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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Tag: Dissents

1999 Judgment Not “Final,” 40-Year-Old Murder Convict Must Receive Juvenile Hearing Under Proper 57

In a 4-3 decision, the majority in People v. Padilla (May 26, 2022, no. S263375) --- Cal.5th ---, started with the proposition that California’s Prop 57, which requires minors to be charged in juvenile court, is retroactive in all nonfinal cases. But when is a case “final”? Here, Padilla, who at age 16 murdered his mother by stabbing her 45 times, was convicted way back in 1999. That seems pretty final, right?

Turns out, “finality” is not quite literal, but more a term of legal art. The majority was more comfortable with blurring the lines than was the dissent, which is why the 4-3 split.

What is surprising about this case is that the high court justices were so evenly split on the question of what makes a judgment “final” — a foundational point of appellate procedure.

The upshot of the majority opinion is that, once a judgment has been successfully reopened to review via a collateral attack, all bets are off, and the judgment is no longer final. So the Prop 57 challenge was available, even to attack the underlying charges — despite the fact that these had been beyond the scope of the collateral challenge.

The upshot of the dissenting opinion is that, although a judgment may be challenged via collateral attack, the review and remedies available should be limited to those available by the collateral challenge. So here, the collateral challenge did not reach the underlying charges, so these should remain “final” and beyond appellate review.

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Litigating for 13 Months Does Not Waive Arbitration, But Dissent Disagrees

An employer-defendant answered a wrongful-termination complaint, served multiple sets of discovery, and took the employee-plaintiff’s deposition during 13 months’ of litigation, before finally moving to compel arbitration. The trial court refused to compel arbitration, ruling the employer waived arbitration by its unreasonable delay. That seemed unsurprising.

So it seemed surprising that the majority in Quach v. Calif. Commerce Club, Inc. (D2d1 Apr. 14, 2022 no. B310458) 2022 WL 1113998 (nonpub. opn.) found that these facts, as a matter of law, do not waive arbitration. The court noted that the California Supreme Court in *Saint Agnes Medical Center v. PacifiCare of California* (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1187, 1203, had held that mere participation in litigation, and merely driving up court costs and expenses, are not enough to establish waiver of the right to arbitrate.

True, undue delay and waiting until the eve of trial can be grounds for waiver. But the court here found—again, as a matter of law—that “almost seven months before the trial date” is “not on the ‘eve of trial.’”

Good to know.

Writing in dissent, Judge Crandall was persuaded by the employee’s argument in his brief: “Quach's appellate brief hits the nail on the head: “[By now], all benefits of a speedy resolution [Quach] could have obtained through arbitration [have] been lost.”” Judge Crandall thought the court should not “overextend ourselves” to accommodate arbitration under these facts.

Briefing Faux Pas?: The court suggests it is unethical to copy arguments from court opinions without attributions. I don’t know why you wouldn’t give a cite. But I don’t see how this is unethical.

The Upshot: Although arbitration waivers are not supposed to be driven by any single factor, expect that the court will insist on a showing of prejudice or unfair advantage. While delay is relevant, a delay of even 13 months might not suffice. But do not rely on mere participation in litigation or driving up litigation costs.

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“Impossible” Burden Met on Appeal: But Dissent Disagrees

You know about “de novo” and “abuse of discretion” and “substantial evidence.” But most attorneys have never heard of the “finding compelled as a matter of law” standard of appellate review. That is because it rarely comes up. The “compelled finding” standard only comes up when the party with the burden of proof (usually plaintiff) loses at trial, and argues on appeal that its case was so truly overwhelming that only an unreasonable fact-finder would have been left unpersuaded.

With that in mind, there are two interesting things about Missinato v. Missinato (D2d7 Apr. 15, 2022 no. B305989) 2022 WL 1124871 (nonpub. opn.). First, it is surprising because the court found the defendant’s statute-of-limitations defense so overwhelming that only an unreasonable person would be unpersuaded. Second, one of the panel was unpersuaded.

That seems awkward, no?

There are several things about this opinion I find really shocking. #AppellateLinkedIn, take a look and let me know your thoughts.

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Nonsuit of Punitive Damages Reversed on Appeal

A nonsuit is one of the few exceptions to the ordinary presumptions to affirm on appeal. And so it bore out in *Newnes v. F&M Trust Co. of Long Beach* (D2d1 Jan. 11, 2022 no. B303725) 2022 WL 98179 (nonpub. opn.). Newnes’ claim for punitive damages was dismissed on nonsuit after opening argument at trial — before even an opportunity to present evidence.

This was reversible error, the Court of Appeal held. In short, if reasonable minds can disagree, nonsuit should not be granted. (Hoch v. Allied-Signal, Inc. (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 48, 60-61.)

So it is ironic that there was a dissent. Presiding Justice Rothschild stated she did not believe any reasonable jury could have found punitive damages on the plaintiff’s proposed evidence.

But if reasonable appellate justices can disagree, as they clearly did here, then how can the dissent argue no reasonable jury can disagree?

