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City of Huntington Beach v. Becerra

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Third Division

January 10, 2020

CITY OF HUNTINGTON BEACH, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
XAVIER BECERRA, as Attorney General, etc., Defendant and Appellant.

          Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County, No. 30-2018-00984280 James L. Crandall, Judge. Reversed and remanded with directions.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Thomas S. Patterson, Assistant Attorney General, Stepan A. Haytayan and Jonathan M. Eisenberg, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Michael E. Gates, City Attorney, and Brian L. Williams for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          OPINION

          FYBEL, ACTING P. J.

         INTRODUCTION

         The California Values Act, Government Code section 7284 et seq. (the CVA), restricts the ability of local law enforcement agencies to inquire into immigration status, place individuals on an immigration hold, and use personnel or resources to participate in certain immigration enforcement activities. The issue we address is whether charter cities are exempt from compliance with one part of the CVA, Government Code section 7284.6 (section 7284.6), on the ground it infringes the authority of charter cities under article XI, section 5, subdivision (b) of the California Constitution to create, regulate, and govern city police forces.

         We hold section 7284.6 is constitutional as applied to charter cities because it addresses matters of statewide concern-including public safety and health, effective policing, and protection of constitutional rights-is reasonably related to resolution of those statewide concerns, and is narrowly tailored to avoid unnecessary interference in local government. In so holding, we follow and apply the opinions of the California Supreme Court in California Fed. Savings & Loan Assn. v. City of Los Angeles (1991) 54 Cal.3d 1 (California Fed. Savings) and State Building & Construction Trades Council of California v. City of Vista (2012) 54 Cal.4th 547 (City of Vista).

         The trial court concluded otherwise, and granted a petition for writ of mandamus brought by the City of Huntington Beach (the City), which is a charter city. The court ordered Xavier Becerra, as the California Attorney General, to refrain from enforcing section 7284.6 against the City. Based on our holding that section 7284.6 is constitutional as applied to charter cities, we reverse with directions to deny the writ petition and enter judgment in favor of the Attorney General.

         In a companion appeal, City of Huntington Beach v. Los Alamitos Community United, G057209, two community organizations and four people challenge the trial court's ruling the CVA is unconstitutional as to charter cities. In that case, we conclude the appellants lack standing to appeal and grant the City's motion to dismiss.

         RELEVANT LAW

         Resolution of this appeal turns on the relationship and potential conflict among three sources of law: (1) the CVA, (2) article XI, section 5 of the California Constitution, and (3) the Huntington Beach Charter and municipal code provisions.

         I.

         The CVA

         When enacting the CVA, the Legislature found “[i]mmigrants are valuable and essential members of the California community, ” “[a] relationship of trust between California's immigrant community and state and local agencies is central to the public safety of the people of California, ” and “[t]his trust is threatened when state and local agencies are entangled with federal immigration enforcement.” (Gov. Code, § 7284.2, subds. (a), (b) & (c).) As a result, the Legislature found, “immigrant community members fear approaching police when they are victims of, and witnesses to, crimes, seeking basic health services, or attending school, to the detriment of public safety and the well-being of all Californians.” (Id., subd. (c).)

         In addition, the Legislature found that “[e]ntangling state and local agencies with federal immigration enforcement programs diverts already limited resources and blurs the lines of accountability between local, state, and federal governments.” (Gov. Code, § 7284.2, subd. (d).) The Legislature expressed concern that state and local participation in federal immigration enforcement could lead to the unconstitutional detention of California residents who were targeted based on race or ethnicity in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause. (Id., subd. (e).) The goal of the CVA, the Legislature declared, is “to ensure effective policing, to protect the safety, well-being, and constitutional rights of the people of California, and to direct the state's limited resources to matters of greatest concern to state and local governments.” (Id., subd. (f).)

