Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
by
As the foundation for the application of Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 to this case, the Court of Appeal held that an unincorporated association has standing to appear in an election contest as a representative of its members if (1) its members live in the area affected by the outcome of the election, (2) its members would suffer injury from an adverse outcome in the election contest, and (3) the questions involved were of a public nature.In this case, the court held that the unincorporated association met these requirements where it is undisputed that the patients residing at CSH-Coalinga are in an area affected by the referendum vote on Measure C; the members of DACE would have been harmed in at least two ways if the election contest was successful; and the specific challenge of illegal votes raised in this election contest involves questions of a public nature. The court held that the trial court's analysis of DACE's right to intervene in the election contest in the order denying the motion for attorney fees did not accurately reflect California law governing an unincorporated association and (2) DACE qualified for permissive intervention. Furthermore, as a de facto intervenor and based on its unique contribution to the evidence and argument presented in the trial court, DACE qualified as a party for purposes of section 1021.5's "successful party" requirement. The court rejected the remaining contentions, reversing the order denying the motion for attorney fees. View "Vosburg v. County of Fresno" on Justia Law

by
In May 2020, the chairs of the California Assembly and Senate committees that consider election-related matters prepared a formal letter to Governor Gavin Newsom indicating they were working on legislation to ensure Californians could vote by mail in light of the emergency occasioned by COVID-19. The Governor issued Executive Order No. N-64-20 on May 8, 2020, which required all voters to be provided vote-by-mail ballots. That order affirmed, however, that the administration continued to work “in partnership with the Secretary of State and the Legislature on requirements for in-person voting opportunities and how other details of the November election will be implemented” and “[n]othing in this Order is intended, or shall be construed, to limit the enactment of legislation on that subject.” The order was signed on June 3, 2020. The issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review concerned an order of the Sutter County Superior Court, entered on June 12, 2020, granting a temporary restraining order against the Executive Order, finding it constituted “an impermissible use of legislative powers in violation of the California Constitution and the laws of the State of California.” The Court of Appeal determined there was no basis for the superior court to grant real parties in interest relief using ex parte procedures prescribed by California law. "The hearing on the ex parte application, conducted only one day after the underlying action was filed in superior court, was held without proper notice to the Governor or his appearance. Apart from these procedural deficiencies, real parties in interest also failed to make the requisite substantive showing for use of an ex parte proceeding. In short, the real parties in interest failed to present competent evidence establishing imminent harm from the Governor’s executive order requiring immediate action." View "Newsome v. Superior Court (Gallagher)" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that the City of Santa Monica's system of at-large voting to elect its City Council discriminated against Latinos. The trial court agreed and ordered the City to switch to district-based voting.The Court of Appeal reversed and entered judgment for the City, holding that the City violated neither the California Voting Rights Act nor the Constitution. In this case, the City correctly notes that plaintiff offered no valid proof of dilution in order to prove that the City's at-large method impaired Latinos' ability to elect candidates of their choice or to influence the outcome of an election as a result of the dilution of Latino voting rights. Furthermore, plaintiffs failed to prove that the City adopted or maintained its system for the purpose of discriminating against minorities. View "Pico Neighborhood Assoc. v. City of Santa Monica" on Justia Law

by
In the November 2018 general election, 61percent of San Francisco voters voted for Proposition C, entitled “Additional Business Taxes to Fund Homeless Services.” San Francisco filed suit to establish that Proposition C has been validly enacted through the voters’ initiative power. The City’s complaint against “All Persons Interested in the Matter of Proposition C” was answered by three defendants: the California Business Properties Association, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, and the California Business Roundtable (the Associations). The Associations allege that Proposition C is invalid because it imposes a special tax approved by less than two-thirds of the voting electorate as required by Propositions 13 and 218. (California Constitution Art. XIII A, section 4 & Art. XIII C, section 2(d).)The trial court granted the City judgment on the pleadings. The court of appeal affirmed, citing two California Supreme Court cases interpreting other language from Proposition 13 and Proposition 218. The supermajority vote requirements that those propositions added to the state constitution coexist with and do not displace the people’s power to enact initiatives by majority vote. Because a majority of San Francisco voters who cast ballots in November 2018 favored Proposition C, the initiative measure was validly enacted. View "City and County of San Francisco v. All Persons Interested in Proposition C" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner Bill Sandlin filed a petition for mandamus relief to challenge the candidate statements submitted by Real Parties in Interest Ed Pope, Jaci Woods, and Frank McGill (Real Parties) in their candidacy for positions on the Irvine City Council. Petitioner alleged Real Parties’ candidate statements would mislead voters about the current city council’s actions and the facts concerning a failed referendum to relocate the site of a planned state veterans cemetery. Real Parties opposed the petition and filed a special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute. While Real Parties’ anti-SLAPP motion was pending, the trial court denied the mandamus petition in its entirety, finding Petitioner’s challenge to Pope’s candidate statement was untimely, and finding he failed to establish Woods’s or McGill’s candidate statements were false, misleading, or otherwise barred by the Elections Code. The court then denied Real Parties’ anti-SLAPP motion as moot, and further found it was barred by the public interest litigation exemption to the anti-SLAPP statute. After reviewing their anti-SLAPP motion de novo, the Court of Appeal concluded the motion was not moot, the public interest litigation exemption was inapplicable, and the motion should have been granted. View "Sandlin v. McLaughlin" on Justia Law

