Legal News and Appellate Tips

Each week, TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal reviews several recent decisions out of the appellate courts in California, and elsewhere, and reports about the ones that might help you get an edge in your cases and appeals.

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Attorney Held in Contempt for a "Perfect Exemplar"​ of Impugning Integrity of the Court

I do not know who needs to hear this, but the Court of Appeal does not want to take any chances: While there are many tools of persuasion in the advocate's toolkit, accusing the court of being on the take from the Irvine Company, and being as corrupt as Tom Girardi, are not among them.

The recent published case from the Fourth District, Division Three, offers "a perfect exemplar ... to illustrate the phrase 'impugn[] the integrity of the court.'" (Salsbury Eng'g, Inc. v. Consol. Contracting Servs. (In re Mahoney) (D4d3 Jun. 10, 2021) no. G057832.)

Frustrated at his loss on appeal, attorney Mahoney decided to let 'er rip in a petition for rehearing. He accused the court of "judicial slight [sic] of hand," being influenced by the "political clout" of the Irvine Company, something to do with Tom Girardi – either resembling Girardi or condoning Girardi-like conduct; no time to clarify, Mahoney was rolling – and "indiscriminately screw[ing]" his client. Mahoney offered no legal argument. And then "doubled down" upon the court's OSC.

The court hit Mahoney with two contempt citations of $1,000 each: one for seemingly impugning the court's integrity, and the second for removing all doubt. (The decision was ordered forwarded to the State Bar as well.)

This commentator thinks the stoics had it right: "By nothing," Epictetus had it, "is the rational creature so distressed as by the irrational." In Mahoney's case, what seemed particularly distressing was the marked pointlessness and witlessness of Mahoney's insults.

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Hearsay Evidence Through Expert Witness Held Improper; Judgment Reversed

One important case that counsel preparing for a trial need to keep ready to hand is People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665 (Sanchez), which prohibits parties from offering otherwise hearsay evidence through their experts.

That is what the plaintiff tried to do in the catastrophic injury case of Townsend v. Olivo (D4d2 Jun. 15, 2021) no. E073183 (non-pub.). The plaintiff suffered injuries that would lead to amputation of his leg. His expert witness testified to the $1.1 million in future medical costs. But the expert admitted he had no knowledge relating to these future procedures and prosthetic devices. He had spoken with others about the costs, however, and so testified about that.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal held this was error. The expert’s testimony about future medical expenses was inadmissible hearsay. The foundational facts were outside of the expert’s personal knowledge, and no other witness supplied them, so no hearsay exception applies.

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Understand the Difference Between a Presumption Affecting the Burden of Production and a Presumption Affecting the Burden of Proof

So you think you understand legal presumptions? Well, do you know the difference between a presumption that affects the burden of production, and one the affects the burden of proof?

If not, do not feel too bad. The trial judge in Felix v. People of California (D5 Jun. 8, 2021) no. F080255 (non-pub.) didn't understand the difference, either.

A defendant moved to set aside a default judgment, submitting a declaration stating he never received the summons and complaint. The trial court held this did not overcome the legal presumption of receipt.

Reversed: That presumption, affecting only the burden of production, disappeared when the defendant submitted his declaration.

Presumptions affecting "the burden of producing evidence" are different from those affecting the "burden of proof." The former just tells you who has to get the ball rolling in terms of putting on evidence, but does not otherwise express any public policy about how the fact question should come out.

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The Science and Rhetoric of the Written Word: An Interview with Judge Robert Bacharach

Ever wondered what a federal appellate judge thinks of your legal writing? Judge Robert Bacharach of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals told Jeff Lewis and me on the California Appellate Law Podcast. Judge Bacharach just published a book titled, Legal Writing: A Judge's Perspective. Judge Bacharach would like you to know:

✎ Writing clearly keeps your readers fresh and alert.

✎ A reader you've burdened with complex sentences and lots of acronyms may be too worn out to be persuaded by your arguments. The judge is willing to go on the journey with you. If you want the judge to arrive at the same place as you, take the straight paths: don't wear out your judge.

✎ The table of contents helps your readers orient themselves to your arguments so they can understand them and then – and only then – be persuaded by them. Yet only half of litigants make use of this highly effective tool!

✎ Next time you consider starting a sentence with "However," try "But" instead.

✎ Why do so many attorneys still think impugning their colleagues and the court is anything other than self-defeating?

✎ Beware of inserting humor and pop culture references into your briefs. Some federal judges employ them in their writing. But many federal judges do not. And at any rate: You are not a federal judge.

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Oral Argument Lost Because Counsel Failed to Call Clerk Within an Hour of Posting the Tentative Ruling

You are ready for oral argument. You have checked the tentative and you are ready to explain why the judge got it wrong. But unfortunately, the Superior Court for this particular county does not hold oral argument unless, after the court posts the tentative ruling, you give notice to the court and opposing counsel that you still plan to argue. And that window of time can be as little as an hour.

That was the case in Tearse v. Tearse (Jun. 9, 2021) no. A157576 (non-pub.). The appellant's attorney showed up at the hearing without giving notice of intent to appear by 4:00 p.m. the day before.

But counsel had looked at the court's website at 3:00, she argued, and there was no tentative. Counsel counsel checked with the department at 4:20 and still did not learn of any tentative having been posted.

Well, the court explained, it is true the court posted the tentative a little bit late at 3:10 p.m. So I would have given you until 4:10 p.m. You didn't get here till 4:20. Sorry.

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Appellate Tips Involving Waiver, Arbitration, and Satan: California Appellate Law Podcast Episode 11

In episode 11 of the California Appellate Law Podcast, TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal discusses some recent cases with co-host Jeff Lewis in which state and federal appellate courts have found waivers and other errors made by attorneys and parties in the trial court. Like reading a high school yearbook, appellate decisions often capture attorneys making themselves unintentionally conspicuous.
Some of the cases discussed involving "bad yearbook photos" include waiving the right to arbitration by failing to reference it in CMC statements; waiving issues by failing to include them in pretrial statements, trial motions, and posttrial motions; and failing to preserve evidentiary objections.

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Bankruptcy Stay Does Not Prevent Creditors from Renewing Judgments, Published CA Court Holds

So you have a judgment that is about to expire, but the judgment-debtor has filed for bankruptcy. Can you renew the judgment? Or does the bankruptcy stay apply until the stay expires?

Yes, says the recent published opinion in Rubin v. Ross (D4d2 Jun. 4, 2021) no. E074210. Yes to both.

Justice Menetrez concurs, asking: both? That doesn't exactly make sense, now, does it?

The Upshot: If you have a judgment, do not be deterred by debtor's bankruptcy from timely renewing that judgment. But even if you are deterred, you still get a 30-day extension of time after the bankruptcy concludes.

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No Record, No Problem! Appellant Reverses Alter Ego Judgment Using Settled Statement

I confess I probably would have turned away the defendant in this case had he asked me to take up his appeal from a judgment finding him liable as the alter ego of his company on a loan obligation. Alter ego findings are very difficult to reverse, and the defendant in Creation Harmony Trading, Inc. v. Li (D2d4 May 27, 2021) no. B301004 (non-pub.) personally promised to repay the obligation. And not only is the finding reviewed on the very deferential substantial-evidence standard, but there was not even a court reporter at the trial! Game, set, and match, I would have concluded.

Yet, the defendant got the judgment reversed on appeal. And the defendant showed there are limits to the alter ego doctrine.

The Upshot: In the appropriate case, the Court of Appeal may reverse for lack of substantial evidence supporting all the necessary elements of a claim. And a settled statement can be a viable substitute for a reporter's transcript on appeal. But, still, and although, I would not bet on it.

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Wesson Oil Class Settlement Reversed: 9th Cir. Holds Trial Court Abused Discretion in Assuming Post-Cert. Settlement Was Not Collusive

Class actions only very loosely resemble the practice of law as most attorneys know it. Yes, they involve plaintiffs suing defendants in court before a judge. But most of the class members don't even know they're in the case, and wouldn't know their attorney if he showed up at their doorstep delivering a settlement check (in this case, a check for about $0.15). Things are much different for their attorneys, however, as was the case in Briseño v. Henderson, --- F.3d ---- (9th Cir. June 1, 2021), who proposed to pocket millions from what the Ninth Circuit held to be a collusive settlement agreement in a false advertising case over cooking oil.

The new clarification Briseño provides is that the rule requiring close scrutiny of class settlements applies both pre-class certification and post-class certification.

An ancillary lesson from Briseño is, experts will say anything.

And the much less important but more entertaining lesson from Briseño is: Judge Lee really loves puns (such as: the attorneys suing Wesson here were "hoping to strike oil"); and pop-culture references to Star Wars and the Hamilton musical.

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A Four-Letter Word You Must Not Say at Oral Argument

A caution against using acronyms or jargon. If there is anything in your oral argument that you would write in all caps, cut it out.

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Two Appeals Dismissed Where Entity Appellants Owed Taxes or Not in Good Legal Standing

Two recent appeals were dismissed because the entity defendants were not in good legal standing. One was crosswise with the taxing authorities. (H.T.L. Properties, LLC v. Speck (D2d2 May 4, 2021) no. B299160 (non-pub.).) Another never formally organized. (Dennis Mitchell Oil v. Buehler Family Bakersfield, LLC (D5 Jun. 1, 2021) no. F074897 (non-pub.).) As a result, both their appeals were dismissed.

But the nonexistent entity gets the judgment against it vacated as part of the dismissal. How's that for failing upward?

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Denial of Domestic Violence Restraining Order Reversed; Improper to Refuse Evidence of Recent Abuse, Appeals Court Holds

Family court orders, such as domestic violence restraining orders, are often difficult to reverse because they are subject to a very deferential standard on appeal. A Court of Appeal will only reverse if it concludes the family court abused its discretion. But the abuse-of-discretion standard has limits. And when the family court misapplies the legal and evidentiary rules entirely, its rulings are entitled to no discretion at all.

