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

  • Tax case . . . or not. The court granted review in Morgan v. Ygrene Energy Fund, Inc., where the Fourth District, Division One, Court of Appeal published opinion upheld dismissal of a lawsuit for failure to exhaust property tax administrative remedies. But the plaintiffs didn’t sue any taxing authorities, or any public entity for that matter. The case concerns financing for anti-climate-change improvements to the plaintiffs’ homes under California’s Property Assessed Clean Energy program. Over-simplifying a bit, the improvements were made by the defendant for-profit companies, funded by loans backed by municipal bonds that the companies had bought, and the loans were repaid by property tax assessments on the plaintiffs’ homes. The plaintiffs — all seniors — alleged violations of, among other things, Civil Code section 1804.1(j), which prohibits a seller from taking a security interest in the primary residence of anyone over 65 years old. Although saying “[t]he liability theories are intriguing,” Division One resisted addressing the merits of the lawsuit, relying solely on the exhaustion-of-remedies issue.
  • Druid rights. Acting on a pro per habeas corpus petition, In re Rupe, the court ordered a hearing in superior court to determine whether the prisoner is “entitled to relief on the grounds: (1) preventing him from eating and purchasing pork products while participating in the Religious Meat Alternate Program (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, § 3054.4) violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the free exercise clauses of the state and federal Constitutions, and Penal Code sections 2600 and 5009; and (2) providing Jewish and Muslim inmates with free accommodation for their religiously mandated diets (see Cal. Code Regs., tit. 15, §§ 3054.4, 3054.5), while not providing such accommodation to inmates practicing Druidry, violates the equal protection clauses of the state and federal Constitutions.” (Link added.) Justice Joshua Groban was the only justice who did not vote to issue an order to show cause.
  • Time to appeal. Richmond Shoreline Alliance v. City of Richmond is a grant-and-hold for Meinhardt v. City of Sunnyvale, which will decide whether the time to appeal starts when the superior court enters an order denying a petition for writ of administrative mandamus or on the later filing of a judgment that restates what was in the order (see here). In an unpublished memorandum opinion (see here), the First District, Division Five, held it’s the former and dismissed the appeal in Richmond Shoreline Alliance as untimely.
  • Mayhem. The court denied review in People v. Lezama over the dissenting recorded vote of Justice Groban. A divided unpublished opinion by the Second District, Division Six, held substantial evidence supported a mayhem conviction based on the infliction of multiple close-range fatal gunshot wounds, including the necessary evidence of a permanent disfiguring injury to a live victim. The majority found “sufficient evidence” that the victim “was alive after he was shot multiple times,” but nonetheless said, “we express our concern regarding the propriety of charging mayhem under these circumstances where the victim died shortly after injury and the defendant was also charged, and ultimately convicted of, murder for the same acts supporting mayhem.” The concern was that the conviction “stretches the rationale and intended purpose behind criminalizing mayhem, which is to preserve and protect the appearance and integrity of the victim’s person.” The dissent asserted that when the victim “died within the hour of the shooting . . . [t]he potential mayhem conviction died with him.”
  • Factual innocence. Justices Goodwin Liu and Kelli Evans recorded dissenting votes from the denial of review in People v. O’Day. A 2-1 published opinion by the First District, Division Three, affirmed the denial, as untimely, of a petition for a finding of factual innocence that was filed 12 years after a magistrate dismissed murder charges against the defendant following a preliminary hearing. The majority concluded the superior court didn’t abuse its discretion in finding a lack of the statutorily required “good cause” for the filing delay, but the dissent “would interpret good cause more generously than do my colleagues,” asserting that “good cause excuses the decade-long delay attributed to petitioner being unaware that California law allows for such a thing as a petition for factual innocence, or indeed that the law offers any potential remedy for the difficulties his arrest continues to cause.”
  • Vaccine mandate. The court denied a request to depublish the Fourth District, Division One, opinion in Let Them Choose v. San Diego Unified School District. Division One held a school district could not require COVID vaccinations for students over 15 years old when the Legislature has not enacted such a mandate. It agreed with the superior court that “there was a ‘statewide standard for school vaccination,’ leaving ‘no room for each of the over 1,000 individual school districts to impose a patchwork of additional vaccine mandates.’ ”
  • Criminal case grant-and-holds. There were two criminal case grant-and-holds: Another one waiting for a decision in People v. Reyes (see here) and one on hold for both People v. Lynch (see here) and People v. Catarino (see here).