Criminal, Labor, and Attorney's Fees Issues, Plus Case Involving Recovery from Unlicensed Contractor

By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. on April 07, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

People v. Cantu, No. E048651, dealt with a challenge to a conviction of defendant for infliction of corporal punishment upon a cohabitant for assaulting his girlfriend. In reversing the judgment, the court held that the trial court erred in enforcing the plea bargain that the parties had entered into but from which the prosecution withdrew before the defendant pled guilty in open court.

In McGuigan v. City of San Diego, No. D055199, the court faced a challenge to the trial court's denial of plaintiff's motion for attorney fees incurred during the prior appeal of the settlement judgment, arising from the plaintiff's suit against a city as a class representative involving underfunded retirement plans. In affirming the denial, the court held that because all of the statutory criteria were not met for such an award, the court therefore lacked discretion to make a further award of fees.

People v. Milosavljevic No. D055327, involved a challenge to a conviction of defendant for rape and various related offenses involving multiple victims. However, the court affirmed the conviction for the most part, but reversed and remanded defendant's conviction on count 52 for violation of section 222 as the trial court erred by not giving a unanimity instruction regarding count 52, and also reduced defendant's section 1465.8 fine to $740.

People v. Bui, No. A119404, involved a challenge to a conviction for burglary and other related offenses. In affirming the conviction, the court held that the Supreme Court's decision in Presley v. Georgia (2010)_ U.S._[130 S.Ct. 721] does not alter the "de minimus" doctrine recognized by the California Supreme Court on which prior decision relied in concluding that any error in exclusion of persons from the courtroom to be de minimus.

Alatriste v. Cesar's Exterior Designs, Inc., No. D054761, concerned a homeowner's suit against a defendant seeking reimbursement of the $57,500 he paid defendant for landscaping work under a statute allowing a party to recover "all compensation paid to an unlicensed contractor." In affirming the trial court's judgment in favor of the plaintiff, the court held that plaintiff's prior knowledge of defendant's unlicensed status does not bar his section 7031(b) reimbursement claim. Furthermore, plaintiff is entitled to recover the total amount paid even though defendant was licensed during a portion of the work, and plaintiff is entitled to recover payments for materials retained by him.

People v. Sup. Ct., No. B220346, involved People's petition for a writ of mandate challenging the trial court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss his murder charges. In granting the petition, the court held that the trial court erred in granting defendant's motion to dismiss murder charges as the evidence before the grand jury was sufficient to support a rational ground for assuming the possibility that defendant decided to continue to drive his truck down a highway with an actual awareness of the great risk of harm his actions created, resulting in the deaths of two people.

In People v. Dowl, No. F057384, the court faced a challenge to a conviction for possession of marijuana for sale. In affirming the conviction, the court held that a police officer need not qualify as a medical marijuana expert in order to render an opinion that marijuana being possessed is for sale in cases where the defendants raises an affirmative defense under California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996.

Arenas v. El Torito Restaurants, Inc., No. B211301, involved a plaintiffs' action claiming they were allegedly misclassified as exempt employees from overtime wage laws. In affirming the trial court's denial of motion to certify a class of plaintiff-restaurant managers, the court held that the trial court could properly rule the action was not suitable for class treatment because the common questions of law and fact did not predominate over individualized issues.

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