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: Stays on Appeal

"Frivolous"​ to Argue Appeal Prevents the Trial Court from Ruling on a Motion for Attorneys'​ Fees

You may think this is obvious, but I continue to see attorneys get tripped up by this question: When an appeal from a judgment is taken, which generally stays matters in the trial court (i.e., matters that are are "embraced therein or affected thereby" (CCP § 916)), does the appeal prevent the trial court from awarding the prevailing party's attorneys' fees?

Answer: No. In fact, the First District Court of Appeal recently called this a frivolous argument in Korchemny v. Piterman (D1d2 Aug. 27, 2021) 2021 WL 3828228, no. A155483 (nonpub. opn.).

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Are Injunctions Stayed on Appeal? Cal. Supreme Court Says Issue Is "Ripe for Reexamination"

The California Supreme Court in *Daly v. San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors* (Aug. 9, 2021) ___ Cal.5th ___ has decided one particular area of the law is unclear and needs "reexamination." When a trial court grants an injunction, and the injunction is appealed, does the injunction still apply during the appeal?

When the Board of Supervisors of San Bernardino violated open-meeting requirements in removing and replacing one of its members, the challenger and a citizen group filed suit and obtained an injunction requiring the Board to rescind the appointment and seat a replacement pursuant to the county charter.

But the Board was not done yet. Hoping to keep the incumbent in office long enough for the upcoming election (see this interesting coverage), the Board appealed, and under Code of Civil Procedure section 916, an appeal automatically stays the order on appeal. But the Court of Appeal denied the Board's petition for supersedeas to effect the stay.

The Supreme Court reversed. And its opinion is a letter to the state legislature to reconsider the appellate stay law.

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Failure to Exercise Discretion in Issuing a Stay of Enforcement of Judgment Is an Abuse of Discretion

In a recent case involving more than one case number, the defendant got an early victory in one case, and got an award of attorney fees. The trial court, however, did not like the idea of rewarding one party partway through a complex litigation, so it imposed a sua sponte stay of enforcement of that fee award.

That stay was reversed on appeal in Specialty Baking, Inc. v. Kohanbash (LASC App. Div. May 24, 2021) no. BV033347 (nonpub. opn.). While such a stay may be permissible, the court in making the discretionary ruling failed to consider the factors required under the operative statute. Failure to exercise discretion is an abuse of discretion.

Whenever the topic of stays and bonds come up, that is a good time to consult an appellate attorney.

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Defective Appeal Results in Loss of Entire Case to Five-Year Rule

One of the first questions an appellate attorney tries to answer is whether there is an appealable order. It is pretty obvious why this is important: if the order is not appealable, your appeal will lose.

But have you also considered: if you appeal from a nonappealable order, your entire case might lose?

That is what happened in Villegas v. Six Flags Entertainment Corporation (D2d4 Jun. 29, 2021) no. B295352 (nonpub. opn.). The appellants appealed from the denial of their class certification motion. These normally are appealable under the "death knell" doctrine, because it effectively kills the class action.

But it was not appealable here, and the appeal was dismissed. By the time it was dismissed, the five-year statute had run and the plaintiff-appellants had not brought their case to trial. Case dismissed.

Takeaway: It can be difficult to predict the problems that can arise from appealing a nonappealable order. In this case, at least, it certainly would have been worth consulting an appellate attorney before filing the notice of appeal.

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Appellant Disobeyed Injunction, Incorrectly Believing Her Appeal Stayed It; Appeal Dismissed

Did you know that, when you appeal a mandatory preliminary injunction, the injunction is automatically stayed? An appeal in that instance can be very powerful.

But when is an injunction truly mandatory? Whether an appeal is mandatory or prohibitory can be very tricky to determine. Getting it wrong can be devastating, as the appellant learned in Chanin v. Community Rebuild Partners (D2d5 Apr. 23, 2021) no. B299188 (nonpub. opn.).

The Second District Court of Appeal disagreed that the injunction was mandatory in nature, and concluded the appellant was trying to take advantage of a status quo favorable to her. And because the appellant did not bother to test the proposition in a motion to stay in the trial court, or a petition for writ of supersedeas in the Court of Appeal, the court concluded her failure to comply with the injunction amounted to a willful disobedience giving rise to disentitlement of her right to appeal.

This case is a surprising application of the disentitlement doctrine, because the appellant's conduct was supported by fairly strong legal propositions: (1) on its face, the injunction did appear to be mandatory and thus stayed; (2) the automatic stay does not require the appellant to seek court orders to effect the stay; and (3) the injunction failed a key statutory requirement that it require the moving party to post a bond, and was thus invalid as a matter of law. But the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal anyway.

The lesson: If an automatic appellate stay seems too good to be true, it might be.

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Appeal of Anti-SLAPP Ruling Does Not Stay the Rest of the Case from Going Forward

One tactical benefit of filing an appeal is the potential to stay the underlying proceedings. But the automatic stay has many exceptions and limitations, many of which are illustrated in Wong v. Lee (D2d1 Jun. 29, 2021) no. B293892 (nonpub. opn.).

For one thing, if the appeal is invalid: no stay.

And if the appeal only affects one small part of the case: no stay.

(I wish the holding that the SLAPP appeal did not stay the proceedings were published: other cases are less clear on this.)

But these examples are only the tip of the iceberg of stays pending appeal. Trial attorneys can bring a lot of value to their clients by consulting an appellate attorney on these issues.

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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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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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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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