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Right to Speedy Trial Under 6th Amendment May Be Suspended Indefinitely During Covid, Holds 9th Circuit in Denying En Banc Review

What do judges think about the Covid impacts on court proceedings? Jury trials were put on hold in the early months, and only resumed in fits and starts. In-person appearances began again last year, but are being tabled again.

At least as it concerns criminal jury trials, you can get a good sampling of judges’ disparate feelings in *United States v. Olsen*, 21 F.4th 1036 (9th Cir. Jan. 6, 2022), where the Ninth Circuit recently denied en banc review of a panel decision reversing a dismissal for failing to comply with the Speedy Trial Act.

Tensions run high in each of the four opinions: the majority per curiam decision reversing the district court and reinstating the case, two concurrences by Judges Murguia and Bumatay, and a dissent by Judge Collins. There is too much going on to fairly summarize all of it. So in the article I only cover a few things that jumped off the page at me, including:

- No 6th Amendment analysis at all in the majority opinion;
- The 9th was displeased with the unseemly collateral dispute among judges of the Central District;
- “Impossibility” of jury trials was denied by a “General Order” in which the defendant had no input — is this constitutionally problematic? (Judge Collins thinks so);
- Should a Speedy Trial be denied because the defendant obtained prior continuance? What if it was to review the voluminous evidence the government amassed in six years of pre-indictment investigation?

Ultimately, while I agree with Judge Bumatay that this is a close call, I am persuaded by Judge Collins’ dissent. At a minimum, the Ninth Circuit should have granted *en banc* review here.

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Do You Really Need a Court Reporter? Read This Debate Between Two Appellate Justices

I found this a really interesting case. It is about whether litigants need to have a court reporter at a law-and-motion hearing. Do you really need a court reporter for every occasion, such as a hearing where no testimony will be offered?

Before you answer, consider the perspectives of the appellate justices who disagreed sharply on the question in *[Weischadle v. Vo](https://casetext.com/case/weischadle-v-vo?resultsNav=false&jxs=ca&tab=keyword)* (D2d1 Jul. 2, 2021) 2021 WL 2766771 (no. B304845) (nonpub. opn.). The majority held the lack of a reporter's transcript at a hearing on a motion to compel arbitration was not fatal. But Justice Chaney penned a forceful dissent. The majority opinion is logical and seems to reach the right result. But Justice Chaney raises important questions whether the majority evaded important procedural safeguards to reach its result.

Given the outcome was a close call, as a practical matter it would be wise to assume a reporter's transcript is necessary for any important law-and-motion hearing, even if testimony will not be offered.

I discuss what happened in *Weischadle* in the rest of the post, along with some comments about judicial admissions, and whether California rules make record preparation needlessly difficult.

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Order Denying Arbitration Reversed, Trial Court Must Decide Existence of Arbitration Agreement First — But a Strong Dissent Disagrees

This will surprise appellate attorneys. The Court of Appeal in Pettie v. Amazon.com, Inc. (D4d2 Sep. 21, 2021) 2021 WL 4270631 (no. E074241) (nonpub. opn.) recently reversed an order denying a motion to compel arbitration — but not because the trial court did not cite valid grounds to deny the motion. Instead, the majority reversed because the trial court failed to determine the threshold factual issue whether there existed an agreement to arbitrate. In a forceful dissent, Justice Slough noted: this was a denial of a motion. A denial of a motion must be affirmed on any available grounds.

Justice Slough went on to provide some useful appellate standards that practitioners will want to clip-and-save. Justice Slough seems to me correct, and clearly so, on all points. The majority's opinion is baffling.

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Angelina Jolie's Writ Petition Granted to Disqualify Judge for Appearance of Bias

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt went the route of hiring a pro tem judge for their family law case. After years of litigating child custody issues (one child is now 18), Jolie discovered their pro tem judge was working on more cases with Pitt's attorneys than previously disclosed. Getting the feeling she was the third wheel in the courtroom, Jolie filed a statement of disqualification.

Although the Superior Court rejected Jolie's objection, in a published opinion in Jolie v. Superior Court of Los Angeles (D2d7 Jul. 23, 2021) no. B308958, the Court of Appeal granted Jolie's writ petition. The pro tem judge had failed to disclose all of his appointments on Pitt's lawyers' cases, and the judge's work on those cases, in context with his failure to timely disclose it, created the appearance of impropriety requiring disqualification.

Justice Segal wrote a concurring opinion forcefully calling the Judicial Council to end the practice of allowing pro tem judges to accept private payment, noting that, until 30 years ago, it was not only disallowed, it was criminal: "But just because it is no longer criminal for a temporary judge to receive compensation from private parties doesn't mean it's a good idea."

Get a weekly digest of these articles delivered to your inbox by subscribing here: https://lnkd.in/g23bc4Y.

Christopher Melcher has a nice video explainer on the case here: https://lnkd.in/gbFQz2j.

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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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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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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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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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