That is what happened in Marriage of F.M. and M.M. (D1d1 May 28, 2021) no. A160669 (non-pub.). The trial court ruled that although the parties "definitely need to stay away from each other," the court concluded "[t]hat doesn't mean that there needs to be domestic violence restraining orders." Instead, the court ordered mother to move out of the house (even though no one asked for that).

The court also categorically refused to consider mother's testimony that father had threatened violence after the TRO was issued.

But that is not how any of this works, the First District Court of Appeal held.

Reversed and remanded.

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Accusations Are Not Misconduct: The Duty of Candor is Not Limited to “Chesterfieldian Politeness”

The defendants also argued that the plaintiff's attorney called them "cheaters" both during opening statements and closing arguments, and that this inflamed the jury against the defendants.

Not so. An attorney “ ‘may vigorously argue his case and is not limited to “Chesterfieldian politeness.” ’ ” (People v. Fields (1983) 35 Cal.3d 329, 363.)
(SoCal Diesel, Inc. v. Extrasensory Software, Inc. (D2d1 May 3, 2021) no. B290062 (non-pub.).)

And a Reversal Based on Curious Reasoning: Unpublished opinions usually are unpublished because they are uneventful. But sometimes, unpublished opinions are unpublished maybe, just maybe, because they contain reasoning that might not hold up to scrutiny. If at oral argument your panel asks you how it can rely on a particular argument that was not raised below or in the briefs, the answer is: "In an unpublished opinion, your honor." That is the true answer, anyway. It is not the correct answer, obviously. But it is the true answer.

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Even the Devil Gets Ensnared in Appellate Procedure: Satanic Temple's Arguments Held Waived on Appeal

The Satanic Temple, miffed it was not selected to give the invocation at the local city council meeting, sued the City of Scottsdale for discrimination. The plaintiffs tried the case on an as-applied discrimination theory, and when they lost, moved for new findings under a facial discrimination theory.

Held: The new theory was waived because it was not raised in the pretrial statement. And it was not raised in the opening brief, either. The reviewing court will not be the Devil's advocate, either figuratively or literally.
The Satanic Temple's excerpts of record were also stricken because they failed to comply with the rules.

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Defective Notice of Appeal Held Grounds for Dismissal of Appeal in Arbitration Denial Case Involving an Elder

Appeals are rarely dismissed because of defects in the notice of appeal. But rare is not the same as never.

In appeals from orders denying petitions to compel arbitration where preference has been ordered, the notice of appeal must state it is governed by Code of Civil Procedure section 1294, and must attach the preference order and the order being appealed.

The appellant failed to do that in Avery v. All Saintsidence OPCO, LLC (D1d3 May 24, 2021) A162589. As a result, its appeal was dismissed.

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Iran Is Not a Suitable Judicial Forum as a Matter of Law, CA Appellate Court Holds

The plaintiffs in Aghaian v. Minassian (D2d8 May 24, 2021) no. B296287 are children of Iranians who fled during the Iranian Revolution. Their parents had amassed a large amount of property, and had asked the defendant, a family friend, to recover it for them. Turns out the defendant used the opportunity to enrich himself by some $34 million. The children sued, and the defendant argued Iran was a more suitable forum. Iran? the Court of Appeal asked. That Iran? Iran is not a suitable forum.

But by the time the first appeal was done, the plaintiff had initiated proceedings in Iran. Now can we litigate in Iran, the defendant asked again? Look, the plaintiffs have waived their objections to Iran!

No, the Court of Appeal responded in this second appeal. We have already decided the question. It is law of the case. Our holding is our holding. It cannot be waived.

But: An order denying a motion for inconvenient forum may be reviewed as an interlocutory order following a final judgment. The defendant did not waive his right to appellate review by failing to file a writ petition.

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After Reversal on Appeal, Appellant Claimed It Was Entitled to $5.7MM in Restitution

Here is an under-appreciated consideration in appellate procedure: If you are the party that prevailed at trial, and you collect on your judgment pending appeal, what's the worst that could happen? Would it surprise you to learn that the prevailing plaintiff could be ordered to make restitution "of all property and rights lost by the erroneous judgment or order," and could even have a money judgment imposed against it under Code of Civil Procedure section 908? This includes legal interest. And if enforcing the judgment caused the appellant to lose business profits, the judgment creditor can be liable for those losses, too.

That is very nearly what happened to the respondent in Dr. Leevil, LLC v. Westlake Health Care Ctr. (D2d6 Mar. 17, 2021) no. B304339 (non-pub.). A judgment-creditor absolutely can be liable in restitution to the judgment-debtor. And it would have here, too, had the appellant not stipulated to the remedy – a $5.7 million mistake. Ouch.

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No, You Do Not Have to List All Prior Intermediate Orders in Your Notice of Appeal

In case you think me a Cassandra with my frequent warnings about losing your appeals to technicalities, I have three Court of Appeal opinions from just this week to buck you up. All three opinions promise that, no, the Court of Appeal is not looking for picayune errors in your notice of appeal for an excuse to dismiss your appeal.

Also below: A call to colleagues to consider discontinue using the Judicial Council form Notice of Appeal.

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Notice of Appeal Filed by Corporation But Omitting Alter Ego Appellant Held Not Fatal Under the Liberality Rule – But Alter-Ego Finding Still Affirmed

It is a horrifying thing to find that your appeal has been dismissed. And it can happen very easily. An appeal can be dismissed because the notice of appeal was filed late – even a day late. Or because the notice of appeal had the wrong box checked on it specifying the wrong type of order (even though specifying the type of order is not even required), or because the notice of appeal specified the wrong authority (which is not required, either).

So what about a notice of appeal that omits the name of the appellant? That is what happened in Westlake Village Marketplace, LLC v. West American Roofing, Inc. (D2d5 May 17, 2021) no. B306358 (non-pub.). Miraculously, that appeal, from the alter-ego judgment, survived. (But the judgment was affirmed.)

Also covered: A tactical choice for plaintiffs: whether "it may be prudent for a plaintiff to sue only the corporation," leaving the alter egos for postjudgment litigation.

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Evidence on Appeal: Just Because It Is in the Appellate Record Does Not Mean It Is in the Evidentiary Record

One thing about appeals that can potentially can be deceptive is the record on appeal. When you appeal, all your evidence goes in the record. That means the Court of Appeal will consider all your evidence, right?

Not necessarily, as the appellant learned in Epstein v. Prescott Neighborhood Partners, LLC (D1d1 May 13, 2021) no. A159185 (non-pub.). The trial court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint on an anti-SLAPP motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16. The trial court also refused to admit the plaintiff's evidence in opposition to the motion.

But the plaintiff failed to challenge the trial court's evidentiary rulings refusing to admit his evidence. "As a result," the court held, "we can consider only the admitted evidence, and plaintiffs have forfeited any argument that the evidence they unsuccessfully sought to introduce established a probability that their claims would succeed.

Also, arguments raised at oral argument don't count.

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Private Jet Lessor's Novel Judgment Enforcement Strategy Affirmed on Appeal, Holding Debtor Waived His Challenge by Failing to Raise It Below

The judgment-enforcement case of R Consulting & Sales, Inc. v. Kim (D4d1 May 13, 2021) (non-pub.) provides several useful lessons. For attorneys representing judgment-creditors, the case provides an interesting application of a wage garnishment against a debtor's sham companies. For appellants, it provides a caution in careful drafting of the notice of appeal, and a warning that post-judgment stipulations may be deemed as an assent to the judgment – thus waiving the right to appeal.

It also suggests how new legal theories – which sometimes may be raised for the first time on appeal – will be deemed forfeited if they involve a factual question that was not raised in the trial court.

Finally, it reminds attorneys for prevailing parties to be judicious in their use of redacted billings, and to avoid block-billing.

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Selecting Issues for Appeal? Look for Misapplication of the Legal Standard, Like in This Attorney Fee Case

One of the most effective pieces in winning an appeal is issue selection. Most attorneys know, for example, that "de novo" issues are best on appeal: the Court of Appeal will not pay any deference to a trial court on issues of law.
And most attorneys also know that "abuse of discretion" issues are lousy on appeal. That is because the Court of Appeal will pay great deference to a trial judge's discretionary decisions.
But there is a significant minority of discretionary cases where the trial court so botches its analysis, or misunderstands the law, that the Court of Appeal will pay its orders no deference at all. Instead, on appeal the court will conclude that the trial court failed to exercise discretion. And a failure to exercise discretion is an abuse of discretion.
That is what happened in Southern Cal. School of Theology v. Claremont Graduate Univ. (D2d1 May 3, 2021) no. B302452 (non-pub.). The trial judge thought she did not have authority to apply a "negative multiplier" to reduce block-billed fees. That was incorrect. So back down the case goes.

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The 180-Day Deadline to Appeal Is Not Subject to Extension, Waiver, or "Fundamental Fairness"​

Appeals are dismissed on untimeliness grounds with regularity. This opinion, dismissing an untimely appeal, provides analysis that may help you avoid a similar fate. The problem, in short, is failing to appreciate that, while Rule 8.108 of the Rules of Court may extend the deadline to appeal, that rule never extends the deadline beyond 180 days from entry of the judgment. If you can remember only that, it will save you from the fate in Brownstone Lofts, LLC v. Otto Miller (D1d1 May 11, 2021) no. A160616 (non-pub.).

One other thing to try and remember: Once a final order is entered, the trial court loses jurisdiction to hear a motion for reconsideration. That means a postjudgment motion for reconsideration is improper and will not extend the time to appeal.

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"The opinion is eight pages without a reason to exist."​

If you were to read the eight-page factual summary of the abusive juvenile in People v. S.O. (D3d2 May 7, 2021) no. E075778, you would be disappointed by the payoff in terms of application of those troubling facts to law. That is because there is none.

