The following is our summary of the Supreme Court’s actions on petitions for review in civil cases from the Court’s conference on Tuesday, February 11, 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 Granted

In re Brianna M., S214955—Review Granted—February 11, 2014

This case presents the following issue: If one man seeking presumptive father status in a dependency action has completed a voluntary declaration of paternity under Family Code section 7573, and another man seeking presumptive father status has satisfied the criteria of Family Code section 7611, subdivision (d), is the voluntary declaration of paternity controlling as a matter of law?

The biological father of an eight-year-old girl and the man who had raised the girl since she was an infant each sought presumptive father status at a dependency hearing. Both men arguably met the statutory criteria for presumptive father status: the biological father had executed a voluntary declaration of paternity when the girl was born, and the man who had raised the girl had a “presumption” of paternity because he had “receive[d] the child into his home and openly [held] out the child as his natural child.” The juvenile court granted presumptive father status to the man who had raised the girl because he had a well-established parental relationship with her, while the biological father did not.

In an opinion certified for publication, In re Brianna M. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1025, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Four, affirmed, holding that, “for dependency purposes, a voluntary declaration of paternity executed by one man does not, as a matter of law, extinguish another man’s presumed father status.”

Marriage of Davis, S215050—Review Granted—February 11, 2014

The Court limited review to the following issue: For the purpose of establishing the date of separation under Family Code section 771, may a couple be “living separate and apart” when they reside in the same residence?

In a published decision, In re Marriage of Davis (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1109, the Court of Appeal, First District, Division One, held that a couple living in the same residence may be “living separate and apart” for purposes of establishing the date of separation under Family Code section 771. In so ruling, the court disagreed with the majority in In re Marriage of Norviel (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 1152, that “living apart physically is an indispensable threshold requirement to separation.” Rather the court held it proper to use the two part test for legal separation requiring: (1) “a parting of the ways and have no present intention of  resuming the marital relations,” and (2) “conduct evidencing a complete and final break in the marital relationship.” The Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court’s holding that the two part test was met.

State Department of State Hospitals v. Superior Court, S215132—Review Granted —February 11, 2014

The questions presented are: (1) Did the state comply with the requirement of the Sexually Violent Predator Act (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600 et seq.) that it conduct a “full evaluation” of an inmate potentially qualifying as a “sexually violent predator” prior to the inmate’s release? (2) Did the Court of Appeal err in ruling, as a matter of law, that plaintiff could not establish that defendants’ actions were a proximate cause of her injuries?

In a published opinion, State Department of State Hospitals v. Superior Court (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1503, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Three, held: (1) public entities and their employees are not immune from suit under Government Code Section 845.8, subdivision (a), for beaching mandatory duties; (2)  under the SVPA, the state does not have a mandatory duty to conduct a “full evaluation” or an in-person evaluation for immunity purposes; (3) the state has a non-discretionary mandatory duty to designate two psychiatrists or psychologists, or a combination, to evaluate each inmate for release; (4) the connection between the defendants’ failure to comply with the SVPA requirement and the plaintiffs’ injuries was too attenuated for proximate cause to exist; and (5) the victim’s sister, as a citizen of California, has standing to seek a writ of mandate to compel the state to comply with the mandatory duties imposed by the SVPA.

Review Denied (with dissenting justices)



Frye v. County of Butte, S215699—Depublished Court of Appeal Opinion—February 11, 2014

This case involved two consolidated proceedings arising from the seizure by animal control officers of horses they believed to be at risk.  The issues in this case were: (1) whether a document entitled “Statement of Decision” was the final judgment of the first trial court resolving all issues presented by the initial petition; (2) whether the parties timely filed their notices of appeal and cross-appeal; (3) whether the “law of the case” doctrine bound the second trial court to the standards set by the first trial court; and (4) whether the administrative hearing was properly conducted on remand.

In Frye v. County of Butte (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 1051, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled, on the first issue, that the “Statement of Decision” decided all necessary issues, as the  first three causes of action were adequately addressed by ordering new administrative hearings, and that ruling “impliedly rejected the claim in the fourth cause of action that [Penal Code] section 597.1 was facially unconstitutional, because the new hearings were designed in part to determine the lawfulness of the County’s actions in these particular cases.”  On the second issue, the court also held the “Statement of Decision” was the final judgment and, therefore, the parties had not timely appealed.  The court also held the second judgment, issued nearly one year later by the first trial court, was a nullity, and did not extend the time for appeal.  On the third issue, the court held the “law of the case” doctrine only applies to prior appellate court rulings, not to trial court rulings.  Regarding the fourth issue, the court held the administrative hearing was properly conducted on remand, the hearing officers determined the evidence demonstrated reasonable cause for the officers to believe immediate seizure was necessary, and no new evidence was needed to comply with the first trial court’s ruling.

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