Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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In 1964, appellant Robert Cassinelli and respondent Janice Cassinelli were married; in 1986, they divorced. In the meantime, after 20 years of service, Robert had retired from the United States Air Force. In a stipulated judgment, the trial court awarded Janice her community property interest in Robert’s military retired pay. In 2012, it was determined that Robert had a combat-related disability. As a result, he became eligible to receive both veteran’s disability benefits and combat-related special compensation (CRSC); to do so, however, he had to waive his retired pay. Before the waiver, Robert received $791 a month and Janice received $541 in retired pay (taxable). After the waiver, Robert received $1,743 a month in veteran’s disability benefits and $1,389 a month in CRSC, for a total of $3,132 (tax-free); Janice received zero. As a result, the trial court ordered Robert to start paying Janice $541 a month in permanent and nonmodifiable spousal support. Robert appealed. The Court of Appeals agreed that the trial court erred by using spousal support as a remedy for the loss of a community property interest. However, it could properly order Robert to reimburse Janice for her lost community property interest; doing so would not have violated either federal law or finality principles. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded with directions to enter an order awarding Janice the same amount on a different theory. View "Marr. of Cassinelli" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeals' review was whether one spouse’s unilateral election (after a settlement agreement and judgment of dissolution) to change from one type of military benefit (retirement that was taxable and community property) to another type of military benefit (combat-related special compensation that was not taxable and separate property) could defeat the community property interest of the other spouse set forth in the marital settlement agreement. The Court determined that one spouse could not, by invoking a condition wholly within his control, defeat the community interest of the other spouse. The trial court here correctly determined that "the post-judgment election" by appellant Philip Chapman did not relieve him of his agreement to pay respondent Judy Chapman $475 per month for her community property share of his military retirement. The Court reversed the trial court’s order, however, because the remedy the court selected was improper. The trial court imposed a constructive trust on the funds received by Philip as combat-related special compensation benefits. But the remedy of a constructive trust was available only for wrongful conduct. View "Marriage of Chapman" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was charged with misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of alcohol in violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (a), and driving while having 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his blood in violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (b). He pled not guilty, and moved for military diversion under Penal Code section 1001.80. Section 1001.80 authorizes a trial court to grant pretrial diversion to a defendant charged with a misdemeanor if the defendant was, or currently is, a member of the United States military and suffers from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of his or her military service. Based on the rules of statutory construction, the language of section 1001.80 and Vehicle Code section 23640, and the legislative history of section 1001.80, the court concluded that Vehicle Code section 23640 does not bar pretrial diversion for veterans or active duty members of the military who meet the criteria of section 1001.80 and are charged in a DUI case. The court urged the Legislature to act by amending section 1001.80 to express its intent with regard to military diversion in DUI cases. Therefore, the court discharged the order to show cause and ordered a peremptory writ of mandate directing the Appellate Division to vacate its order denying petitioner's petition for writ of mandate, and to make a new and different order granting the petition. View "Hopkins v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law