         The CVA carries out its purposes by prohibiting state and local law enforcement from engaging in certain specifically identified acts related to immigration enforcement. Section 7284.6, the challenged part of the CVA, prohibits state and local law enforcement from: (1) inquiring into a person's immigration status (id., subd. (a)(1)(A)); (2) detaining a person on the basis of a “hold” request from immigration authorities (id., subd. (a)(1)(B)); (3) providing information regarding a person's release date or responding to requests for notification by providing release dates unless that information is available to the public (id., subd. (a)(1)(C)); (4) providing personal information, such as address and employment status, to immigration authorities, unless that information is available to the public (id., subd. (a)(1)(D)); (5) making or intentionally participating in arrests based on civil immigration warrants (id., subd. (a)(1)(E)); (6) assisting immigration authorities in warrantless searches near the United States border (id., subd. (a)(1)(F)); (7) performing the functions of an immigration agent (id., subd. (a)(1)(G)); (8) placing local law enforcement officers under the supervision of a federal agency for purposes of immigration enforcement (id., subd. (a)(2)); (9) using immigration officers as interpreters for law enforcement matters under the jurisdiction of state or local law enforcement agencies (id., subd. (a)(3)); (10) transferring a person to immigration authorities unless authorized by a judicial warrant or judicial probable cause determination (id., subd. (a)(4)); (11) providing office space exclusively dedicated for immigration agents within a county or city law enforcement facility (id., subd. (a)(5)); and (12) contracting with the federal government for use of California law enforcement facilities to house persons as federal detainees for purposes of civil immigration custody (id., subd. (a)(6)).

         The CVA makes clear that California law enforcement agencies are not prohibited from engaging in certain activities with federal authorities. California law enforcement agencies are not prohibited from investigating, enforcing, detaining upon reasonable suspicion of, or arresting a person for a violation of section 1326(a) of title 8 of the United States Code (reentry of removed aliens). (§ 7284.6, subd. (b)(1).) California law enforcement agencies are not prohibited from responding to a request from immigration authorities for information about a specific person's criminal history if otherwise permitted by state law. (Id., subd. (b)(2).) California law enforcement agencies may conduct enforcement or investigative duties associated with a joint law enforcement task force so long as the primary purpose of the task force is not immigration enforcement and the enforcement or investigative duties are primarily related to a violation of law unrelated to immigration enforcement. (Id., subd. (b)(3).)

         The CVA states that it “does not prohibit or restrict any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, federal immigration authorities, information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of [any] individual, or from requesting from federal immigration authorities immigration status information, lawful or unlawful, of any individual, or maintaining or exchanging that information with any other federal, state, or local government entity, pursuant to [federal immigration laws].” (§ 7284.6, subd. (e).)

         The CVA imposes on the California Attorney General the task of preparing and publishing “model policies limiting assistance with immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible consistent with federal and state law at public schools, public libraries, health facilities operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state, courthouses, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement facilities, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board, the Division of Workers Compensation, and shelters, and ensuring that they remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status.” (Gov. Code, § 7284.8, subd. (a).)

         The CVA also imposes restrictions on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR). The DCR must, in advance of an interview between United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and a person in DCR custody, provide that person with a written consent form explaining the purpose of the interview, that the interview is voluntary, and that the person may decline to be interviewed or be interviewed only with an attorney present. (Gov. Code, § 7284.10, subd. (a)(1).) The DCR must, upon receiving an ICE hold, notification, or transfer request, provide a copy of the request to the person who is the subject of the request and inform him or her whether the DCR intends to comply with it. (Id., subd. (a)(2).) The CVA prohibits the DCR from (1) restricting access to “any in prison educational or rehabilitative programming, or credit earning opportunity” solely on the basis of citizenship or immigration status and (2) considering citizenship or immigration status in determining a person's custodial classification level. (Id., subd. (b)(1) & (2).)

         II.

         California Constitution, Article XI, Section 5

         California law classifies cities as either charter cities, which are organized under a charter (Gov. Code, § 34101), or general law cities, which are organized under the general law of the State of California (id., § 34102). (See City of Vista, supra, 54 Cal.4th at p. 552, fn. 1.) The City is a charter city.