Justice Raphael thinks this effort a waste, and dissents to say the appeal should have been dismissed as abandoned. Justice Raphael provides this pithy synopsis:

"Minor's counsel raises no issues. Today's opinion discusses no issues. The opinion is eight pages without a reason to exist. One can say nothing much more succinctly."

The Upshot: Justices do not appreciate impositions on their time. Fully develop the issues in your appeal with factual analysis, record citation, legal analysis, and legal citation. Do not expect the Court of Appeal to find reversible error on its own.

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There Are Few Requirements for a Notice of Appeal, But This 9th Cir. Appeal Is Dismissed for Failing Nearly All of Them

Filing an appeal is not hard. There are only a few basic requirements. But in Ditech Financial LLC v. Talasera and Vicanto Homeowners' Association, 2021 WL 1718214 (9th Cir. Apr. 30, 2021), appellant failed nearly all of them.
To prepare a valid notice of appeal, the notice simply needs to identify the appellants, the judgment being appealed, and the appellate court. Fed. R. App. P. 3(c)(1)(A)–(C). The appellant listed the wrong parties on the notice. And also the wrong case number. When the notice came to describing the judgment being appealed from, appellant listed the wrong judgment, too. The date of the judgment: also wrong.
Presumably, appellants correctly identified the Ninth Circuit as the court to which the appeal was taken.
Appeal dismissed.

Federal Practice Tip: California practitioners who are frequently told that the deadline to appeal can no-way-no-how be extended under any circumstances may forget that the deadline may be extended in federal appeals by motion to the district court. The Ninth Circuit here notes that appellant's amended notice of appeal might have saved its appeal had it sought the requisite extension of time to file it under Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(5).

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Genetic Testing, Charles Manson, Appellate Oral Argument, and Tentative Opinions on Appeal: An Interview with Alan Yockelson

On our latest podcast, appellate attorneys Tim Kowal and Jeff Lewis interview Alan Yockelson about genetic testing, Charles Manson, and whether the Cal. Supreme Court is beginning to doubt whether juries are still capable of sniffing out fraud.

Also discussed:
• The value of tentative opinions
• How oral argument can change an outcome
• Asserting objections at trial even when the judge’s mind is made up
• Why justices don't dissent or grant writ review more often

Listen to the podcast here or subscribe to the California Appellate Law Podcast on your favorite podcast player.

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"Are We the Baddies?" 

As attorneys, it is important to have an internal dialogue asking: Is the judge in our case going to wonder, are we the baddies? "Hans.. I have just noticed something. […]

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Update Your Trial Bookmarks: Dispositive Motions in Limine and Nonstatutory Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings "a Recipe for Reversal"​

There is an important point of trial practice about filing dispositive motions in limine in Tung v. Chicago Title (D1d3 Apr. 28, 2021) no. A151526 (published). That point is: Don't. The same point is made about relying on nonstatutory motions for judgment on the pleadings: Here is the quote to put in your opposition: "[W]e caution trial judges to be wary when choosing to decide an in limine motion that, no matter how captioned, functions as a nonstatutory motion for judgment on the pleadings, particularly when the motion is filed on the eve of trial. Doing so, under circumstances like those presented here, is a recipe for reversal."

Finally, there is also an excellent tip for expediting an appeal of an early catastrophic trial ruling and avoiding judgment collection pending appeal: dismissing remaining trivial claims (with prejudice), and stipulating to the prevailing party's fees and costs providing enforcement is to be stayed pending appeal. This was a shrewd move by appellant's counsel here, who served their client well.

Read on.

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Backdoor Stays of Unlawful Detainer Actions Via Quash Motions No Longer Available

Here is an appellate procedure trick I wish I'd thought of.
Unlawful detainers are designed for speedy adjudication of landlord/tenant disputes. But there was one way a tenant could readily delay the process by several weeks or months: by filing a motion to quash the complaint. A motion to quash extends the time to respond to the complaint. And when it's denied, the defendant has a statutory right to file a writ petition. The writ petition effectively stays the UD action.
And this de facto stay is free (except for attorney fees).

But the California Supreme Court now holds that that deal, sweet for the tenant but rather sour for the landlord, is not the law.
In the future, tenants should not plan on obtaining a de facto stay by filing an improper motion to quash. That clarity, ironically, comes by way of the Court's having given the tenant in this case a two-year de facto stay while awaiting its decision. The law works funny that way.

Stancil v. Superior Court (San Mateo) (May 3, 2021) S253783

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Another Court Hits Amazon with Strict Liability for Another Incendiary Electronic Device

In September 2020, we reported that the Fourth District held Amazon liable in strict liability for an exploding battery sold on its online store, because Amazon inserted itself into the chain of distribution when it charged for the purchase, and stored, packaged, and delivered the product. Bolger v. Amazon.com, LLC (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 431 (Bolger). Seven months later, the Second District eagerly followed suit in Loomis v. Amazon.com LLC (D2d8 Apr. 26, 2021) B297995 (published).

Justice Wiley's concurring opinion suggests he would have voted twice for reversal given the chance. “[W]e have an easy case that beautifully illustrates the deep structure of modern tort law: a judicial quest to minimize the social costs of accidents—that is, the sum of the cost of accidents and the cost of avoiding accidents.”

That is rather more sugar in my tea than suits me. But we know where Justice Wiley stands.

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A Cautionary Tale Against Taking an Appeal Too Early: Kurwa v. Kislinger (Cal. 2007)

What's the worst can happen by taking an appeal too early? I am asked this often, and the California Supreme Court case of Kurwa v. Kislinger (2017) 4 Cal.5th 109 always comes to mind. The worst that can happen? Five years of litigation, four trips to the Court of Appeal, two trips to the Supreme Court, and easily six figures in fees, just to get back to where you were when you first asked that question.

The nub of the problem in Kurwa was that plaintiff had two obstacles to appealability. Plaintiff used a too-clever-by-half ploy to get around one (stipulating to waiver of his remaining claim without prejudice, and a tolling agreement to boot). After realizing on appeal this could not create jurisdiction, plaintiff dismissed the rest of his claims with prejudice.
But there was a second obstacle: defendant's cross-claim was still pending. And because the trial court refused to dismiss the judgment based on the ill-conceived stipulation, plaintiff was stuck "in a legal cul de sac."

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The Parable of the Principled Client

Client asks an attorney to file a lawsuit over a business dispute. "Your lawsuit has merit," the attorney says, "but it will cost more than it is worth. Based on […]

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Changes to the California Supreme Court Publication Rules

Attorneys are aware how important it is to confirm the precedential value of a recent published "smoking gun" decision on all fours with your case. One factor that can greatly disturb the citability of an appellate decision is whether the California Supreme Court has decided to review it.
This week, the Supreme Court amended rule 8.1115. Fortunately, the amendment is arguably rather sensible. In short, while Supreme Court review is pending, you can still cite your smoking gun case, and the trial court may follow it, even if another appellate court disagrees with it.
Less fortunate is that, if your smoking-gun case was taken up for review on an issue completely separate from your smoking-gun issue, the case loses precedential effect on your smoking-gun issue, too, as collateral damage.

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Punitive Damages Are Reviewed De Novo; and Effective Use of Dicta

The recent case of Rubio v. CIA Wheel Group (D2d8 Apr. 15, 2021) no. B300021, reminds that awards of punitive damages are reviewed independently by the appellate courts. Rubio also provides a nice illustration how dicta – observations made by prior courts that are not part of their holdings – may be used effectively.
Rubio involved an employee wrongfully terminated because she had cancer. During the trial, employer lied about having knowledge of employee's cancer. (The judge asked: why else did he think employee needed medical leave "for three months? A cold?" Yikes.)

Held: A trial court may properly consider the noneconomic damages in the baseline for a punitive damages award. Combining economic and noneconomic damages here to make the range of harm $115,000 to $165,000, the $500,000 award of punitive damages reflected a multipler of 3.5, which the court held to be permissible.

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New Trial Motions Are a Procedural Minefield

Facing an adverse judgment, considering a motion for new trial is a must. But beware: win or lose, the order on a motion for new trial can result in thorny procedural issues, both in the trial court and on appeal.
A case in point. Contrares-Velazquez v. Family Health Centers of San Diego, Inc. (D4d1 Apr. 7, 2021) no. D075577, an employment/disability case that resulted in a $1 million compensatory damages and $5 million punitive damages verdict.

This case prompts a reminder that new trial motions can give a result that appeals cannot: Review of the "weight of the evidence," which is fundamentally different from "substantial evidence" review on appeal.
But this case also raises questions about how trial courts are to treat inconsistent verdicts after a partial new trial. The authorities may be split on this issue. Or if not split exactly, then rather unclear.
It takes a gambling sort to go it alone on a new trial motion.

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Order Denying New Trial Motion Not Appealable, Unless It Only Partially Denies It

Here is an easy way to get tripped up. A new trial motion is a common postjudgment motion that must be raised to preserve certain issues for appeal (most commonly excessive damages). If the court denies your new trial motion, the denial is not an appealable order. But if the court only partially denies the new trial motion – and partially grants it – that order is appealable.
Put otherwise, an order granting a motion for new trial is appealable. If you are unhappy that the court only partially granted your motion, you must appeal that partial grant.

Posttrial motions are critically important in an appeal and an excellent time to consult appellate counsel.

Instant Infosystems, Inc. v. Open Text, Inc. (D2d5 Apr. 20, 2021) no. B297123 (not published).

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Charles Manson's Grandson Not Required to Submit to DNA Testing, Court of Appeal Holds

The Second District Court of Appeal has the latest update in the fight over Charles Manson's estate. After Manson died in 2017, the probate court ordered Freeman was the sole surviving adult next of kin, and authorized to determine the disposition of Manson's remains. Manson penpal and "murderabilia" collector Channels disputed Freeman's kinship, and moved for genetic testing under Probate Code section 6453.

