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: Standing

Appeal by Client of Sanctions Against Attorney Dismissed: Attorney Should Have Appealed

Appealing a sanctions order? If sanctions were awarded against the attorney, be sure the appeal is made out in the attorney’s name. The appeal on behalf of the clients in Lafferty v. Fleetwood Motor Homes of Cal., Inc. (D3 Jan. 26, 2022) no. C059562, was dismissed because the attorney was not listed in the notice of appeal.

Rubbing the attorney’s nose in it, the Third District Court of Appeal held the sanctions award was improper on legal grounds, and must be reversed. But the sanctions against the attorney remained.

But Lafferty is probably wrongly decided. The California Supreme Court recently directed courts to be more lenient than this, and to excuse the omission of the attorney in a notice of appeal of a sanctions order. In the January 2020 opinion in K.J. v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist. (Cal. Jan. 30, 2020) 8 Cal.5th 875, the Court held that the omission of an attorney from the notice of appeal of a sanctions order was not fatal.

The Upshot: Do not forget to name all appellants in the notice of appeal. But also be prepared to discuss the doctrine of liberality in construing the notice of appeal, and cite K.J. if any defects in the notice of appeal arise.

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Economic Protectionism Is Not a Legally Cognizable Interest

Rarely does it give such satisfaction to report the dismissal of an appeal. A group of businesses who had benefited from local protectionism — which had prevented newer businesses from competing with the incumbents — were dismayed when the trial court struck down the protectionist scheme as unconstitutional. Though the incumbents were not parties to the lawsuit, they appealed the ruling anyway.

Held: The non-party incumbent businesses had no legal right to challenge the dismantling of the protectionist laws that had benefited them. Robert Taft Jr. v. Vargas (D4d2 Sept. 17, 2021) 2021 WL 4237140 no. E076173 (nonpub. opn.).

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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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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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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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