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: Jurisdiction

Amendments to Judgment During Appeal Reversed for Violating Appellate Stay

The unusual thing about Kling v. Horn (D2d7 Jun. 8, 2022 no. B310164) 2022 WL 2062642 (nonpub. opn.) is that the party who won the judgment was the one raising a problem about it.

Following an arbitration over an attorney fee dispute, the trial court entered a judgment of about $120,000 to the attorney. But to the attorney’s chagrin, the judgment stated that the parties shall bear their own fees and costs. The attorney didn’t like this because he claimed he was entitled to contractual attorney fees. So the attorney moved the trial court to amend the judgment to remove that part.

But before the trial court ruled on the motion, the client appealed. So when the trial court amended the judgment confirming the arbitration award, the client appealed again. The client’s second appeal, then, argued the amended judgment violated the appellate stay.

Compounding the confusion, the trial court also granted the attorney’s motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 187 to add the client’s business entities as co-judgment debtors. Again, while the appeal was pending. This was the subject of yet another appeal, 3123 SMB, LLC v. Horn (D2d7 Dec. 14, 2021) no. B309412 (nonpub. opn.).

The court noted the trial court created a “procedural mess” by amending the judgment pending appeal.

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Are the Courts Split on Untimely Appeals?

You have heard courts say that a timely notice of appeal is a prerequisite. As in, non-negotiable. As in, the court doesn’t even have jurisdiction to consider your appeal, so don’t even ask, ok?

But do the courts really mean it when they say that a timely notice of appeal is a jurisdictional prerequisite? This week, two cases give reason for doubt.

In one case, an appellate court held a belated appeal from a judgment may be resurrected by appealing from a subsequent cost award in an amended judgment.

And in another case, the court held an appeal filed after the 60-day deadline after a notice of entry is timely if the notice of entry does not attach the judgment.

The Upshot: Before these recent cases, I would have uniformly advised against taking an untimely appeal. Filing an untimely appeal and asserting off-the-wall theories that the appeal was timely filed after an amended judgment for costs, or that the notice of entry was invalid for not including attachments, might have been frivolous and subject to sanctions. Now, I am not so sure. Arguments supporting untimely appeals may be “on the wall.” Watch this space.

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Another Untimely Appeal Excused in Dependency Case Based on Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

In 2021, the California Supreme Court issued a surprising opinion. The Court held that an untimely appeal is not an absolute bar to appellate jurisdiction, at least in juvenile dependency cases. (*[In re A.R.](2021) 11 Cal.5th 234.)

The reason this was surprising is because, until then, a uniformity of California cases had held that an untimely appeal *was* an “absolute bar” to appellate jurisdiction.

But *A.R.* had noted there was a statutory right to “competent counsel” and a habeas right in dependency proceedings, so the Court would let slide the four-day untimeliness.

The recent case of *In re B.P.* (D5 Jan. 26, 2022 no. F082863) 2022 WL 224811 (nonpub. opn.), took *A.R.* quite a bit further. That case involved a four *month* untimeliness. Also: no habeas petition. The court still allowed the untimely appeal.

As I said before discussing *A.R.*, 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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SLAPP Fees Might Be Avoided by Dismissing Complaint, Published Appellate Decision Holds

From the “*did they really have to publish this?*” files:

You cannot avoid anti-SLAPP fees by dismissing the offending allegations. That is already settled law. But in *[Catlin Ins. Co. Inc. v. Danko Meredith Law Firm, Inc.] (D1d4 Jan. 11, 2022 no. A160358) ___ Cal.Rptr.3d ___ 2022 WL 101840, the plaintiff dismissed its complaint after the defendant filed an anti-SLAPP motion. The court held, in a published opinion, that the trial court did not err in refusing to rule on the anti-SLAPP motion, thus never establishing the predicate to the defendant’s right to anti-SLAPP fees.

After you learn the facts, you will understand why both the trial court and the appellate court were not excited about rewarding this defendant with anti-SLAPP fees. But as Justice Brown notes in dissent, the majority should be more mindful of the problems this holding will create for worthy anti-SLAPP movants in the future.

Ultimately, what seems to me incongruous about the *Catlin v. Danko* rule — which requires anti-SLAPP movants to file a separate fee motion in the event the plaintiff voluntarily dismisses — is based on facts that *disfavor* the anti-SLAPP movant (because the anti-SLAPP motion was probably frivolous). This seems to me an odd way to develop case law interpreting a statute that is supposed to *favor* anti-SLAPP motions.

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Trial Court May Not Reconsider Final Judgments, and the New Evidence, Even Though Compelling, Must Be Truly "New"

After a disappointing ruling, a motion for reconsideration is often tempting. It is much cheaper and faster than an appeal, and, who knows, maybe the judge really did just overlook a key fact and will correct it after taking a second look.

But in the case of a final judgment having been entered, the trial court might not even have jurisdiction to entertain a motion for reconsideration. That is what the Fourth District Court of Appeal concluded in Espinoza v. Ponce (D4d1 Aug. 18, 2021) 2021 WL 3645535 no. D078096 (nonpub. opn.).

The Fourth District Court of Appeal appears to join a number of districts holding trial courts lacks jurisdiction to consider final orders and judgments — reconsideration only applies to interim orders.

And even compelling "new" evidence will not be considered if it is not presented timely. There are worse things than the occasional loss of possibly meritorious cases due to procedural or attorney errors: "'Endless litigation, in which nothing was ever finally determined, would be worse than occasional miscarriages of justice ....’ [Citations.]” (People v. DeLouize (2004) 32 Cal.4th 1223, 1232.)

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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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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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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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