But there is no authority to require genetic testing under section 6453. So held (and without much trouble, really) the Second District in Freeman v. Channels (D2d2 Apr. 13, 2021) no. B303594 (not published).

Before reaching the question, however, the court found a jurisdictional defect. The court concluded the order appealed was not an appealable order. But the court exercised its discretion to treat the appeal as a writ petition because the improper genetic test "will involve an invasion of Freeman's privacy that cannot be undone," leaving Freeman with "no adequate remedy at law."

So Freeman will get to handle the disposition of Manson's remains. He is legally (perhaps strictly so) the prevailing party.

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The Notice of Appeal Is Deemed Filed When the Clerk Receives It...

The Notice of Appeal Is Deemed Filed When the Clerk Receives It...
... not when the clerk happens to get around to filing it.
In recent months – even before Covid, but even more since – I have seen clerks failing to promptly process filings. You have probably noticed it, too. Depending on the filing, this may create problems. For a notice of appeal, which has jurisdictional consequences, the date of filing is a matter of life or death to an appeal.
So what happens if you submit the notice of appeal timely, but the clerk does not actually "file" it until it is untimely?
J.M v. Los Angeles County Dept. of Children and Family Services (D2d2 Apr. 12, 2021) no. B305486 (not published) held: The appeal is timely. Fortunately, neither appelants' right to appeal nor the Court of Appeal's jurisdiction are at the mercy of a clerk's filing idiosyncrasies.

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Split Appellate Court Finds Arbitration Waived (But Dissent Has the Better Argument)

In this appeal of a relatively rare denial of a petition to compel arbitration, Presiding Justice Gilbert and Justice Tangeman each authored an opinion. After you read Gilbert's opinion, you will surely agree with it. But then read Tangeman's opinion, and tell me you haven't changed your mind.

The Upshot: If you decide to litigate despite having a right to arbitrate, consider raising a reservation of the right to arbitrate should new arbitrable claims or defenses be raised. Answers and CMC statements may be a good place to leave these breadcrumbs.

Be prepared for litigation to change shape. Retaining appellate counsel early is a good way be prepared for unexpected turns.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. v. Agak (Apr. 12, 2021) no. B300635 (unpublished).

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Default Judgment Set Aside on Showing of Merit, Excuse, and Diligence; and a Comment on Civility

While the parties were clearing up their eviction matter, the tenant-plaintiffs in Mayorga v. Mountview Props. Ltd. (D2d5 Apr. 9, 2021) no. B298284, noticed that landlord-plaintiff had not answered their complaint. So they pounced: they took landlord's default, and got a default judgment of nearly $500,000.
Landlord got the default judgment set aside, which was affirmed on appeal.
But landlord's attorney did his client no favors by his heated rhetoric, referring to appellants' “sloth and stealth” and their purported “extreme lack of hygiene” among other things.

But, an apology goes a long way, so in addition to still prevailing on appeal, the respondent with the forked-tongued attorney still got their costs on appeal.

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Court Holds Every One of Appellant's Arguments Waived

About 3-4% of appeals are dismissed on technical grounds. But in addition to that, many more go through full briefing on the merits, but still ultimately fail on technical grounds. Here is an appellate effort that failed for purely technical reasons. Ghannoum v. Sevier (D2d2 Apr. 7, 2021) no. B304026 (unpublished). (The court also clearly was not excited by appellant's arguments.)
Ultimately, a loss is a loss. But one wants to avoid losing by way of all arguments being deemed waived.

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Can You Waive or Stipulate to Standing Defects? Court of Appeal Says Yes

When a party lacks standing – a legal interest in a case – that is a jurisdictional defect. Jurisdictional defects are fatal, and cannot be waived, or stipulated to.
But not in Silva v. Humboldt Cnty. (D1d1 Mar. 11, 2021) no. A160161. The First District concluded the county waived any standing defects by stipulating to petitioner's standing.

But I am not so sure about this. Standing is a jurisdictional requirement. And when dealing with a jurisdictional objection the party cannot waive it, or stipulate to it, or otherwise be bilked out of it by those nice appellate doctrines routinely trotted out to affirm a judgment.

Nonetheless, the result is otherwise correct, so: Affirmed.

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Probate Court May Order Mediation, Deem Non-Participating Beneficiary Rights Forfeit, Split Appellate Court Holds

In a surprising split-decision, the Second District held trust beneficiaries who voluntarily decline to participate in mediation forfeit all rights to object to the mediated settlement. Breslin v. Breslin (D2d6 Apr. 5, 2021) no. B301382.
The opinion was first issued on January 26, 2021. Following rehearing, however, Justice Tangeman withdrew from the unanimous opinion and lodged a dissent.

For my part, I agree with Justice Tangeman. And I have two additional concerns about the majority's opinion, concerns not addressed either by the majority or by the dissent.
One is that civil authorities rather emphatically reject the Breslin majority's approach to involuntary mediation here. And another is that there is reason to suspect the majority opinion could be deployed in civil actions.

Watch this space.

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Untimely Appeal May Be Excused in Dependency Proceedings, Cal. Supreme Court Holds

The California Supreme Court in In re A.R. (Apr. 5, 2021) no. S260928 held that failing to file a timely notice of appeal is not necessarily fatal in a dependency case. This is a surprising holding because, as most practitioners know, reviewing courts treat appellate deadlines as jurisdictional in nature: a hard limit on the court's very authority to act, regardless of merits, good cause, or equity.
Does the Court's holding undermine this jurisdictional rule? To escape the harsh effect of the jurisdictional requirement of filing a timely appeal, the Court relies heavily on another statutory right: the right to competent counsel in dependency proceedings. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 317.5.) But as the Court acknowledges, the Legislature does not furnish any remedy for this right. Namely, the Legislature does not suggest any exception to the jurisdictional limits on the courts' powers.

The upshot: I do not expect In re A.R. will lead to any different results in civil appeals in the short term. Courts will continue citing the "jurisdictional" prohibition against considering untimely appeals. But, we may continue to wonder whether they are in earnest.

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Appeal Held Improper Following Motion to Vacate Prejudgment Orders

In this wage-and-hour action in Zhang v. Shao (D4d3 Apr. 1, 2021) no. G058045, the defendant employer made a number of procedural missteps, resulting in plaintiffs' obtaining summary judgment. Before appealing, employers tried to undo the damage in the trial court. But they bungled that, too. They filed a motion to vacate the order granting summary judgment. By the time the trial court ruled on employers' motion, it was more than 60 days later. Too late to appeal the judgment.

Some cautionary lessons from this opinion:
* Beware Using the Judicial Council Form Notice of Appeal
* Beware When Appealing Orders Other Than the Judgment Itself
* Beware Late Settlements of Appeals

Also: The court inartfully states the law re what is required in a notice of appeal.

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Out-of-State Litigant Did Not Waive Personal Jurisdiction, Family Court Order Reversed

There are a few curious turns in Marriage of Sellers (D2d6 Mar. 25, 2021) 2021 WL 1134891, No. B306844 (unpublished). While unpublished, it provides a good roadmap – with citable authority – to making a limited appearance on behalf of an out-of-state litigant without waiving jurisdictional challenges.

And if one is inclined toward a cynical view about appellate courts' selective treatment of appealability issues as "jurisdictional," it furnishes some confirmation of that, too.

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Important Differences in Federal and State Appeals, with Cory Webster

Appellate attorney Cory Webster joins Jeff Lewis and Tim Kowal on episode 9 of the California Appellate Law Podcast to discuss the differences in handling state and federal appeals, including: pitfalls in failing to make crucial posttrial motions (FRCP 50); the vastly different approaches to oral arguments in federal court; and the impact of amicus briefing on the practice of appellate law.

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9th Cir. Reverses $1.8B Summary Judgment Against Discovery Abuser, Suggests District Court Impose Terminating Sanctions Instead

The Good News for Defendant: The Ninth Circuit reversed plaintiff's summary judgment on its breathtaking $1.8 billion Lanham Act claim.
The Bad News: In light of all defendant's discovery abuses, the Ninth Circuit wonders aloud whether the district court, when reconsidering the matter, might simply enter a default judgment against it on remand.

There is no duck blind in civil discovery: you don't get to take shots at the other side's evidence if they don't get to take shots at yours.

The concurrence concludes with this chilling suggestion: "I share the majority's opinion that the district court could consider entering discovery sanctions. See supra note 5. In my view, appropriate sanctions could even include a default judgment against Defendants-Appellants, if the district court deems it justified."

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Appellate Court Rejects Covid Excuses for Appeal Filed One Day Late

I previously reported a case suggesting that a legitimate Covid excuse might afford some relief from the otherwise strict deadline to file a notice of appeal. Yesterday, however, another case rejected just such a argument.
The recent case is Yuzon v. Contra Costa County Comm. Coll. Dist. (D1d2 Mar. 29, 2021) no. A161834 (unpublished). Appellant there filed his appeal just one day late. He noted the trial court was closed due to Covid. So was his attorney's office. But the Court was unsympathetic.
Appeal dismissed.

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9th Cir. Holds Appellate Issues Waived for Failure to Raise Them Both Before and After Submission to Jury

On the latest episode of the California Appellate Law Podcast (available Tuesday, Mar. 30 at www.CALPodcast.com), co-hosts Jeff Lewis and I discuss with guest Cory Webster the importance of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50, governing motions for judgment as a matter of law, which must be made both before submission to the jury and after judgment. If appellant could have raised an issue in a motion for judgment as a matter of law but failed to do so, that issue is waived on appeal.

The Ninth Circuit helpfully furnishes a recent example in Brown v. County of San Bernardino, 2021 WL 1054561 (9th Cir. Mar. 19, 2021). Brown appealed after her civil rights claim failed on grounds of qualified immunity. On appeal, she ran into several waiver and forfeiture issues.

