January 31, 2014

Summary of January 29, 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 Wednesday, January 29, 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

State Department of Public Health v. Superior Court (Center for Investigative Reporting), S214679—Review Granted—January 29, 2014

This case concerns of a California Public Records Act request for citations issued by the State Department of Health to state facilities housing the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. The question presented is whether the Long-Term Care, Health, Safety, and Security Act’s public accessibility provisions for such citations can be reconciled with the confidentiality provisions of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act and the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, and, if so, how.

The Center for Investigative Reporting sent a Public Records Act request for copies of citations for violations of patient care standards that the State Department of Public Health issued to state facilities housing mentally ill and developmentally disabled patients. In response, the department produced extensively redacted citations, removing essentially all factual information. The trial court issued a writ of mandate directing the department to produce the citations without redaction, “except as to the names of individuals other than investigating officers.”

In a published opinion, State Department of Public Health v. Superior Court (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 966, the Court of Appeal, Third District, “harmonized” the conflict between the Lanterman Act’s confidentiality provisions and the Long-Term Care Act’s accessibility provisions, holding that the department must describe the nature of each violation with particularity—“for example, what was the harm, what was the abuse, what was the lack of respect or dignity afforded, and what was the action that the facility did or failed to do.

State Department of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates (County of Los Angeles), S214855—Review Granted [Werdegar, J., did not vote for review]—January 29, 2014

The question presented is whether the requirements in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits issued to real parties in interest by the regional water quality control board are state mandates subject to reimbursement under article XIII B, section 6, subdivision (b), of the California Constitution.

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board issued a stormwater sewer permit to real parties in interest Los Angeles County and designated cities within the county. The permit was governed by both the federal Clean Water Act and California’s Porter-Cologne Water Act.  The real parties in interest filed a test claim with the Commission on State Mandates to determine whether four of the permit’s requirements—to install trash receptacles at transit stops and to conduct inspections of commercial, industrial, and construction sites—constituted unfunded state mandates subject to reimbursement under the California Constitution.

The commission concluded the requirements constituted state mandates, but that only the trash receptacles required subvention. The Department of Finance filed a petition for writ of mandate in the trial court, which in turn ordered the commission to vacate its decision because it did not apply the applicable federal standard requiring the reduction of pollutants to the “maximum extent practicable.” In an opinion certified for publication, State Department of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates, B237153, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division One, agreed with the trial court, holding that the permit’s requirements were federal mandates implementing the objective of reducing pollutants to the maximum extent practicable.

Review Denied (with dissenting justices)



In re Alexis A., S215467—Depublished—January 29, 2014

The issue in this case was whether allegations that a father sexually abused an unrelated girl provide substantial evidence that the father’s own children are at risk of abuse, thereby providing the juvenile court grounds for removing the children from his custody.

The father of two boys, one seven years old and the other three, sexually abused an unrelated nine-year-old girl. Finding that the father’s conduct put his own children at risk, the trial court declared the sons dependents of the court and removed them from the father’s custody under Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b) and (d).

In its initial opinion, In re A.A., B240896, the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division One, reversed and remanded for a new trial. The California Supreme Court granted review and held the case pending its decision in In re I.J. (2013) 56 Cal.4th 766, which involved a similar issue.  In In re I.J. the Court held that “a father’s prolonged and egregious sexual abuse of his own child may provide substantial evidence to support a finding that all his children are juvenile court dependents,” and it vacated the Court of Appeal’s initial decision in this case with directions to reconsider in light of its holding.

The Court of Appeal then issued a revised opinion, In re A.A. (2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 725, reaffirming its reversal of the juvenile court’s orders. The Supreme Court directed the Reporter of Decisions not to publish the opinion in the Official Appellate Reports.

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