Public BLAWG Blog

Supreme Court Upholds Legislative Prayer at Local Government Level

May 6, 2014, by Deborah J. Fox,

A majority of the Supreme Court has upheld the right of local governments to open their meetings with prayer so long as the practice over time does not proselytize or advance any one faith or disparage another.

Even In Drought, Water Must Be Managed To Protect Delta Fish

May 14, 2014, by Dawn McIntosh

The Ninth Circuit recently issued two controversial opinions which uphold efforts to protect the delta smelt, a small fish endemic to the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta that is protected under the state and federal Endangered Species Acts, despite potential significant impacts on water deliveries to urban and agricultural areas.

Public Records Do Not Include E-mails and Text Messages to or from Public Officials, if on Private Electronic Devices and Accounts

March 31, 2014, by Nicholaus W. Norvell, Ruthann G. Ziegler

On March 27, 2014, a California Court of Appeal held that when officers and employees of a public agency use private accounts and personal electronic devices to send or receive messages, the messages do not qualify as "public records" under the California Public Records Act ("CPRA"), even when the messages concern public agency business.  (City of San Jose v. Superior Court (Smith) (Mar. 27, 2014, H039498).)

Regulatory Scope of "Waters of the United States" to be Clarified

March 31, 2014, by Gregory J. Newmark, Sarah N. Quiter

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ("Agencies") jointly released a proposed rule that further defines the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act ("CWA"). The proposed rule revises the definition of "waters of the United States" and also adds new definitions for the terms "neighboring," "riparian area," "floodplain," "tributary," and "significant nexus." The impetus behind this rule is an attempt to reduce the confusion and uncertainty generated in the wake of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that added complexity, rather than clarity, to the determination of whether a water body was a jurisdictional "Water of the United States" regulated under the CWA. See Solid Waste Agency of N. Cook County (SWANCC) v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs., 531 U.S. 159 (2001); Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006).  

Fifth Appellate District Affirms Preliminary Injunctions Prohibiting Internet “Sweepstakes” Café Operations

March 13, 2014, by Katherine A. Cook

Businesses that sell computer “time” in exchange for entries into on-line sweepstakes games likely violate California’s antigambling laws, the Fifth District Court of Appeal held last week.  In People v. Grewal (CON F065450/F065451/F065689), the Court upheld three preliminary injunctions that prohibit “sweepstakes” operations at Internet café businesses in Kern County.  The injunctions were previously granted to the Kern County District Attorney against specific businesses. Read the full opinion here.

A School Employee and a School District May Be Sued For Showing A Report of Alleged Child Abuse to the Father

February 21, 2014, by Lillian K. Yoo

In a decision published November 18, 2013, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, reversed the trial court’s determination that a school counselor and school district was immune from suit when a school counselor provided a copy of a report of suspected child abuse to the father.  The Court held that under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) a mandated reporter must keep the report of known or suspected child abuse confidential and  may only disclose the information to specific agencies and individuals identified in the statute – the parent of the child is not included.

Court of Appeal Affirms the Discretion of a City in Waiving an Error in a Bid for a Public Works Project

February 14, 2014, by Eric S. Casher, Benjamin T. Reyes

Meyers Nave Principal Benjamin Reyes and Associate Eric Casher successfully defended the City of San Leandro ("City") in a legal challenge brought by a disappointed bidder in a major public works case.  On January 28, 2014, the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, affirmed the decision of the City in waiving a bid defect in the case, Bay Cities Paving & Grading v. City of San Leandro, et. al.   The case was certified for publication on February 13, 2014.  There, the Court held that the City did not abuse its discretion by accepting an immaterial deviation in the low bidder's bid bond.  In applying the substantial evidence standard of review, the Court evaluated the City's actions and determined that it had properly complied with its procedures.  Accordingly, the Court did not second guess the City's decision in awarding the contract for the BART Pedestrian Interface Project to the low bidder, Gallagher & Burk, Inc.  

AB 44: New Law Requires Contractors to List Subcontractor License Numbers on Bids

February 11, 2014, by Benjamin T. Reyes

Existing law under the Subletting and Subcontracting Fair Practices Act requires prime contractors bidding public construction projects to list the names and locations of each subcontractor performing work for a public works project.  The statute calls for contractors to identify each subcontractor performing more than one-half of one percent of the contractor’s total bid, or $10,000, whichever is greater.  (Public Contract Code Section 4104).

Calistoga Case: Not Just Anyone Can Sue A City!

February 6, 2014, by Kevin P. McLaughlin

It is a fundamental concept in litigation that the party seeking relief must have some real, beneficial interest in the outcome of the case.  A plaintiff cannot sue a city or other public entity simply because he or she does not like a certain policy or practice; the plaintiff must have standing to bring the lawsuit, which may either be conferred by law or because the plaintiff has suffered some sort direct or indirect harm. A February 3 published decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal clarifies this concept further, finding that neither a plaintiff’s status as a payer of sales tax in a given area—nor as a state citizen seeking redress for past government misconduct—meet the requirements for bringing such an action.

Third Time Is The Charm: CalPERS May Appeal City Of San Bernardino’s Bankruptcy Eligibility To Ninth Circuit

December 17, 2013, by Anya J. Freedman

A federal judge has ruled that CalPERS may appeal to the Ninth Circuit a bankruptcy judge’s decision allowing the City of San Bernardino’s petition for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  As we previously reported here, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury ruled in August that San Bernardino is eligible for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.

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