While Brown was pro se, trial attorneys' job of persuading juries often leaves good appellate arguments underdeveloped until it is too late. In federal trial practice it is especially important to consult appellate counsel before and during trial.

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Appellate Court Holds Respondent Forfeited Issues and Failed to Establish Implied Findings

In another cautionary tale for respondents on appeal, the Second District in this appeal of an order denying arbitration holds the trial court erred in finding an arbitration agreement unenforceable. The opinion in Alvarez v. Altamed Health Servs. (D2d8 Feb. 4, 2021) No. B305155 (published) suggests a couple ways respondents might try to shore up potential defects in their judgments before exposing them to the crucible of appeal.

Upshot: Do not overlook the statement of decision process at the end of a critical hearing or bench trial. The statement of decision is often the single most important document the Court of Appeal will review. Either party may drastically alter the meaning and effect of that document by making a strategic request for findings under Code of Civil Procedure section 632 and Rules of Court rule 3.1590.

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Judgment Against Nonparties Reversed; Respondent Held to Have Waived Arguments

Waiver or forfeiture of arguments is a big concern for appellants on an appeal. But rarely do courts find that a respondent had waived or forfeited an argument.
In Travis v. Brand (D2d8 Mar. 19, 2021) 2021 WL 1049863 (published), involving a local redevelopment project, awarded almost $1 million in fees and costs against the losing plaintiffs.

The twist? The court also entered judgment against several nonparties, who had funded plaintiffs' litigation efforts. The trial court called plaintiffs the "shills" of the nonparties, The nonparties were the proverbial man behind the curtain.

Nope. Violation of due process. And respondents forfeited an "agency" argument to try to justify the nonparty ruling by failing to raise it below.

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Appellate Challenges to Arbitration Award: Close, but Affirmed

After the 2020 reversal of an arbitrator's award in Brown v. TGS Mgm't Co., LLC, I noted that it may be hasty to conclude arbitration awards are not worth appealing. Reversal is possible where the arbitrator's error "violates a party's unwaivable statutory rights or that contravenes an explicit legislative expression of public policy."

But the recent published opinion in Bacall v. Shumway (D2d8 Feb. 18, 2021) No. B302787 illustrates the limits of review of arbitration awards. Appellant raised some decent legal challenges, apparently hoping to get the same result as in Brown. But fell short.

So while it is possible to get meaningful relief on appeal after arbitration, it is still tough going.

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Tip When Defending a Judgment on Appeal: Do Not Argue Issues the Appellant Waived

Here is a tip if you are defending a judgment: If appellants fail to raise an issue, do not raise it for them. That is what happened in Foster v. American Marine Svs Group Benefit Plan, 2021 WL 930257 (9th Cir. Mar. 11, 2021). As a result of respondent/appellee's helpful assist in raising the dispositive issue whether an employer's ERISA plan failed to give notice of a lapse in benefits, an issue appellant had failed to raise in her brief, the court was able to reach the issue. Held: summary judgment reversed.

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Reversing Summary Judgment, Court Faults Respondent for "Specious"​ Assertions That "Wholly Mischaracterize"​ Ruling and Appellant's Arguments

Sensing reversal of its summary judgment, the respondent in Lubke v. Automobile Club of S. Cal. (D2d7 Jan 6, 2021) No. B302782, engaged in desperate arguments that earned it some unfavorable comments in the Second District's opinion.
We are used to seeing appellate courts take a critical view toward an appellant's arguments. Here, however, the Second District took the respondent to task for its less-than-candid arguments attempting to rehabilitate a moribund judgment. The court faulted respondent for "wholly mischaracteriz[ing] the court's ruling," and making an "equally specious assertion" about appellant's argument.

After remand, there may be another opportunity in this case for an appeal, and before the same panel. Persuasion is a tough business as it is. Conducting that business before jurists who remember you as having made "specious" arguments that "wholly mischaracterize" the court is tougher still.

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Stipulated Judgment and Waiver of Right to Appeal Did Not Result in Dismissal of Appeal

Settlements of litigation sometimes involve a provision to enter a stipulated judgment in the event the defendant fails to perform. A judgment entered upon stipulation typically is not subject to challenge on appeal. But that was not the case in Park Lane Assocs., LP v. Alioto (D1d4 Mar. 5, 2021) No. A155781 (unpublished). There, the parties agreed to a stipulated judgment and an express waiver of tenants' right to appeal. Yet when the unhappy tenants did appeal, the First Appellate District did not dismiss the appeal and instead reviewed appellants' arguments on the merits (but still affirmed the judgment).

But: tenant-appellants would have been better off had the Court of Appeal simply dismissed, as the court also found tenants were liable for landlord's attorneys' fees on appeal.

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Is a Summary Denial of a Writ Petition Binding Precedent? Spitting from Authority, Second District Says Yes in Reversing Judgment

Warning: Slight Obscure Appellate Procedural Questions Ahead
Litigants sometimes file writ petitions in the Court of Appeal to seek review of grievous but nonappealable orders that come down prior to a judgment. If the writ petition is summarily denied (as they usually are), you may need to be prepared to argue that the denial has precedential effect in your case. Or, you may need to be prepared to argue that, no, in fact, it doesn't.

The recent decision in Ventura Cnty. Deputy Sheriffs' Ass'n v. Cnty. of Ventura (D2d6 Mar. 3, 2021) No. B300006, on the one hand, and prior cases on the other hand, should give you a start on either side of that split.

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Judgment on Section 998 Agreement Vacated Because Offer Did Not Contain Signature Line for Acceptance

In a hyper-formalistic holding in Mostafavi Law Group, APC v. Larry Rabineau, APC (D2d4 Mar. 3, 2021) No. B302344 (published), a judgment entered on an agreement under Code of Civil Procedure section 998 was vacated because the defendant's 998 offer did not include a signature line for the plaintiff to sign, even though the plaintiff signed it anyway. In a case of first impression, the Second District affirmed, holding a judgment may not be entered on a section 998 agreement in which the offer does not provide an acceptance provision.

I find this a very bizarre case. I would not be surprised if other District Courts of Appeal declined to follow it.

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Strategic Dismissals to Expedite Appeal Are No Longer Appealable, Ninth Circuit Holds

We recently discussed strategic dismissals following devastating, but nonappealable, interlocutory orders to expedite an appeal in California state court.

But beware if you are in federal court: A recent Ninth Circuit decision in Langere v. Verizon Wireless Services , No. 19-55747 (9th Cir. Dec. 29, 2020) warns that federal Courts of Appeals may reject any such appeals as an attempt to manufacture appellate jurisdiction.

If you are developing a strategy after a devastating order before a final judgment has been entered, that is an excellent time to consult appellate counsel.

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Interview with MC Sungaila on the California Appellate Law Podcast Ep. 8

Esteemed appellate specialist M.C. Sungaila joins TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal and co-host Jeff Lewis on episode 8 of the California Appellate Law Podcast for a wide-ranging discussion on appellate apprenticeship, preparing cases for appeal, and whether to consider waiving oral argument (M.C.'s answer: Never.).

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Appellate Court Cites Unpublished Opinion to Support Reasonableness of Pain-and-Suffering Award

Here is another recent opinion in which the Court of Appeal thumbs its nose at the California Rule of Court that prohibits the citing of unpublished opinions for any reason. (Ironically, the Court of Appeal does its nose-thumbing in an unpublished opinion.)

In the hit-and-run personal injury case of Shui v. B.R. & Sons (D2d2 Feb. 25, 2021) No. B299251 (unpublished), the Second District also provides a good illustration for personal-injury plaintiffs how to get key evidence into the record, and how to make a judgment more appeal-proof through the use of jury instructions.

This is another installment in a series of posts about ways appellate courts have cited unpublished cases, despite Rule of Court 8.1115. These cases might inspire ideas of how, with a little ingenuity, you too might bring up unpublished cases. But there is one thing you can bank on: if ever we find an example of someone being sanctioned for violating 8.1115, the perpetrator will not be an appellate justice. So follow these judges' examples, if at all, with extreme caution.

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Appeal Dismissed Because Trial Court Forgot to Sign the Dismissal Order on Appeal

Approaching the 60-day deadline to appeal the trial court's dismissal of her action, plaintiff filed a notice of appeal. But the Court of Appeal in Lee v. Medrano (D2d5 Feb. 24, 2021) No. B305536 (unpublished), dismissed her appeal.

Why? Because the dismissal was not signed, as required under Code of Civil Procedure section 581d, and thus not appealable.

While this is technically the correct outcome, I cannot fault the plaintiff-appellant here. Technically nonappealable orders are often deemed appealable, and in such cases, failing to appeal would prove fatal. It just so happens that for this particular type of nonappealable order, the courts have decided never to treat them as appealable.

(But, being a cynic, and averse to malpractice exposure, I would not bank on it.)

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Justice Wiley Urges Bar to Consider Independent Experts

In a first-of-its-kind case, California's Court of Appeal has authorized a "Wi-Fi Sickeness" case to proceed. Although such cases have been rejected in ADA cases in federal courts, the California court in Brown v. Los Angeles Unified School District (D2d8 Feb. 18, 2021) No. B294240 noted the broad "physical disability" protections of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and California's liberal pleading standard made the difference here.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Wiley says he sees how we practitioners are using expert witnesses, and he doesn't like it. He urges the bar instead to consider using court-appointed experts.

If I may be permitted to disagree, I think this is not the right case for that. In a cause of action for accounting, by all means. But in a case involving still-emerging science, fact-finders need to be presented with what the parties think are the most compelling hypotheses.

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Orders Granting Terminating Sanctions, and Denying Motions to Vacate and Reconsider, Are Not Appealable: Appeal Dismissed

An order granting terminating sanctions may seem like the end of the world. It isn't. The judgment on the order granting terminating sanctions is the end of the world. Then, and only then, may you appeal.

