June 27, 2013

Summary of June 26, 2013 conference report for civil cases

Review Granted

City of Los Angeles v. County of Kern, S210150—Petition for Review Granted; limited issues—June 27, 2013

This was an action by a city, sanitation districts, and others to enjoin implementation of a county’s measure prohibiting the dumping of biosolids on county land. The plaintiffs alleged preemption of the County measure by the California Integrated Waste Management Act, and asserted various constitutional claims. The trial court granted a preliminary injunction and the county appealed. The county argued on appeal that the plaintiffs cannot succeed on the merits because the state court complaint was not timely filed. The county relied on 28 U.S.C. section 1367(d), a federal statute that governs the limitations period for refiling a dependent claim in state court after it has been dismissed by a federal court.

According to the Supreme Court’s docket, the question presented is limited to the following: “Does 28 U.S.C. section 1367(d) require a party to refile its state law claims within 30 days of their dismissal from a federal action in which they had been presented, or does it instead suspend the running of the limitations period during the pendency of the claims in federal court and for 30 days after their dismissal?” The Court of Appeal, Fifth District, held in a published opinion, City of Los Angeles v. County of Kern (2013) 214 Cal. App. 4th 394, that the statute of limitations was suspended while the federal court action was pending.

Vasquez v. Greene Motors, S210439—Review Granted & Held—June 27, 2013

The Court granted review and deferred further action in this matter pending consideration and disposition of a related issues in Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Co., S199119 (see Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.512(d)(2)). Sanchez presents the question whether the Federal Arbitration Act, as interpreted in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion (2011) 563 U.S. __, 131 S.Ct. 1740, preempts state law rules invalidating mandatory arbitration provisions in a consumer contract as procedurally and substantively unconscionable? Sanchez is fully briefed and awaiting oral argument. In light of the minimal level of procedural unconscionability, and the absence of significant substantive unconscionability, the court reversed the trial court’s denial of the petition to compel arbitration.

Here, the Court of Appeal, First District, Division One, held in a published opinion, Vasquez v. Greene Motors, Inc. (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 1172, that: (1) the contract at issue had a low degree of procedural unconscionability; (2) the buyer failed to establish that requiring him to pay his own costs of arbitration was substantively unconscionable; (3) a limited right to appeal to a three-arbitrator panel was not substantively unconscionable; and (4) exempting of remedy of repossession and disputes within jurisdictional amount of small claims court was not substantively unconscionable. In light of the minimal level of procedural unconscionability, and the absence of significant substantive unconscionability, the Court of Appeal reverse the trial court’s denial of the petition to compel arbitration.

Monterey Peninsula Water Management Dist. v. California Public Utilities Commission, S208838—Petition for Review Granted

This case involves review of an administrative decision of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), a class of cases over which the Court has original jurisdiction. (Pub. Util. C., § 1756, subd. (f).) According to the PUC’s answer to the petition for review, 2013 WL 1904905, the petitioner water district challenges the lawfulness of Commission Decision “which exercised the Commission’s . . . authority to approve the costs and charges that a regulated public utility may seek to recover from its customers.” (Cal. Const., art XII, §§ 4, 6.) Specifically, the PUC “denied an application by California-American Water Company (‘Cal-Am’) and subsequent proposed settlement agreement by Cal-Am, the District, and the Division of Ratepayer Advocates (‘DRA’), requesting recovery of the Distric[t]’s proposed User Fee through Cal-Am’s utility bills.” According to the PUC, the questions presented are: (1) Was the PUC’s action lawful in that it did not assert jurisdiction over the Water District, nor impermissibly interfere with the District’s authority to assess and collect fees, taxes, and charges? and (2) Did the Commission correctly interpret Public Utilities Code section 451 to provide the PUC with authority to review the reasonableness of the proposed User Fee?

Review Denied (with dissenting justices)




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