Actions of note at yesterday’s Supreme Court conference included:

  • Supreme Court might open Girardi’s State Bar disciplinary files.
  • The court agreed to hear People ex rel. Garcia-Brower v. Kolla’s Inc., concerning California’s whistleblower statute.  Unusually for a review-granted case, the appeal was decided below with briefing from only one side and by an unpublished opinion.  It followed a default judgment in the Labor Commissioner’s action for damages and statutory penalties against a since-closed night club after the club owner fired a bartender and threatened to report her to “immigration authorities” when she complained about unpaid wages.  The Fourth District, Division Three, was divided about whether the employee’s complaint was a “disclosure” to a private employer of a violation of law.  The majority said it wasn’t because there was no allegation the club owner was unaware that wages were owed.  The dissent said that’s “an incorrect and unduly restrictive definition of the term disclosure.”  It also “respectfully urge[d] the Supreme Court to grant review because (1) this case involves important recurring issues of whistleblower protection and wage theft under threat of a report to immigration authorities, and (2) the majority opinion’s interpretation of [the statute] is contrary to the intent of the Legislature and the rules of statutory construction, is based on outdated law, is in conflict with existing Court of Appeal authority, takes away an issue from the trier of fact, imposes an unprecedented and unjustified pleading requirement, and unduly burdens an aggrieved whistleblower employee’s right to relief under the statute.”
  • The court also granted review in Los Angeles Unified School District v. Superior Court, where the Second District, Division Three, held in a published opinion that public entities are not subject to treble damages under Code of Civil Procedure section 340.1(b)(1), which allows victims of childhood sexual assault to recover those damages “against a defendant who is found to have covered up the sexual assault . . . , unless prohibited by another law.”  The appellate court found the prohibition in Government Code section 818, which provides, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a public entity is not liable for damages awarded under Section 3294 of the Civil Code [punitive damages] or other damages imposed primarily for the sake of example and by way of punishing the defendant.”  (Link added.)  Division Three also criticized reasoning in one of its own opinions — Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. Superior Court (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 261.
  • After the First District, Division Two, summarily denied a writ petition, the Supreme Court granted review in Turo, Inc. v. Superior Court (People) and transferred the matter to the appellate court with directions to hear the writ petition on its merits.  A reply to the answer to the petition for review (the only document I could find online) says the issue is “whether a web-based company that facilitates car sharing agreements between private car owners and other users is ‘in the business of’ renting vehicles and thus a ‘rental car company’ under California law.”
  • Justices Goodwin Liu and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar recorded dissenting votes from the denial of review in Stand Up for California! v. State of California.  It’s a matter of different casino + referendum = different result.  The appeal had been remanded to the Fifth District for reconsideration in light of last year’s Supreme Court decision in United Auburn Indian Community of Auburn Rancheria v. Newsom (2020) 10 Cal.5th 538, where a 5-2 Supreme Court cleared the way for an Indian tribe to have a casino, holding the Governor has the authority to give the concurrence required by federal law to allow gaming on off-reservation lands taken into federal trust for an Indian tribe.  In Stand Up, however, the appellate court in a published opinion distinguished United Auburn because it said the state’s voters in 2014 had impliedly revoked the Governor’s concurrence regarding a different casino when, by referendum, they “rejected the Legislature’s ratification of the tribal-state compact for gaming at the [casino] site” at issue.  The appeal started over seven years ago.
  • The court denied review in People v. Beltcher, but Justice Cuéllar recorded a vote to grant the petition.  The First District, Division Two, in an unpublished opinion, affirmed a second degree murder conviction, rejecting claims of, according to the opinion, “BatsonWheeler error, instructional errors, errors in imposing certain fines and fees and error in denying her counsel’s request for a second closing argument, or surrebuttal.”  The opinion discusses the BatsonWheeler issue first and in greatest detail, but, because Justice Cuéllar’s vote is unexplained, it’s not clear which issue or issues got his attention.
  • There was a smorgasbord of criminal case grant-and-holds, 15 matters holding for 10 different cases:  One more holding for a decision in People v. Tacardon (see here), two more holding for People v. Tirado (see here), three more holding for People v. Lopez (see here), four more holding for People v. Strong (see here), one more holding for People v. Williams (see here), one more holding for People v. Aguayo (see here and here), one more holding for People v. Duke (see here), one more holding for People v. Padilla and  People v. Federico (see here), and one holding for People v. Braden (see here).
  • There were five grant-and-transfers in cases that would have been grant-and-holds if not for the fact that what would have been the lead case had already been recently decided.  Ratcliff v. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles was sent back to the Second District, Division Five, for reconsideration in light of the July decision in Bonni v. St. Joseph Health System; in a published opinion, the appellate court had affirmed the denial of an anti-SLAPP motion in an action regarding a priest’s alleged molestation of children.  Four cases were returned for reconsideration in light of the decision in People v. Lewis, which was also decided in July.  By our count, there are now over 300 Lewis grant-and-holds that the court will dispose of in the coming weeks.