Ventura County Superior Court Document Submissions

Effective September 6, 2016, all documents received by the Ventura County Superior Court Clerk’s Office for filing between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, regardless of the method of delivery (including fax filing in Civil, Probate and Family Law), will be deemed filed that same court day, subject to the document’s compliance with applicable standards.

All documents received by the court for filing after 4:00 pm, regardless of the method of delivery (including fax filing in Civil, Probate and Family Law), will be deemed filed the next court day, subject to the document’s compliance with applicable standards.

U.S. Supreme Court – Fisher v. University of Texas

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015/2016 session covered a wide spectrum of issues. One of these was the question of affirmative action, addressed in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas.

U.S. Supreme Court – Fisher v. University of Texas

In 2008 “Abigail Fisher, a white prospective student, sued UT, claiming that the school’s university program disadvantaged her.”

Providing some background on the case, Oyez posts:

In 1997, the Texas legislature enacted a law requiring the University of Texas to admit all high school seniors who ranked in the top ten percent of their high school classes. After finding differences between the racial and ethnic makeup of the university’s undergraduate population and the state’s population, the University of Texas decided to modify its race-neutral admissions policy. The new policy continued to admit all in-state students who graduated in the top ten percent of their high school classes. For the remainder of the in-state freshman class the university would consider race as a factor in admission.

Abigail N. Fisher, a Caucasian female, applied for undergraduate admission to the University of Texas in 2008. Fisher was not in the top ten percent of her class, so she competed for admission with other non-top ten percent in-state applicants. The University of Texas denied Fisher’s application.

Click here to read the complete Oyez post.

The Court upheld affirmative action and the use of race in the university admissions process as a means of promoting campus diversity. Justice Kennedy said that,

Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.

Click here to read more about the Court’s decisions.

U.S. Supreme Court – Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In its most recent session, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed many issues. One of the most contentious of these is abortion and the legislative trend in many states to regulate it.

U.S. Supreme Court – Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In a five-to-three vote, Justices John Roberts (Chief), Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissenting, the Court declared two provisions of a Texas abortion law unconstitutional. This law, which you may recall was filibustered by State Senator Wendy Davis, “required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, and it required the clinics to comply with several hospital-level standards.”

While proponents argued that the bill was intended to protect women’s health and safety, it actually reduced by half the number of facilities providing services. The Court, in a majority led by Justice Stephen Breyer, ruled against the law, stating that it “provides few, if any, health benefits for women, poses a substantial obstacle to women seeking abortions, and constitutes an ‘undue burden’ on their constitutional right to do so.”

This decision will effectively rule out the inclusion of similar provisions in the legislation of other states.

Click here to read more about the Supreme Court’s other decisions.

Click here to access a PDF of the Supreme Court’s opinion.

The Supreme Court After Scalia

During its last session, the most important issue facing the Supreme Court was not one of the cases, but the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The Supreme Court After Scalia


Photo by Steve Petteway, photographer, Supreme Court of the United States – Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Scalia “was described as the intellectual anchor for the originalist and textualist position in the Court’s conservative wing.”

During his 30 year tenure, he was called upon to rule on a wide range of issues, including:

  • Separation of Powers
  • Detainees
  • Federalism
  • Abortion
  • Criminal Law
  • Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation

His passing leaves the Court split four-to-four along liberal/conservative lines. Not surprisingly, several cases brought before the Court during this session resulted in a tie vote. Some of these may again be presented when Scalia’s position is filled; probably not until after the presidential election in November.

The Court was, however, able to rule on several important cases, which we’ll discuss in future posts.

Click here for more information on these cases.


Law Enforcement and the Use of Drones

Unmanned drones may be coming to a police force near you. Or maybe not.

Law Enforcement and the Use of Drones

In Florida v. Riley, 488 U.S. 445 (1989), the Supreme Court ruled “that police officials do not need a warrant to observe an individual’s property from public airspace.”

In this case, a Florida county sheriff used a helicopter to examine the contents of a greenhouse which was not directly visible from the road. Riley argued that the aerial search violated his “reasonable expectation of privacy.” The trial court agreed, but was overturned by the Court of Appeals, which sided with the state. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the Court of Appeals decision and the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Florida Supreme Court.

Individual states, however, may provide more protection from aerial surveillance.

The New Mexico Court of Appeals recently held that a warrantless helicopter search of a greenhouse was violative of Article 2, § 10 of the New Mexico Constitution.
How these rulings may apply to unmanned surveillance is also open to interpretation. According to Representative John Lesch, sponsor of Minnesota House File 2552, in an interview with Adam Lockhart, Principal Attorney Editor at Thomson Reuters:
…drones have the potential for increasing the frequency of surveillance because drones are less expensive to operate than manned aerial surveillance. H.F. 2552 would provide enhanced Fourth Amendment protection relative to drone surveillance, by requiring a search warrant in most situations.