Chung & Assocs. v. Mendoza (D2d1 Feb. 18, 2021) No. B297304 (unpublished)

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Can You Appeal an Order Denying Leave to Amend a Complaint?

Practitioners know that amendments to pleadings are liberally allowed. But every now and then, they are denied. What can you do then?

An order denying leave to amend is not directly appealable. So that's out.

You could try your case on the existing complaint and appeal if you are unsuccessful. But in that case, it would be difficult to establish any error in denying leave was prejudicial – after all, the trier of fact rejected your evidence.

There's always a writ petition. Good luck with that.

The solution: Strategic voluntary dismissal to expedite an appeal.

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Appellate Bonds and Stays: The Cal. Appellate Law Podcast Ep. 7

Appellate stays can play a significant role in changing the posture of litigation and the relative bargaining power of the parties. TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal and co-host Jeff Lewis discuss appellate bonds and stays in the latest episode of the California Appellate Law Podcast.

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Judgment Infected with Dozens of Errors, Still Affirmed (Mostly) on Appeal

This unpublished decision reviews a trial court's reliance on improper evidence. The case, In re Marriage of Patterson (D5 Feb. 9, 2021) No. F076753, is a good illustration of a key points of trial practice: The trial court may not rely on evidence that was not properly admitting into the record. And judicial notice will not get you there on matters of "substantial consequence" without following the statutory procedures.

The case is also a good illustration of a key point of appellate practice: Even if the trial court relies on improper evidence, that error is not reversible unless the evidence prejudiced the appellant. If there was other substantial evidence supporting the findings, as there was here, the error will be deemed harmless.

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Amended Judgment Does Not Revive Time to Appeal Prior Judgment or Fee Award; Appeal Dismissed

Here is a common question:

A judgment is entered. Later, a separate award of attorney fees and costs is entered. Still later, an amended judgment incorporating the fee and cost award is entered.

To seek reversal of the fee and cost award, which order, or orders, must be appealed?

Answer: All three.

The California Attorneys Fees blog reports this unpublished decision out of the Fourth District, Division Three, Tiger Loans, Inc. v. Yan Hao (D4d3 Feb. 9, 2021) No. G058954, dismissing an appeal as untimely.

(If you really only want to appeal the fee and cost award, you should be fine with just appealing that order: the underlying judgment and later amended judgment ordinarily are not necessary. But you cannot get in trouble by being extra cautious.)

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Order Granting a Belated Fee Motion Affirmed on Appeal Due to Appellant's Inadequate Record

Most attorneys have missed a deadline at some point in their careers, or have awoken in the night worrying about it. The attorney in this recent case, Ojeda v. Azulay (D2d3 Feb. 10, 2021) No. B302440 (unpublished), missed a deadline to file a fee motion. But he owned up to the mistake, and the trial court granted his motion despite its untimeliness.

But, appellant urged, the trial court made no finding of good cause! Without a finding of good cause, and without a stipulation, there can be no extension under the rule!

Appellants often make technical arguments like this on appeal. But appellants often fail to meet their own technical requirements to establish them on appeal. Here, appellant did not appear at the hearing and did not otherwise argue against the moving party's showing of good faith mistake. Appellant also failed to provide a record of what happened at the hearing.

Affirmed.

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Attorney Fee Orders After Appeal Raise Thorny Appealability Issues

This appeal over attorney fees concerns thorny issues of appealability. In Doe v. Westmont Coll. (D2d6 Jan. 25, 2021) No. B303208, the Second District rejected the college's arguments that the fee order […]

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Dismissal of Voluminous "Shotgun Complaint"​ Affirmed by 11th Circuit, Even Though Containing Some Valid Claims

"Shotgun pleading," the practice of overpleading a complaint with vague and irrelevant facts, and so annoying a lot of people who never did the plaintiff any harm, is prohibited in […]

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Court Rejects Appeal Based Entirely on New Case Counsel Chose Not to Mention

During appellate briefing in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Ass'n v. City of San Francisco (D1d5 Jan. 27, 2021) No. A157983, a case concerning whether a recent local tax increase on a voter initiative […]

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New Trial Motion Not Heard Within Statutory Period Deemed Denied

Beware when filing new trial motions: if you are relying on it to extend your time to appeal, be mindful that it is heard within the statutory 75-day period. In Choochagi […]

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Failure to Exercise Discretion Is an Abuse of Discretion, Federal Edition

I have written before about California state court cases holding that failing to exercise discretion is an abuse of discretion. The same rule applies in federal courts, as the recent case […]

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Court Dismisses Two Appeals in One Case: One as Moot, One as Premature

This recent opinion discusses two appeals, both of them dismissed on procedural grounds. The first appeal was dismissed as moot because the appellant failed to obtain a stay of the […]

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Split of Authority on Appealability of Post-Reversal Fee Orders

If you find yourself back in the trial court after a remand by the Court of Appeal, things are supposed to be much the same as before. Yet sometimes, things are […]

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Still More Ways to Mention Unpublished Appellate Opinions

After hitting publish on my recent piece suggesting some ways you might bring unpublished opinions to the court's attention, I remembered another example I blogged about in October:  A recent (published) decision […]

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Rare Reversal of a $3.4MM Arbitration Award: Overbroad Employee Confidentiality Ruled a De Facto Noncompete and Thus Void

I tell clients arbitration awards are virtually unassailable on appeal. After this $3.4 million award in an employment dispute was reversed on appeal in Brown v. TGS Mgm't Co., LLC (D4d3 Nov. […]

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How to Cite Unpublished Opinions

Most attorneys know that citing unpublished decisions in California courts is prohibited under California Rules of Court rule 8.1115(a). The rule is emphatic: an unpublished or depublished opinion "must not be cited or […]

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Objections to Evidence Improper, Summary Judgment Reversed

Before your next summary-judgment motion, be sure to read Sandoval v. County of San Diego (9th Cir. Jan. 13, 2021) No. 18-55289, holding that perfunctory evidentiary objections are disallowed, and summarizing other […]

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Court Abused Its Discretion by Denying $4M Sanctions Request for Abusive Discovery

The Discovery Act provides for mandatory sanctions for discovery abuses unless the court finds the offending party acted with substantial justification or the sanction would be "unjust." Plaintiffs in Kwan Software Eng'g, Inc. […]

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"Woefully Deficient"​ Appellate Argument Failed to Comply with Appellate Rules, Leading to Affirmance

Last week, Bryan Garner's LawProse lesson was on succinctness, noting that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once told him that "Eye fatigue sets in well before page 50." The […]

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Strategic Opportunity Missed: Appeal of Judgment Would Have Been Dismissed as Moot But For Respondent's Fee Award

In this commercial eviction case in Lee v. Kotyluk (D4d3 Jan. 7, 2021) No. G058631, defendant-tenant filed a motion in limine for judgment on the pleadings, asserting a defect in landlord's three-day […]

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Judgment Affirmed Due to Waived Arguments, Incomplete Record, Conclusory Arguments, and Improper Attack on Judgment Affirmed in Prior Appeal

...But that's nitpicking, innit? In the lease dispute in KJ Investment Group v. American Heritage College, (D4d3 Oct. 1, 2020) No. G058270 (unpublished), defendant, fresh off a loss on its challenge […]

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Missed the Deadline to Seek Attorney Fees? Post-Judgment Fees Are Still Available

Failing to timely seek fees after judgment does not forfeit the right to seek postjudgment fees, holds the Second District, Division Six in Vincent v. Sonkey (D2d6 Dec. 29, 2020) No. B293251. […]

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Spousal Support Order Reversed on Appeal for Lack of Explicit Findings

In this dissolution proceeding in Nevai v. Klemunes (In re Marriage of Nevai) (D3 Dec. 29, 2020) No. C086584, wife, who had quit her engineering career to raise the couple's child, asked […]

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Attorney Sanctions Must Be Supported by Statement of Reasons

Most attorneys will, at some point or another in their careers, find they have failed to make a court appearance. When that happens, an order to show cause (OSC) will […]

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Two Recent Appeals Rejected for Easily-Avoided Procedural Errors

Two recent unpublished cases remind that appeals are lost for failing to designate a sufficient appellate record, and, when challenging findings as lacking substantial evidence in support, for citing only […]

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"Submit"​ on a Tentative, But Do Not "Stipulate"​ to a Tentative

When the trial court issues a tentative ruling, counsel often will "submit" on the tentative and give no further argument. On occasion I have noticed counsel saying they "stipulate" to […]

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In Summary Judgment Appeal, Split Decision on Unruled-Upon Objections, Conclusory Expert Opinions, and Design-Immunity Defense

Expert declarations opposing summary judgment ordinarily do not need an extensive analysis, and evidentiary objections ordinarily must be ruled upon or else deemed denied. But in a 2-1 decision out […]

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Trial Court Abused Discretion by Awarding Contractual Fees to Defendant Who Lost on the Only Contract Claim

In this commercial lease dispute, the trial court abused its discretion in not one, not two, but three different ways when it awarded contractual fees to the losing defendant. In Waterwood […]

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Fee Awards Under Civil Theft Statute Under Review

Bookmark Penal Code section 496 and Bell v. Feibush (D4d3 2013) 212 Cal.App.4th 1041, if you have not already, which together hold that failing to pay back a loan could subject the […]

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Do You Pay Referral Fees? Get Your Client's Signed "Consent,"​ Not Just "Acknowledgement"​

You may be surprised to learn that an attorney's 25% referral arrangement discussed orally with the client, and reduced to a writing signed by the client, is not enough to […]

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Notice of Appeal Defective? All Is Not Lost (Maybe)

Take care in drafting your notice of appeal, but if you notice you have made an error, all is not lost. The California Supreme Court's January 2020 opinion in K.J. v. […]

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No Safe Spaces: Arbitrator Not Disqualified Due to Claimed Political Bias; Appellant Sanctioned $56,000 for Frivolous Appeal

Appellant and attorney sanctioned a blistering $56,000 for their frivolous appeal. (Malek Media Group LLC v. AXGC Corp. (D2d3 Dec. 16, 2020) No. B299743.) After a business dispute was decided against […]

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Considering a Trial by Reference? Define Your Referee's Powers Carefully

Trial by reference will become very common, I suspect, as trial courts continue to limit their availability due to Covid. A key advantage over arbitration: preservation of the right of […]

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No PAGA Fees for Proving University Acted with No Substantial Evidence

In Doe v. Regents of the University of California (1st Dist., Div. 4 Nov. 30, 2020) No. A158704 (unpublished), a third-year med student at UCSD examined a 12-year-old girl brought in by her mother […]

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Trial court abused its discretion in striking evidence offered in anti-SLAPP reply brief

If new evidence is truly in reply to an argument raised for the first time in an opposition, the trial court abuses its discretion in excluding it. New evidence may […]

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Is Filing a Petition for Review of an Unpublished Opinion Hopeless (Part 1 – Civil)?

