Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Court Invaldiates Limits on Medical Marijuana

The Supreme Court yesterday held that a statute limiting the amount of medical marijuana one can possess was unconstitutional as an invalid amendment to Prop. 215, the medical marijuana initiative. The Los Angeles Times story is here; the Sacramento Bee story is here; the decision itself is here. More analysis to follow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Supplemental Assessment Violates Prop. 218

In Town of Tiburon v. Bonander (here), the Court of Appeal held that a supplemental special assessment violated the proportionality requirement of Article XIII D, Section 4(a). The court first found that the assessment was properly imposed to pay for the special benefits conferred by undergrounding utilities, and that the benefit conferred was not "general" merely because properties throughout the district shared the same benefit. With respect to proportionality, however, the court found two flaws. First, the assessment engineer created three "zones," based on cost, so that properties in the high cost area paid more for the same benefit. However, the court held that dividing up the assessment area by cost zones violated the provision in Article XIII D. Section 4(a), which requires that the assessment be based on "the entirety of the capital cost of a public improvement." Properties that receive the same special benefit should pay the same assessment, even if the cost to serve those properties is greater. Second, the Town excluded some properties from the assessment district even though they received a benefit from undergrounding. Although the utilities in the areas in which these properties were located were already underground, they received reliability and safety benefits from the undergrounding of the larger area.

This case raises a number of interesting issues in the area of assessment proportionality. Although it may be a little fact-specific, I wouldn't be surprised if the Supreme Court granted review.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Timothy Egan Endorses The Con-Con

Here's the column by New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, concluding that the con-con is the cure for our broken system of government. It should be Arnold's last yodel, he says.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

California Law Imposes No Standing Requirement

Except in the unusual context of the Unfair Competition statute, Business and Professions Code Section 17200, California does not include a standing requirement comparable to the injury-in-fact requirement imposed by Article III of the federal constitution. That's the holding in Jasmine Networks, Inc. v. Superior Court (here). The case arose as a garden-variety trade secret case; however, the plaintiff entered bankruptcy after the case was filed, in which it sold its rights to the trade secrets at issue while retaining its right to sue for misappropriation that had occurred before the rights were transferred. As a result of these transactions, the defendant contended that the plaintiff had lost its right to pursue its case, because it had sold the trade secrets at issue and could therefore no longer maintain a claim for misappropriation.

The Court of Appeal rejected the argument. While the federal constitution imposes a "case or controversy" requirement on cases in federal court, no such requirement appears in the California Constitution. To the contrary, Article VI, Section 10 gives a Superior Court power to hear any "cause" brought before it. While Code of Civil Procedure 367 requires that lawsuits be brought by the real parties in interest, this means only that a lawsuit must be brought by the plaintiff who has the right to sue under the relevant substantive law. It does not, unlike federal law, impose an additional requirement that is separate and distinct from the merits. Consequently, whether the plaintiff could bring the case turned on trade secret law, not some independent jurisdictional requirement of "standing."

Electricity Initiative Qualifes For Ballot

The first voter initiative has qualifed for the June 2010 ballot, a utility sponsored measure that would require a two-thirds vote of a local electorate before the local jurisdiction could expand public power. The text of the measure is here. The Attorney General's title and summary is here.