by
Appellants Eric Early and his election committee, Eric Early for Attorney General 2018 (collectively, Early), appealed the denial of their petition for writ of mandate to preclude respondent Xavier Becerra from running for Attorney General in 2018. Early contended that Becerra, appointed Attorney General by former Governor Brown in 2016, was not eligible for the office under Government Code section 12503. Becerra was an “inactive” member of the California State Bar from 1991 to the end of 2016. Government Code section 12503 provided: “No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.” Early argues that an “inactive” attorney may not practice law in California and therefore is not “admitted to practice” under Government Code section 12503. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding both active and inactive attorneys were members of the State Bar. The phrase “admitted to practice” referred to the event of admission to the bar and the status of being admitted, and did not require engagement in the “actual” or “active” practice of law. Becerra did not cease to be “admitted to practice” in California when he voluntarily changed his status to “inactive.” View "Early v. Becerra" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this appeal was how long a board of supervisors must wait before reenacting the essential feature of the protested ordinance. The Court of Appeal interpreted Elections Code section 9145 to mean a board of supervisors may reenact the essential feature of the repealed ordinance after there has been a material change in circumstances. The court held that a change in circumstances is material if an objectively reasonable person would consider the new circumstances significant or important in making a decision about the subject matter of the ordinance.Applying this statutory interpretation in this case, the court held that the Board did not violate section 9145 when it enacted the May 2016 moratorium on new marijuana dispensaries or subsequently banned dispensaries, and thus the ordinance banning dispensaries is enforceable. Accordingly, the court reversed the permanent injunction portion of the judgment. View "County of Kern v. Alta Sierra Holistic etc." on Justia Law

by
The San Diego County (County) Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the County's general land use plan, which would have allowed for the development of over 2,100 homes in a previously designated rural area of the County. Residents opposed to the change in land use circulated a referendum petition and gathered enough signatures to have the matter placed on an election ballot. To prevent an election, the land developer filed a petition for writ of mandate, contending the referendum petition was illegal and void as a matter of law. The court denied the writ petition. The issues this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review were: (1) whether the referendum petition complied with the full text requirement under Elections Code section 91471; and (2) the referendum petition's legality in challenging a single legislative act even though the Board of Supervisors executed several concurrent, associated legislative acts. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Molloy v. Vu" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs claimed that the California Secretary of State misinterpreted and failed to properly enforce, Elections Code section 14201, which requires the posting and availability of facsimile ballot materials printed in languages other than English at certain polling places. The court of appeal concluded the Secretary properly assessed the need for language assistance on a precinct, rather than county-wide, basis. The Secretary acted within his discretion in looking to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (52 U.S.C. 10101) to inform his interpretation of “single language minority,” terminology used in both section 14201 and the Voting Rights Act. However, in tying his language assistance determinations to the list of jurisdictions determined by the Director of the Census and Attorney General to be subject to the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, the Secretary erroneously imported into state law the federal Act’s higher percentage threshold of voting-age citizens who are members of a single language minority group (five percent, rather than three percent as specified by state law). View "Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles v. Padilla" on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal addressed an issue of first impression involving declarations containing false information collected by defendant Dolores Lucero, to be used in court to support of her request for injunctive relief to halt a petition drive to recall her from her position as a city council member for the City of Shasta Lake (Shasta Lake). Defendant submitted the declarations to law enforcement, and an investigation against a person involved in the recall effort was initiated as a result. Defendant duped several people who had signed the recall petition into signing these declarations. A jury convicted defendant of violating Penal Code section 134. She was thereafter placed on probation for three years with various terms and conditions including that she serve 30 days in jail. Two years into her probation, defendant petitioned for early termination of probation and the court granted it. On appeal, defendant contended: (1) section 134 was inapplicable to the circumstances of this case and that Penal Code section 118 (perjury) was a more specific statute that covered her conduct; (2) there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction; (3) the trial court committed prejudicial instructional error related to the instructions on the charged offense; (4) the testimony of one of the declarants, Charles Lukens, was coerced and that the trial court erred in excluding evidence offered to show that Lukens had a motive to conform his testimony to the prosecution’s theory of the case; and (5) certain probation conditions must be struck because they are unreasonable. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "California v. Lucero" on Justia Law