PSA: San Bernardino City Election Forum For City Attorney and City Clerk Candidates September 27, 2011 7:00 p.m. 300 North D Street, San Bernardino

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

There will be another candidate forum on September 27, 2011, sponsored by the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce, for the candidates for San Bernardino City Attorney, incumbent City Attorney James F. “Jim” Penman and former Public Defender and County Supervisor David L. McKenna at 7 p.m., in the Council Chambers, 300 North D Street, San Bernardino, CA 92418.  At 8 p.m., there will be a forum for the City Clerk candidates, Gigi Hanna, Peggi Hazlett, William Valle, Amelia Sanchez-Lopez and Esther Jimenez.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address: 300 E. State St. Suite 517

Redlands CA 92373-5235
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Possible Legal Issues of Joint Campaign Signs in the San Bernardino City Clerk and City Attorney November 2011 Elections

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law

This weekend, joint James F. Penman for City Attorney and Amelia Sanchez-Lopez for City Clerk signs popped up in San Bernardino.  Are there any issues in having joint signs?  I cannot remember a specific race that I can point to where there have been joint campaign signs, though a web search shows that they exist in other jurisdictions.  In local, non-partisan races, I can see such a move to be beneficial when a group of candidates want to run together as a reform slate, such as in a recall election, or a city council or school board election where a majority of the council or board can change in one election.

As far as legal issues, the ones that immediately pop into mind are sign code issues (being jointly responsible for the placement of your sign if it violates a sign ordinance (such as being in the public right-of-way).  Presumably, should that happen, both candidates could be held responsible for violating the code.   The other issue could be a campaign disclosure of in-kind contributions.  Say, for example, one well-known, well-financed candidate is paying for the sign, and the other, less-experienced, less well-funded candidate is piggybacking on the sign of the other.  There would need to be campaign disclosures of the in-kind contributions.

The only other issue that I can think of has created a joint sign that does not have the permission of the other candidate.  An example that I have seen online is when someone had a joint sign with a presidential candidate wherein the presidential campaign did not give permission for the sign.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

Address : 300 E. State St. Suite 517

Redlands CA 92373-5235
Telephone: (909) 708-6055

Can two public entities be jointly responsible for the same injury under a dangerous condition of public property theory of liability?

By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.

A public entity may only be held liable for a dangerous condition of its property, not for simple negligence or premises liability.   Before I was in private practice helping plaintiffs, I received a good education in a variety of dangerous condition of public property cases when I was Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino and as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands.

A “dangerous condition” is “a condition of property that creates a substantial (as distinguished from a minor, trivial, or insignificant) risk of injury when such property . . . is used with due care in a manner in which it is foreseeable that it will be used.”  Government Code § 830(a).  A public entity is liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition of property it owns or controls if the plaintiff establishes that (1) the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of injury; (2) that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition; (3) the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury incurred; and either (i) a public employee, within the scope of his or her employment, negligent or wrongly committed an act or omission that created the condition or (ii) the entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition in sufficient time before the injury to take protective measures against the dangerous condition.  Government Code §§ 830, 835.

What are the kinds of scenarios that might involve two public entities, or a mix of public entities and private entities?  The scenarios I have seen as an attorney have included:

1. A city, a water district, and a private land owner, where a sidewalk panel was removed to replace a meter box, and the sidewalk panel was never replaced.  The plaintiff tripped and fell.

2. A city, a school district, and an adjoining land owner, and a nonprofit youth organization, where the plaintiff tripped over a utility cover, wherein the surrounding compacted dirt had eroded over the years, but no sidewalk ever existed.

3. A city, a county, and a private land owner, and a private party, where a motorcyclist died at an intersection jointly controlled by the city and county, when the motorcyclist was struck by the private party’s automobile.

4. A trip and fall that happened only in one city, but the plaintiff sued two cities because it was not clear which entity owned or controlled the sidewalk.

5. An injury to a person who was waiting at a bus stop from a city tree in a city park, but at a bus stop owned and controlled by a joint-powers authority transit system.

6. A flooding case wherein the flood control channel was owned by a county flood control agency, but the culvert and bridge were owned by a city.

Government Code section 830(c) states “‘Property of a public entity’ and “public property” means real or personal property owned or controlled by the public entity, but do not include easements, encroachments and other property that are located on the property of the public entity but are not owned or controlled by the entity.”

“Where the public entity’s relationship to the dangerous property is not clear, aid may be sought by inquiring whether the particular defendant had control, in the sense of power to prevent, remedy or guard against the dangerous condition; whether his ownership is a naked title or whether it is coupled with control; and whether a private defendant, having a similar relationship to the property, would be responsible for its safe condition.”  Low v. City of Sacramento (1970) 7 Cal.App.3d 826, 833-834.

Obviously, ownership is a key fact to prove.  Control can be more difficult.  In the case of a jointly controlled intersection, there is typically an agreement between the two public entities. Obtain and examine that agreement (either through discovery or by using the California Public Records Act).  Control can be established by deposing maintenance workers who have personal knowledge of the maintenance work done at the property, and to a limited extent, with written discovery.

Also, conditions of adjacent property can make public property hazardous.  In Bonanno v. Central Contra Costa Transit Authority, the California Supreme Court ruled that  “the location of public property, by which users are subjected to hazards on adjacent property, may constitute a dangerous condition” under Government Code sections 830 and 835.  Bonanno v. Central Contra Costa Transit Authority (2003) 30 Cal.4th 139, 815-816.

Therefore, there are factual scenarios where more than one public entity can be responsible for one injury by pleading and proving a dangerous condition of public property cause of action.  In the flooding scenario noted above, the plaintiff also pled an inverse condemnation cause of action.

The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

A: 300 E. State St. #517
      Redlands, CA 92373-5235
T: (909) 296-6708

W: http://michaelreiterlaw.com