One bit of conventional wisdom that’s frequently heard about appellate review in California is that if a Court of Appeal opinion isn’t published, seeking Supreme Court review is a hopeless […]

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Forfeiting Your Best Arguments on Appeal

You have a deep bag of tricks as a respondent on appeal to win affirmance of your judgment. One of those tricks is forfeiture: if appellant did not raise an […]

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Attorney Held in Contempt for Calling Opposing Counsel a "Liar"​ at Settlement Conference

A recent case out of the Fourth Appellate District in Orange County affirms a finding of contempt against an attorney for his conduct during a 15-minute settlement conference, including persistent […]

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$3MM Judgment Reversed for Improper Questioning into Privileged Matter, and Failing to Give Mandatory Jury Instruction Under Evid. Code, § 913

If you question witnesses at trial close to the line of privileged communications, be sure the judge gives the mandatory instruction, if your adversary asks for it, against drawing improper […]

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Something You Didn't Know About CCP § 998 Offers

It is something I did not know, anyway: Plaintiff can still recover post-offer fees even if Plaintiff does not beat the 998 offer.  In Regueiro v. FCA US, LLC (2d Dist., Div. […]

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Avoid This Common Appellate Error: If You Forgot to Raise an Issue in the Trial Court, Owning Up to It May Save Your Bacon on Appeal

Defendant was hit with a $103k fee award under the UFTA (fraudulent transfer statutes). In fact, there is no published California authority holding there is such a right to fees […]

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Clerk's Notice Did Not Trigger Shorter Deadline to File Posttrial Motion, Second District Holds

Posttrial motions are a procedural minefield. Today's example: whether you have 180 days to file your posttrial motion, or a mere 15 days, depends on the fine print in the […]

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Employee Cannot Be Compelled to Arbitrate Individual Claims If Also Asserting PAGA Claims

So holds Provost v. Yourmechanic, Inc., No. D076569 (D4d1 Oct. 15, 2020), where an employee alleging misclassification and wage-and-hour claims, both individually and as a PAGA representative, defeated employer's motion […]

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Appellate Sniping Over Allegedly Discriminatory Peremptory Challenge of Prospective Juror

Recently on the California Appellate Law Podcast, we covered AB 3070, which imposes new procedures when making a peremptory challenge of a juror, including providing a valid reason for the challenge […]

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Remote Argument Survey Highlights Positives and Negatives of Streaming During Pandemic

Remote Appellate Arguments Could Be Here to Stay According to a survey conducted by the clerk of the Ninth Circuit, an overwhelming 86% of lawyers who have given oral arguments […]

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Frivolous SLAPP Motions, and a Split of Authority on Costs Following Voluntary Dismissals

A recent unpublished decision sets up three good lessons: (1) SLAPPing based on plaintiff's subjective intent to chill protected conduct is meritless and sanctionable; (2) but sanctions are not available on appeal […]

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Attorney Fees Recoverable Even for Unsuccessful Judgment Enforcement Efforts

So holds the Fourth District, Third Division Court of Appeal in Buechler v. Butker, Case No. G058054 (4th Dist. Div. 3 November 23, 2020) (unpublished), where plaintiff sought contempt against defendant […]

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Checking the Wrong Box on Your Notice of Appeal May Result in Dismissal

Two recent cases caution litigants to take special care when preparing a notice of appeal. Though unpublished, these cases give insight into how appellate courts analyze your notices of appeal. […]

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Legal Writing Tips of the Day

A few good tips came across my desk this week. Use in good health. 1. Via Bryan Garner's LawProse (# 351): Before launching thoughtlessly into a grab-bag of arguments, tell […]

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No Safe Harbor Required to Sanction Frivolous Anti-SLAPP Motion, Fourth District Holds

Anti-SLAPP motions are powerful remedy, and litigants sometimes cannot resist filing even frivolous motions. Can a plaintiff faced with a frivolous anti-SLAPP motion get sanctions in light of the difficult […]

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Failing to Exercise Discretion Is an Abuse of Discretion

Many orders present an uphill climb because the appellate courts review them under the very deferential abuse-of-discretion standard, which means the order is likely within the trial court's wide latitude. […]

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Cal. Courts Split on Whether 998 Offers Apply in Employment Cases

If you are making or considering a CCP 998 offer in an employment case, note the current split of authority. In some cases, an employee making an unsuccessful overtime claim […]

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CA Supreme Court to Review Whether In Person Civil Trial May Commence

Wells Fargo's attorneys moved the trial court, unsuccessfully, to continue a San Diego trial at the outset of the pandemic, and petitioned the Court of Appeal, again unsuccessfully, for a […]

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Keep this handy, attorneys -- you may need it someday.

“Murphy's law applies to trial lawyers as well as pilots. Even an expert will occasionally blunder.” Unitherm Food v. Swifteckrich, 546 U.S. 394, 407 (2006) (Stevens, J., dissenting).

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FYI: Acronyms Are DOA

Senior Judge Silberman of the DC Court of Appeals is having none of your alphabet-soup acronyms: "The Agency and thereby the parties regularly use the acronym “ILEC” for Incumbent Local […]

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Appeal Held Not Frivolous, But Lawyer Argued It Frivolously

The 10th Circuit sanctioned the attorney of a homeowner tenaciously trying to avoid foreclosure on her home. The court noted that "an appeal may be frivolous as filed or as […]

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Attorney Sanctioned $22,000 for Frivolous Motion, Narrowly Avoids More Sanctions for Frivolous Appeal

In fairness, I have seen much worse arguments than this. On behalf of his AirBnB client, attorney files suit against AirBnB employees in McCluskey v. Henry (D1d3 Nov. 2, 2020) no. A158851, […]

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The Moment When You Learn Your Client's Confidential Communications Are Not Covered by the Common-Interest Doctrine

Do not take the common-interest privilege for granted if you represent a client in multiple-party litigation. In Finjan, Inc. v. SonicWall, Inc., Case No. 17-cv-04467-BLF (VKD), 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 128725, […]

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Can't the Trial Attorney Just Handle the Appeal?

I have a new short video up explaining what an appellate attorney is, and why you should bring an appellate attorney on to your litigation team.

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Courtroom Do's and Don't's – from a Clerk's Perspective

Sean Thomas Lobb has Tips Learned While Clerking in Orange County in the November OC Lawyer magazine. Some takeaways: DO: Cite well-reasoned decisions from the same federal district court – […]

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Character Evidence, Even of Really, Really Bad Character, Is Not Admissible

The president of a multibillion-dollar gas company, Mark Hazelwood, was accused of participating in a manual-rebate scheme by shorting customers of purchased diesel fuel and cooking the books to avoid […]

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Family Law Appeals: The Cal. Appellate Law Podcast Episode 6

TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal and co-host Jeff Lewis discuss family law appeals in the latest episode of the California Appellate Law Podcast. In addition to some nuts-and-bolts procedure, we […]

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The SLAPP That Breaks the Camel's Back

You will get a sense of the First District's frustration over this SLAPP appeal just by its disposition. The case is Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal LLC v. City of Oakland (D1d2 […]

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Music Festival Liable for Foreseeable Harm at Festival -- Are Dodgers Liable for Foreseeable Violence Following Series Win?

An event operator may be liable when an event attendee dies after engaging in foreseeable illegal activity at the event -- overdosing on illegal drugs. So holds the Second Appellate […]

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An Order Resuming Civil Litigation of a Matter Previously Compelled to Arbitration Is Likely an Appealable Order

In Zazueta v. Imperial Heights Healthcare & Wellness Centre, LLC (Oct. 26, 2020) D075879 (D4d1), the trial court compelled the case to aribtration. But defendant "failed to engage and participate" in […]

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Measure Twice, Redact Once

If you have ever held a redacted document up to the light to see the redacted text, you know other attorneys are doing the same. In a redacted PDF, you […]

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New Discovery Cutoff Extensions, and Other Civil Procedure Updates

Governor Newsom recently signed SB 1146, which among other provides new Code Civ. Proc., § 599, which extends "any deadlines that have not already passed as of March 19, 2020" […]

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What Oral Argument on Appeals Tells You About Your Chances of Prevailing

Oral argument on appeal is often seen as the main event, especially through the client's eyes. But when you get a cold bench with few questions asked by the appellate […]

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Appellate Reversal Rate Up, Time to Process Appeals Up, Per Cal. Court Stats Report Some interesting information about California appellate courts from the 2020 Court Statistics Report:

-- The rate of reversal in 2019 was up to 18% in civil cases, from 16% in 2018. -- About 4% of appeals are dismissed. (This should make you think […]

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Holdout Juror Ousted for Seeking Counsel About Alleged Mistreatment by Other Jurors

A holdout juror in a murder case talked to an attorney about being badgered by the other jury members. The attorney appears in court to inform the judge about the […]

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Is Reconsideration Even Jurisdictional?

