As the summer got started, and his first year on the bench nearly completed, Justice Liu produced four unanimous opinions on wide ranging issues of California law, including arbitration, preemption work product and environmental regulations. This makes a total of six opinions by Justice Liu in civil cases. The other two, Dicon Fiberoptics, Inc. (re tax credit for disadvantaged worker) and Kirby, (addressing a fee shifting agreement) were also unanimous. Here is a summary of Justice Liu’s recent opinions.

Arbitration –Arbitration of provisions in a collective bargaining agreement should not be compelled if the provisions violate existing statutes.

In United Teachers of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist., S177403 (opinion issued 6/28/12), the Court held that a petition to compel arbitration to enforce collective bargaining provisions between a union and a school district should by denied if the provisions at issue directly conflict with provisions of the Education Code — that is, if they would annul, replace, or set aside Education Code provisions. The Court further held that, under the Education Code, an arbitrator has no authority to deny or revoke a school charter. However, the Court found that the union’s claims in this case were too general to make the necessary determinations at this time, and so remanded the case to allow the union to identify those specific provisions of the agreement it claims the district violated.
For more details about United Teachers of Los Angeles, see the ADR update page.

Work Product Doctrine – The Court describes the limits of the work product doctrine regarding witness interviews, and the showing needed to apply the doctrine.

The Court addressed the work product doctrine (C.C.P.  § 2018.010, et seq.,) in Coito v. Superior Court, S181712 (opinion issued 6/25/12). The Court reversed the Court of Appeal and made two primary holdings. First, that recorded witness statements obtained by investigators hired by counsel are entitled as a matter of law to at least qualified work product protection, and potentially to absolute protection if the party can show that disclosure would reveal its “attorney’s impressions, conclusions, opinions, or legal research or theories.” Second, that the identity of those witnesses from whom counsel has obtained statements is not automatically entitled to any work product protection. To prevent disclosure of such a list, counsel must justify such protection on a case-by-case basis.  For more details about Coito, see the Attorney Related update page.  Also, for an analysis of the opinion by the Court of Appeal in Coito, see the previous March 2010 post on this blog.

Environmental Regulations – An air quality district can mandate pollution standards based on reasonably anticipated technologies that do not yet exist.

Partially reversing the Court of Appeal, in National Paint & Coatings Assn., Inc. v. South Coast Air Quality Management Dist., S177823 (opinion issued 6/25/12), the court found that Health and Safety Code § 40440 authorizes an air quality district to promulgate pollution standards based on technologies that do not currently exist but are reasonably anticipated to exist by the compliance deadline. Furthermore, the Court found that the district had sufficiently demonstrated that its challenged emissions limits were achievable in each category and that the categories were reasonably drawn.  For more details about National Paint & Coatings Assn., Inc., see the Environmental update page.

Preemption – State consumer protection disclosure requirements are preempted by the broad federal grant of power given to banks to conduct their business.

Again reversing the Court of Appeal, the court held in Parks v. MBNA American Bank, S183703 (opinion issued 6/21/12), that the National Bank Act (NBA) (12 U.S.C. § 21 et seq.) preempts the requirements of California Civil Code § 1748.9 regarding specific types of notice to consumers regarding the use of convenience checks as cash advances on credit card accounts. The Court held that these disclosure requirements stand as an obstacle to the broad grant of power given by the NBA to national banks to conduct the business of banking.  For more details about Parks, see the B & P 17200/Class Actions/Commercial update page.