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Decisions in Criminal, Family Law, and Insurance Cases

By FindLaw Staff on March 23, 2010 11:05 AM

In In re M.B., No. E048581, the Fourth District faced a challenge to the juvenile court's judgment terminating petitioners' parental rights to their minor child.  In rejecting the petitioners' argument that the juvenile court's decision must be reversed because the Indian expert did not conduct an adequate investigation, the court held that the ICWA does not require an Indian expert to interview parents in every case, and that even without the expert's opinion, the evidence supported the court's finding beyond a reasonable doubt that continued custody by the parents was likely to result in serious physical or emotional damage to the child.

In People v. Milward, No. C058326, the Third District faced a challenge to a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon and assault by a life prisoner with a deadly weapon, claiming that the elements of an assault with a deadly weapon are included within an assault by a life prisoner with a deadly weapon.  In affirming the conviction for both offenses, the court held that People v. Noah is no longer the controlling authority as under the current statutes, a life prisoner can commit an assault with a deadly weapon in violation of section 4500 without committing an assault with a deadly weapon in violation of section 245(a)(1).

In Wilson v. Sup. Ct., No. B21612, the Second District dealt with a defendant's request for habeas relief challenging SVPA commitment proceedings without conducting a mental competency hearing.  In granting the petition, the court held that, balancing the factors articulated by the United States and California Supreme Courts to identify the procedural guarantees appropriate for this context under the due process clauses of the federal and California Constitutions, the state may not proceed with an initial SVPA commitment trial while the defendant is incompetent.

In People v. Fleury, No. C061629, the Third District faced a challenge to the trial court's imposition of various fines and fees including two $30 assessments under section 70373 for an arson conviction.  In affirming the imposition of the assessments, the court held that it does not violate state of federal prohibition against ex post facto law as the Legislature did not intend for the assessment to be a punishment and it is not so punitive as to override the Legislature's intent.

In Gray v. Begley, No. B212082, the Third District decided an issue of whether an insurer, under certain circumstances, can intervene in an underlying action by a claimant against its insured, including seeking a set-off of the judgment against the insured.  Here, the court held that when an insurer provides a defense to its insured under a reservation of rights and the insured reaches a settlement with the third party claimant without the insurer's participation, the insurer may intervene in the underlying action to protect its interests and seek a set-off of the judgment against the insured based on the prior settlement by the claimant with another party.

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