The Prior Ruling Doctrine is yet another appellate trap for trial attorneys to consider when filing a motion for reconsideration. In Kerns v. CSE Insurance Group (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 368, […]

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Updates from the Fourth Appellate District

At the OCBA's Appellate Section event last week, the Presiding Justices from each of the three divisions of the Fourth Appellate District provided some inside baseball on their respective divisions: […]

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The Trouble with Unpublished Opinions

 Every practitioner in California state courts knows you may not cite to unpublished opinions. (CRC 8.1115.) This is often frustrating when there are unpublished opinions favorable to your case. Still […]

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Recovering Costs for Unused Trial Exhibits

Great news, you won your trial! Bad news, you only used half of your trial exhibits, so your client can't recover costs for the unused exhibits. That could change. The […]

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Brush Up on Your 998 Offers

Should you include attorney fees in your 998 offer? Or stay silent on them? That question came up this week, and this recent case suggests it is probably coming up […]

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Cal Appellate News for Lawyers (Oct. 5, 2020): Juror Peremptory Challenges, Appealability of SLAPP Orders, Appeal Bonds, 170.6 Challenges After Appeal, and More

TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal publishes this weekly update of legal news for trial attorneys. In this edition: more on the coming changes to juror peremptory challenges, appellate pitfalls on reconsideration motions, appeal bonds, 170.6 challenges after appeal, are Subway sandwiches "confectionary" products? and more.

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Peremptory Challenges and Motions for Reconsideration: California Appellate Law Podcast Episode 5 (Sept. 26, 2020)

TVA's Tim Kowal is a co-host of the California Appellate Law Podcast. Episode 5 discusses California cases and procedures in impacting making and challenging peremptory challenges to jurors and motions for reconsideration.

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Cal Appellate News for Lawyers (Sept. 25, 2020)

TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal publishes this weekly update of legal news for trial attorneys. In this edition: big changes coming to juror peremptory challenges, appellate pitfalls on reconsideration motions, and the difficulty in establishing reversible error.

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Cal Appellate News for Lawyers (Sept. 18, 2020)

TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal publishes this weekly update of legal news for trial attorneys. In this edition, Covid-based excuses may garner extended appellate deadlines.

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Cal Appellate News for Lawyers (Sept. 10, 2020)

TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal publishes this weekly update of legal news for trial attorneys. In this edition: extended CA jurisdiction over out-of-state retailers, ADA liability over online-only businesses, courtroom pandemic changes, and pitfalls on new-trial motions.

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Cal Appellate News for Lawyers (Aug. 31, 2020)

TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal publishes this weekly update of legal news for trial attorneys. In this edition: appellate tips on preliminary injunctions, summary judgments, and statements of decisions. And: appellate bonds... without collateral?!

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Appeals of Preliminary Injunctions: California Appellate Law Podcast Episode 4 (Aug. 11, 2020)

TVA's Tim Kowal is a co-host of the California Appellate Law Podcast. Episode 4 discusses cases and procedures in appealing preliminary injunctions. 

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Appeals and Summary Judgments: California Appellate Podcast Episode 3 (Jul. 20, 2020)

TVA's Tim Kowal is a co-host of the California Appellate Law Podcast. Episode 3 of the California Appellate Law Podcast discusses cases, procedure and common pitfalls in appeals involving summary judgments.

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When Are Nonappealable Orders Actually Appealable? Orders on Demurrers and Summary Judgment: California Appellate Podcast Episode 2 (Jul. 3, 2020)

TVA's Tim Kowal is a co-host of the California Appellate Law Podcast. Episode 2 of the California Appellate Law Podcast discusses cases finding that orders generally considered not appealable to be appealable, such as demurrer orders, summary judgment orders, and statements of decision.

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Appeals and Anti-SLAPP Law: California Appellate Law Podcast Episode 1 (Jul. 1, 2020)

TVA's Tim Kowal is a co-host of the California Appellate Law Podcast. The inaugural episode of California Appellate Law Podcast discusses California's anti-SLAPP law, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 and several key decisions by the California Court of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. In 1992, California enacted Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 which provides a mechanism for quickly dismissing frivolous lawsuits and awarding attorney’s fees to the defendant. The law applies to lawsuits that arise from free speech or petitioning activity, such as filing a lawsuit.

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ASSET-PROTECTION UPDATE: QPRTS MAY BE DEEMED REVOCABLE!

In a recently affirmed decision TVA obtained for the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court held that a QPRT - generally irrevocable...

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WHEN BRIEFING APPELLATE ISSUES, LESS IS MORE

An attorney pursuing an appeal may be tempted to raise any and all arguments - however flimsy - before...

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A DEFAULT JUDGMENT WAS ENTERED AGAINST YOU WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE. WHAT CAN YOU DO?

In today's litigious society, parties are quick to sue others but, due to the demands of life, defendants will oftentimes overlook...

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ATTENTION ESTATE PLANNERS: QPRTS MAY BE DEEMED REVOCABLE!

In a recent decision TVA obtained for the Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court held that a QPRT - generally irrevocable...

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BANK ORDERED TO PAY HOMEOWNERS’ ATTORNEY FEES FOR IMPROPER “DUAL-TRACKING”

Distressed homeowners subject to lender "dual-tracking" do not need to wait until the end of a lawsuit to recover attorneys' fees...

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BLACK-AND-WHITE STATUTE OF LIMITATION FOR ATTORNEY-MALPRACTICE ACTIONS GETS A FRESH COAT OF GRAY

The one-year period to bring an action for malpractice typically begins after the lawyer last represented you...

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BROKERS: GET YOUR COMMISSION AGREEMENTS IN WRITING!

"We are all familiar with the phrase, "caveat emptor": Buyer beware. This case deals with its less renowned cousin...

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CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT: PUBLIC RECORDS ACT COVERS PUBLIC OFFICIALS’ & EMPLOYEES’ PRIVATE DEVICES

In the high-profile case City of San Jose v. Superior Court, the California high court recently held: "when a city employee uses a personal account to communicate...

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CAN A TRIAL COURT REDUCE ATTORNEYS’ FEES IN A SETTLEMENT?

Leeman v. Adams Extract & Spice Co. (Cal. Ct. App. May 21, 2015) says no. As they routinely do, a Prop-65 toxic-chemicals-warning case settles for a trifling amount of penalties but a heaping portion of attorneys' fees...

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CHECKMATING A CHECKERS OPPONENT WITH CCP § 998 OFFERS

If you've been involved in litigation, you likely are aware of the "CCP 998 offer." CCP § 998 is a statutory carrot-and-stick...

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COLLECTING AGAINST SPENDTHRIFTS IN BANKRUPTCY, JUDGMENT COLLECTION

In our February newsletter, we noted the California Supreme Court was reviewing whether the ambiguous spendthrift protections...

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DOES THE JUDICIARY UNDERSTAND JUDICIAL ADMISSIONS?

The judicial admission is a simple concept: when you take a position in a pleading, discovery response, or open court, you're stuck with it...

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EMPLOYER UNDERPAYS DEPARTING EMPLOYEE $300, GETS STUCK WITH $30,000 FOR EMPLOYEE’S LEGAL FEES

Is an employee leaving? Pay up. Pay in full. There is no 'A' for effort...

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EMPLOYERS CAN PROTECT THEIR WORKFORCE WITHOUT ENGAGING IN UNLAWFUL RESTRAINT OF TRADE

Retaining key personnel is vital to the success of any enterprise. However, the law's prohibition of trade restraints often makes it difficult...

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FINDING JUSTICE IN THE GRINDING GEARS OF LITIGATION

The right judgment is not always the just result...

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IF A CHOICE-OF-LAW CLAUSE MATTERS, SO DOES THE FORUM

A recent opinion of the California Court of Appeal held a New York choice-of-law clause was ineffective to enforce a party's waiver...

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IRREVOCABLE TRUSTS: NOT FOOLPROOF ASSET PROTECTION DEVICES

Irrevocable trusts are often used to protect assets from the reach of creditors, but courts have chipped away...

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LITIGATION-FUNDING INDUSTRY CONTINUES TO GROW

With the recent publicity of Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media, and specifically the funding of the lawsuit...

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OF GOOD FENCES, BAD NEIGHBORS, AND RECOVERING LEGAL COSTS

"It is often said that good fences make good neighbors. One might wonder whether there actually is such a correlation...

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PATIO FURNITURE DOES NOT ESTABLISH AN EQUITABLE EASEMENT

In a recent property-dispute opinion, the Second District in Shoen v. Zacarias came to the perfectly sensible decision that equity is not aroused by a trespasser's inconvenience...

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POKEMON MAKER SEEKS DISMISSAL OF NUISANCE & DISGORGEMENT SUIT

Pokemon Go-maker Niantec moved to dismiss the class action that alleges the wildly popular app causes droves of users to trespass on private property...

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SLAPP NEWS: CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT REITERATES, AGAIN, THAT WRONGDOING IS NOT “SPEECH” JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE TALKED ABOUT IT

The high court recently published Park v. Trustees of the Cal. State Univ., reversing a split appellate-panel decision.

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YOU MAY BE ABLE TO LIMIT “CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES" IN YOUR CONTRACTS

Despite best efforts to reduce expectations to a written contract, one can rarely estimate with much accuracy...

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A DEFENSE LAWYER'S COMPLAINT: SOME JUDGES DON'T GET IT ABOUT JUDICIAL ADMISSIONS

Originally published in Verdict
---------
A man is handing out leaflets in the train station, an old Soviet joke has it, when he is stopped by an officer. Examining the leaflets, the officer discovers they are just blank pieces of paper...

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DIRTY WORK: DISGORGING THE PROFITS OF TRESPASSING PIPELINES

Originally published in OC Lawyer
-------------
There are two kinds of developers: the pessimist, who sees a glass as half-empty, and the optimist, who sees the glass as four-fifths empty...

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