At the Supreme Court’s Wednesday conference yesterday, actions of note included:

  • In Brennon B. v. Superior Court, a case alleging disability discrimination (apparently including sexual assaults) against an autistic student, the Supreme Court will decide whether a school district can be sued under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.  After a detailed examination of the Unruh Act’s history, and disagreeing with a line of federal district court decisions, the published opinion of the First District, Division One, Court of Appeal answered in the negative two issues it said were of first impression in the state’s appellate courts:  “(1) whether a public school district is a business establishment for purposes of the Unruh Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code, § 51), and (2) even if a school district is not a business establishment, whether it can nevertheless be sued under the Unruh Act where, as here, the alleged discriminatory conduct is actionable under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).”  The appellate court also concluded, however, that school districts are subject to suit under a number of other federal and state “stringent anti-discrimination laws.”
  • The court denied review in Conservatorship of O.B., but it depublished the opinion of the Second District, Division Six.  Last summer, the Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision in the case, holding that when the heightened clear-and-convincing-evidence standard of proof applies at trial, it also affects the way an appellate court assesses the evidence.  [Disclosure:  Horvitz & Levy filed an amicus curiae brief in that first matter.]  On remand, the appellate court found substantial evidence to support establishment of a limited conservatorship under the standard of appellate review the Supreme Court had announced.  It also concluded the superior court had not modified the appellant’s education plan or violated conservatorship law principles.
  • The court, somewhat belatedly, invited the Insurance Commissioner to file an amicus curiae brief in McHugh v. Protective Life Insurance.  Review was granted in January 2020, five amicus briefs were filed in December, the parties filed responses to those briefs last month, and the court sent out an oral argument letter three weeks ago.  In McHugh, the Court of Appeal held that a 2013 change in California statutory law — requiring life insurance policies to give a 60-day grace period before they can lapse for nonpayment of premiums — didn’t apply retroactively to a policy issued in 2005 and that lapsed within months after the new law took effect.  The issues, as summarized by Supreme Court staff, are:  (1) Were the provisions of Insurance Code sections 10113.71 and 10113.72 intended by the Legislature to apply, in whole or in part, to life insurance policies in force as of January 1, 2013, regardless of the original date of issuance of those policies?  (2) Did the lower courts in this case properly rely upon private opinions of Department of Insurance staff counsel?  (See Ins. Code, § 12921.9; Gov. Code, § 11340.5; Heckart v. A-J Self Storage, Inc. (2018) 4 Cal.5th 749 [see here].)
  • The court dismissed the defendant’s petition for review in Fioravanti v. Superior Court.  Judging by the three cases cited in the court’s order, the dismissal was because the defendant is now a fugitive.
  • There were 13 criminal case grant-and-holds:  six more holding for a decision in People v. Lewis (see here), three more holding for People v. Hernandez (see here), one holding for Hernandez and People v. Esquivel (see here and here), one more holding for In re Vaquera (see here), one more holding for People v. Raybon (see here), and one holding for People v. Hendrix (see here).
  • The court granted review in a case and transferred it back to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration in light of the December decision in In re Gadlin.