April 2008

Court Holds Prop 59 Does Not Abrogate the Common Law Mental Processes Principle

In Sutter's Place v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth District upheld a trial court discovery order protecting specified documents from disclosure on the ground that discovery would violate the common law mental processes principle which precludes judicial inquiry into the motivation or mental processes of legislators in enacting legislation. Petitioner Sutter's Place ("Petitioner") sought discovery of documents reflecting the motives and thoughts process of the City of San Jose Mayor and/or City Council relating to the adoption of an ordinance which Petitioner was challenging. Petitioner's challenged the trial court's order denying discovery of specified documents on the grounds that Proposition 59 abrogated the common law mental processes principle.

Proposition 59 (California Constitution, article I, section 3) amended the California Constitution to include the public right to access public records. It is considered by some to be the constitutionalization of the California Public Records Act ("CPRA"). The Court found that under the CPRA, public records to which the mental processes principle applies are exempt from disclosure in accordance with California Government Code Section 6254(k) which exempts from disclosure public records whose disclosure is prohibited pursuant to federal or state law, including the common law and constitutional separation-of-powers principles, such as the mental processes principle. The Court held that there is no inherent inconsistency between the application of Proposition 59 and the mental processes principle which precludes their concurrent operation and there is no evidence of an intent by the voters to supersede, override, or alter the operation of the mental processes principle under Proposition 59.

California Supreme Court Clarifies POBRA Provision Regarding Notification of Discipline

Attorney Authors: 

The California Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act ("POBRA") provides a limitations period specifying that punitive action may not be taken against a public safety officer unless the public agency completes its investigation and notifies the officer of the proposed disciplinary action within one year of discovering the alleged misconduct. In May v. City of Los Angeles, the California Supreme Court held that this provision does not require an employer to provide notice of the specific proposed discipline within the limitations period, and noted that the fundamental purpose of the POBRA provision at issue was to place a one-year limitation on investigations of officer misconduct. Employers are still required to notify the officer that discipline may be imposed for the identified misconduct within the limitations period. To read the Supreme Court's decision click here.

A Claim for Severance Damages Based on a Temporary Construction Easement Must be Supported By Evidence that TCE Interfered with Owner's Actual Intended Use of the Property

Severance Damages for a temporary construction easement were not allowed by the California Court of Appeal in its recent City of Fremont v. Fisher case (February 28, 2008) 160 Cal.App.4th 666. The Court's ruling was based on the property owner having failed to show that the TCE interfered with their actual intended use of the property. Even though temporary severance damages resulting from the construction of a public project are compensable, the temporary easement must interfere with the owner's actual intended use of the property to present evidence to the jury on temporary severance damages. In the Fisher case, the owner must have presented evidence as to a specific loss attributable to the delay in construction; a claim for such severance damages cannot be based on a hypothetical or conjectural, possible use of the property by the property owner during the TCE.