         Under the home rule doctrine, “[c]harter cities are specifically authorized by our state Constitution to govern themselves, free of state legislative intrusion, as to the matters deemed municipal affairs.” (City of Vista, supra, 54 Cal.4th at p. 555.)

         Article XI, section 5 of the California Constitution defines the scope of home rule powers of a charter city. Section 5 does so in two subdivisions. Section 5, subdivision (a) (Section 5(a)) sets out the general rule of municipal self governance and provides: “It shall be competent in any city charter to provide that the city governed thereunder may make and enforce all ordinances and regulations in respect to municipal affairs, subject only to the restrictions and limitations provided in their several charters and in respect to other matters they shall be subject to general laws. City charters adopted pursuant to this Constitution shall supersede any existing charter, and with respect to municipal affairs shall supersede all laws inconsistent therewith.” (Ibid., italics added; see Johnson v. Bradley (1992) 4 Cal.4th 389, 397 (Johnson).)

         “Whereas subdivision (a) of article XI, section 5 articulates the general principle of self-governance, subdivision (b) sets out a nonexclusive list of four ‘core' categories that are, by definition, ‘municipal affairs.'” (Johnson, supra, 4 Cal.4th at p. 398, fn. omitted.) Article XI, section 5, subdivision (b) of the California Constitution (Section 5(b)) states: “It shall be competent in all city charters to provide, in addition to those provisions allowable by this Constitution, and by the laws of the State for: (1) the constitution, regulation, and government of the city police force (2) subgovernment in all or part of a city (3) conduct of city elections and (4) plenary authority is hereby granted, subject only to the restrictions of this article, to provide therein or by amendment thereto, the manner in which, the method by which, the times at which, and the terms for which the several municipal officers and employees whose compensation is paid by the city shall be elected or appointed, and for their removal, and for their compensation, and for the number of deputies, clerks and other employees that each shall have, and for the compensation, method of appointment, qualifications, tenure of office and removal of such deputies, clerks and other employees.” (Ibid., italics added.)

         III.

         Huntington Beach Charter and Municipal Code Provisions

         Section 103 of the Huntington Beach Charter states: “The City shall have the power to make and enforce all laws and regulations in respect to municipal affairs, subject only to such restrictions and limitations as may be provided in this Charter or in the Constitution of the State of California.” Section 2.52.030 of the Huntington Beach Municipal Code states: “It shall be the duty of each and every member of the Police Department to enforce impartially all the laws and statutes of the United States and of the State of California and all of the ordinances of the City, within the limits of this City, and to perform such other and further duties as by statute and ordinance now existing or hereafter enacted, may be imposed upon them in their capacity as peace officers.”

         Section 2.24.050 of the Huntington Beach Municipal Code states: “The Police Chief shall perform such other acts as the laws of the state and ordinances of the Council may require.”

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The City filed a petition for writ of mandamus and a complaint for declaratory relief to “invalidate the unconstitutional mandates of the [CVA] that impermissibly strip the City's constitutionally protected Charter authority with respect to local ‘municipal affairs.'” The petition and complaint had three causes of action: (1) writ of mandate, (2) declaratory relief, and (3) injunctive relief. Each cause of action alleged the CVA unconstitutionally violates the City's authority to conduct municipal affairs guaranteed under article XI, section 5 of the California Constitution by mandating how the City operates its police force. As relief, the City prayed for issuance of “[a] Writ of Mandamus that commands and compels [the Attorney General] to comply with [his] respective mandatory and ministerial duties with respect to the City's claims raised in this action, including... that [the Attorney General] not enforce the [CVA] against the City and comply with Article XI, § 5 of the California Constitution.” The City also prayed for a declaration that the CVA is unconstitutional and preempted by article XI, section 5 of the California Constitution.