H.F 2552 was passed by the Minnesota Senate and presented to the governor on May 19, 2016. Click here for more information on H.F. 2552.

As of April 2014, “five states have enacted legislation limiting the use of drones by law enforcement” and “bills in another 17 jurisdictions have been introduced to do the same.”

In California, a bill that would restrict the use of unmanned drones in warrantless surveillance was passed by the state Senate in 2014, but was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. Click here to learn more.

Use this link to read Drones, law enforcement, and personal data by Adam Lockhart.



Ban On Ojai Transient Rentals Confirmed

At its January 26, 2016 meeting, the Ojai City Council voted to adopt a resolution continuing the existing ban on transient rentals.

Ban On Ojai Transient Rentals Confirmed

A “transient rental” is the “rental of space for 30 days or less.” This includes vacation rentals and short term rentals and covers both portions of the home and the entire home. These rentals are not legal in residential zones or in village mixed use zones.

On January 30, 2016, the city’s moratorium on enforcement was lifted and staff phased in enforcement measures over a four month period.

Click here for more information.

Ventura County Vote-by-Mail Details

Ventura County vote-by-mail ballots were mailed on May 9, 2016 for the June 7 presidential primary election. If you’re already registered to vote by mail your ballot should be arriving shortly, if it hasn’t already.

Ventura County Vote-by-Mail Details

If you would like to vote by mail but are not already registered to do so, click on this link, then complete and return the application. You may also “apply in person at the Elections Division located in the Hall of Administration, Lower Plaza, 800 S. Victoria Avenue, Ventura.”

Additional information on the upcoming election is also available. Use this link to learn more, or call the Elections Division at (805) 654-2664.

You may also vote early at the Elections Division or drop off your vote-by-mail ballot there.

Two Firms Overcharge Californians In Energy Crisis

In a 219-page ruling released in April charging Shell Energy North America and Iberdrola Renewables of price gouging, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Judge Steven A. Glazer said,

The public was clearly, palpably, seriously harmed by the energy crisis.

Two Firms Overcharge Californians In Energy Crisis

California’s 2000-2001 energy crisis cost the state and its utility customers a lot more than it should have. This 219-page ruling charged Shell Energy North America and Iberdrola Renewables gouged the state of $779 million and $371 million respectively.

Mike Florio, of the California Public Utilities Commission was pleased with the decision.

After 15 years of fighting in regulatory and court proceedings, we’re finally getting relief.

Power shortages and market manipulation pushed prices so high in 2000-2001 that California’s two largest electrical utilities were forced into insolvency. The California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) stepped in to negotiate contracts with various sellers to provide power.

Alleged overcharging by many of the companies led to eventual “settlements of $7.7 billion in cash and re-negotiations of long-term contracts and $4 billion in shorter-term contracts that went to the California Department of Water Resources,” which has been refunded to utility customers in the form of lower rates.

Energy North America and Iberdrola Renewables are the last two companies involved. Although the case is not over – parties involved have 30 days to file briefs and an additional 20 days to submit subsequent filings – if the FERC commissioners vote to uphold the ruling, the $1.1 billion involved would be distributed in the same way as the previous $7.7 billion.

Click here to read Rob Nikolewski‘s article in the Los Angeles Times.



Sea Monkey Legal Battle

From a legal standpoint, the Sea Monkey legal battle is no laughing matter: an ongoing conflict between Yolanda Signorelli von Braunhut, widow of Sea Monkeys “inventor” Harold Nathan Braunhut, and Big Time Toys. Yes, that’s really the company’s name – at least it’s not “Acme.”

Sea Monkey Legal Battle

The backstory, however, is something that Federico Fellini might have created in one of his more eccentric moments.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Ms. von Braunhut now lives in poverty on an estate on the Potomac River, frequently without heat, electricity, or running water.
  • She is being represented by William Timmons, who years ago attended legendary Halloween parties hosted by Ms. von Braunhut’s father, opera singer Maestro Signorelli. It was at these events that Timmons met Yolanda, Signorelli’s second-youngest daughter.
  • In the 1960s, Ms. von Braunhut began a career in bondage films, appearing in “Venus in Furs,” “All Women Are Bad,” “Too Much Too Often!” “Death of a Nymphette,” and “Assignment: Female.” When asked to comment on her film career, Ms. von Braunhut observed:

In those days, they might have been racy, but today? I don’t think so.

  • Husband Harold was quite a unique individual as well. He took out patents on 196 different inventions during the 1950s and 60s, was single-handedly responsible for the products advertised on the back page of comic books, raced motorcycles under the name the Green Hornet, worked as a magician called the Great Telepo, and high-dived into a wading pool filled with 12 inches of water.
  • On the opposing side, Sam Harwell, chief executive of Big Time Toys, is married to Beth Harwell, Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.

Regardless of the legal outcome, the cast of characters in this legal matter make it well worth following.

Click here to read Jack Hitt’s delightful and informative article in the New York Times.