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CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT-CUELLAR

California high court pick up for confirmation

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - California Gov. Jerry Brown's nominee to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court has been receiving strong support ahead of his confirmation hearing.

The Commission on Judicial Appointments will consider the nomination of Stanford University law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar on Thursday in San Francisco.

The commission is expected to approve Cuellar's appointment. The three witnesses scheduled to testify say they are supporters. In addition, the commission received seven written endorsements, including one from former FBI chief Robert Mueller. The commission hasn't received any written opposition.

The Commission on Judicial Nominees, a panel of lawyers who vet candidates for the bench, found Cuellar "exceptionally well qualified."

The commission is comprised of California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, state Attorney General Kamala Harris and state appeals court Judge Joan Dempsey Klein.

IMMIGRATION ATTORNEYS-SAN FRANCISCO UPDATE

San Francisco to help fund immigration attorneys

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - San Francisco will become the first city in California to provide funding to help immigrants facing deportation obtain an attorney.

Supervisor David Chu says the city will give $100,000 to the nonprofit Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, which will use it to provide free legal representation for immigrants living in the country illegally.

He said the initiative is an expansion of the city's Right to Civil Counsel program that had focused on tenants facing evictions.

San Francisco has long had a "Sanctuary City" law, which aims to provide refuge for people who entered the country illegally.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and other state officials recently announced a proposal to provide $3 million to immigration attorneys.

RIM FIRE RECOVERY

Feds allows logging after huge California wildfire

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service has decided to allow logging on nearly 52 square miles of the Sierra Nevada burned last year in a massive California wildfire, a move contested by environmentalists.

The decision released Wednesday comes one year after the Rim Fire scorched more than 400 square miles, including parts of Yosemite National Park. The blaze was the largest on record for the Sierra and the state's third largest wildfire.

Environmentalists had argued against logging the land, saying the blackened trees and new growth beneath them create vital habitat for dwindling birds such as spotted owls and black-backed woodpeckers. Supporters of the timber industry said logging would pay for replanting and restoring the forest and allow the public to use the land.

APPLE-SAMSUNG TRIAL

Apple loses bid to block sales of 9 Samsung phones

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A federal judge has rejected Apple's attempt to block the sale of several older Samsung smartphones that copied features in the iPhone.

Wednesday's rebuff comes nearly four months after a jury awarded Apple Inc. $119 million in damages for Samsung's infringements on technology used in the trend-setting iPhone. The amount was well below the $2.2 billion in damages that Apple had been seeking in the latest round of legal tussling between the world's two leading smartphone makers.

Apple wanted U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to issue an order that would have prevented future U.S. sales of nine Samsung phone models that infringed on the iPhone technology.

Koh refused, saying Apple hadn't adequately proven Samsung's intellectual theft had hurt its sales or diminished its reputation for innovation.

CALIFORNIA DROUGHT-FINES

Bill addresses watering in homeowner associations

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Homeowner associations would be prohibited from requiring residents to pressure-wash their driveways or other areas when droughts are declared locally or across California, under a bill sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber says some homeowners are caught in bind. They face fines under state regulations that prohibit washing driveways, as well as fines from their associations if they don't follow its rules.

SB992 also lets associations fine homeowners for refusing to water their lawns if the housing development uses recycled water for irrigation. A separate bill, AB2100, was signed into law and already blocks such fines under most circumstances.

Nielsen's bill passed the Senate 36-0 Wednesday. It arose after reports that some homeowners were being fined for trying to save water amid California's drought.

CALIFORNIA DROUGHT-GROUNDWATER REGULATION

Lawmakers approve groundwater management bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Amid a third year of drought, state lawmakers began pushing legislation that begins to regulate groundwater.

California is one of the last states in the West with a pump-as-you-please policy.

The Senate on Wednesday passed AB1739 on a 26-11 vote. The bill by Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento would require some local governments to start managing wells and authorizes the state to step in under certain situations if they don't.

Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley of Agoura Hills, who is carrying companion legislation, says over-pumping has led to land subsidence. The bill authorizes groundwater sustainability agencies to install meters and charge fees.

Republicans objected to the legislation, warning about state and local "water police." They also said the new rules could conflict with property rights.

AB1739 returns to the Assembly.

FOREIGN-LABOR CONTRACTORS

Bill seeks to protect foreign-born workers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Contractors hiring foreign-born laborers in California would have to meet new requirements under a bill heading to Gov. Jerry Brown.

SB477 primarily protects nurses, home health workers, researchers and tech-sector workers. Farmworkers are protected under a separate law.

It was approved unanimously Wednesday in the Senate and goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar attempt last year.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says the standards are needed to protect laborers from abuse and human trafficking.

He says some of the estimated 130,000 foreign-born laborers working for contractors in California end up in what amounts to indentured servitude because they cannot repay the so-called recruitment fees, which are charged to place them in jobs.

The bill prohibits employers from using contractors who are not registered with the state labor commission and bans those contractors from charging recruitment fees. It also requires employers to disclose working conditions.

RIDE-SHARING INSURANCE

California sets ride-sharing insurance standards

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Drivers providing services for ride-sharing companies such as Lyft and Uber would have to carry a minimum amount of insurance under a compromise approved by the state Senate.

Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord says AB2293 will ensure that drivers buy insurance that will protect consumers and the public.

Both of the major ride-sharing companies supported her bill after she agreed to lower the required amount of excess insurance from $500,000 to $200,000 when drivers do not have passengers in their vehicles.

They previously had objected that lawmakers were stifling innovation by insisting on more expensive liability insurance. The industry lets drivers use their own vehicles to transport customers, who summon drivers using mobile applications.

The Senate approved the bill 30-4 on Wednesday, sending it to the Assembly.

GAY PANIC DEFENSE

Ban on 'gay panic defense' heads to governor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Defendants could not escape murder charges by claiming they panicked when they discovered someone was gay or transgender under a bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The state Assembly approved AB2501 on a 50-10 vote Wednesday.

Current law allows murder charges to be reduced to manslaughter if the killings happened in a sudden quarrel or in the heat of passion. AB2501 by Democratic Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla of Concord would bar defendants from using their victims' gender or sexual orientation to support a so-called panic defense.

Bonilla says such defenses legitimize violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The American Bar Association urged governments to curtail the use of panic defenses. The gay rights group Equality California says California would have the first statewide prohibition.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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