         In a memorandum of points and authorities in support of the petition for writ of mandamus, the City argued article XI, section 5 of the California Constitution grants charter cities “supreme authority” over municipal affairs, which include operation of the City's police force. The City argued the CVA is “an impermissible, un Constitutional overreach, is void, and should be invalidated” because it intrudes upon the City's control of its police force. The City submitted a declaration from its Chief of Police, Robert Handy, who voiced a number of criticisms of the CVA. Chief Handy declared the CVA “interferes with effective local law enforcement by limiting the discretion of the City police to work cooperatively with the United States Department of Homeland Security and [ICE].”

         The Attorney General filed opposition, which included the legislative history of the CVA, a declaration from Professor Tom K. Wong of the University of California, San Diego, and copies of declarations from four other law enforcement officials that had been filed in a federal court action. Wong concluded: “When undocumented immigrants hear about the [CVA], they have [a] deeper belief that California's laws can protect them, their families, and their communities, and they have more trust that California's laws can protect the confidentiality of witnesses to crimes even if they are undocumented.” He also concluded, “When undocumented immigrants hear that some cities in California want to opt out of the [CVA], this has wide-ranging chilling effects as they become significantly less likely to engage with public institutions, including law enforcement.”

         A hearing was conducted on the City's petition for writ of mandamus and complaint. The City narrowed the scope of relief sought by identifying section 7284.6 as the “operative portion” of the CVA that the City sought to have invalidated.

         The trial court granted the City's petition for writ of mandamus and issued an order for the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate. A peremptory writ of mandate was issued ordering the Attorney General to refrain from enforcing section 7284.6 against the City. In a statement of decision, the court found: (1) the “constitution, regulation and government” of a police force is a “quintessential municipal affair under [Section] 5(a)”; (2) the “constitution, regulation and government” of a police force is “a municipal prerogative” protected by Section 5(b); and (3) “there is no ‘statewide concern' justifying the state[']s regulation of a Charter City's police force.”

         The Attorney General timely filed a notice of appeal from the order granting the City's petition for writ of mandamus. An order granting or denying a petition for writ of mandamus is considered a final judgment for purposes of an appeal. (Public Defenders' Organization v. County of Riverside (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 1403, 1409.)

         DISCUSSION

         I.

         Standard of Review

         “[T]he question whether in a particular case the home rule provisions of the California Constitution [article XI, section 5] bar the application of state law to charter cities turns ultimately on the meaning and scope of the state law in question and the relevant state constitutional provisions. Interpreting that law and those provisions presents a legal question, not a factual one. [Citations.] Courts accord great weight to the factual record that the Legislature has compiled [citations], and also to any relevant facts established in trial court proceedings. [Citation.] Factual findings by the Legislature or the trial court, however, are not controlling. [Citation.] The decision as to what areas of governance are municipal concerns and what are statewide concerns is ultimately a legal one.” (City of Vista, supra, 54 Cal.4th at p. 558.)

         II.

         A Municipal Affair Identified in Section 5(b) Can Be Subject to a General Law of Statewide Concern.

         A. The Four Part Analytical Framework

         Home rule authority under article XI, section 5 of the California Constitution does not mean charter cities can never be subject to state laws that concern or regulate municipal affairs. “[A] charter city's authority to enact legislation is not unlimited.” (Jauregui v. City of Palmdale (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 781, 795 (Jauregui).) The Legislature may legislate as to matters of statewide concern and, if the statute is not overbroad, then the conflicting charter city law “ceases to be a ‘municipal affair' pro tanto and the Legislature is not prohibited by article XI, section 5(a), from addressing the statewide dimension by its own tailored enactments.” (California Fed. Savings, supra, 54 Cal.3d at p. 17.) “[G]eneral law prevails over local enactments of a chartered city, even in regard to matters which would otherwise be deemed to be strictly municipal affairs, where the subject matter of the general law is of statewide concern.” (People ex rel. Seal Beach Police Officers Assn. v. City of Seal Beach (1984) 36 Cal.3d 591, 600 (Seal Beach), quoting Professional Fire Fighters, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (1963) 60 Cal.2d 276, 292 (Pr ...


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