• Appellate Procedure,  Immunity,  Standard of Review

    A substantial evidence argument works on appeal

    Substantial evidence challenges don’t succeed very often on appeal, so I sat up and took notice when I saw a successful challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in today’s decision in Martinez v. County of Ventura, case no. B244776 (2d. Dist April 8. 2014). The Court of Appeal reverses a judgment for the public agency defendant that had successfully asserted a design immunity defense at trial to avoid liability for a defectively dangerous roadside condition that contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. The burden of proof was on the county to establish that they had made a discretionary design decision in installing the type of roadside drain at issue. However,…

  • Appellate Jurisdiction,  Appellate Procedure,  Civil Rights,  Immunity

    A Lesson in Collateral Order Doctrine Jurisdiction

    Some lawyers not well-versed in appellate jurisdiction may find themselves fighting against one of two extremes when it comes to interlocutory decisions: the impulse to appeal everything (appealable or not), or failing to evaluate interlocutory orders for possible exceptions to the “final judgment rule,” figuring “why bother” until a final judgment is entered.  Then there are those in the middle who recognize opportunity in interlocutory orders, and seize it. Such were the lawyers representing the appellants in Lazy Y Ranch Ltd. v. Behrens, case no. 07-35315 (9th Cir. Sept. 26, 2008).  Lazy Y sued, alleging a violation of equal protection, after its bids for grazing on state land were rejected…

  • Constitutional Law,  Education,  Immunity,  Search & Seizure

    It’s Now Official: It’s Not OK to Strip-Search a 13-Year-Old Girl for Ibuprofen

    There was a lot of law blog coverage when a Ninth Circuit panel held that a strip search that required 13-year-old Savana Redding to expose her breasts and pubic region during a search for Ibuprofen did not violate her Fourth Amendment rights.  As I wrote in my post,  despite my gut- level reaction that the search was wrong, I found the majority opinion was well reasoned.  Still, the dissent won me over; it was even better reasoned and, while both opinions centered around New Jersey v. TLO (1985) 469 U.S. 325, the dissent was better supported by authority.  Along with my gut, that was enough, so I was among those happy to see en banc rehearing granted. In today’s en banc opinion, Redding…

  • Immunity,  Torts

    Firestarter Burned by Government Immunity

    I’ve been stewing over this post for a couple of days. Sovereign immunity always left a sour taste in my mouth. Yes, I understand all the justifications for it. But it still seems like a raw deal a lot of the time. In California, government immunity (against state law claims) is the rule, and the liability of a public entity is limited to specific statutory exceptions. So . . . you can’t generally sue the government unless one of those exceptions applies (and even then, not until jumping through the necessary administrative hoops). I get that. But what if the government sues you? Surely, those immunity statutes don’t prevent you…

  • Immunity,  Torts

    Should the Government be Liable for Criminal Acts of its Employees?

    The Government Liability Update blog has a good post on DeVillers v. County of San Diego, case no. D048974 (4th Dist. Oct. 19, 2007), which it describes as “deal[ing] with a real-life crime that would make a decent plot for a ‘CSI’ episode.” A county medical examiner and former meth addict having an affair with a co-worker steals drugs from work at the County Medical Examiner’s office and poisons her husband with them. Is the County liable for the husband’s death? The jury said yes. The Court of Appeal reverses.