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.

If you would like to receive weekly updates of the articles posted here, click here to sign up for the newsletter.

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 B304026 (unpublished).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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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."

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.).

Read More
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.

Read More
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.)

Read More
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.

Read More
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)

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.)

Read More
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.

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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. […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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. […]

Read More
"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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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. […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
"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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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. […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
$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 […]

Read More
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. […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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. […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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. […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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).

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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, […]

Read More
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, […]

Read More
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.

Read More
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 – […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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" […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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, […]

Read More
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: […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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 […]

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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?!

Read More
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. 

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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...

Read More
WHEN BRIEFING APPELLATE ISSUES, LESS IS MORE

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

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
COLLECTING AGAINST SPENDTHRIFTS IN BANKRUPTCY, JUDGMENT COLLECTION

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

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
FINDING JUSTICE IN THE GRINDING GEARS OF LITIGATION

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

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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.

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
crossmenuchevron-down