Must One Contest a Tentative Ruling?

Josephine MasonPosted by on Feb 16, 2018 in Appellate Practice

The California Rules of Court allow superior courts to use  a tentative ruling procedure in law and motion matters. (See CRC 3.1308.) Many attorneys assume that they must contest an adverse tentative ruling to preserve their objections for appeal. While there may be good reasons to contest, it is not necessarily mandatory.

It is not “invited error” to submit on a tentative ruling. (Mundy v. Lenc (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 1401 (“Mundy”); see Jon B. Eisenberg et al., California Practice Guide: Civil Appeals and Writs ¶ 8:248.12 (“Rutter”).) The doctrine of invited error is based on a principle of estoppel; it “prevents a party from misleading the trial court and then profiting therefrom in the appellate court.” (Norgart v. Upjohn Co. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 383, 403.) But so long as a litigant asserts an issue in the trial court and does not actively invite error, the issue is preserved for appeal. (Mundy, supra, 203 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1405-1406; Rutter, supra, ¶ 8:248.12.)

Read More

Anti-SLAPP Motions in Federal Court

Gary A. WattPosted by on Jan 31, 2018 in Appellate Practice

The ability to launch a preemptive strike against suits attacking speech or petitioning rights shouldn’t depend on which federal circuit has jurisdiction over the district court action. Yet that is how it stands right now when it comes to state law anti-SLAPP statutes deployed in federal diversity actions. At some point the United States Supreme Court will need to resolve the circuit split.

As it stands, the First, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits have allowed anti-SLAPP motions to be brought in federal court. The D.C. Circuit, however, has rejected them. The remainder of the circuits have not yet weighed in, leaving the district courts below them to decide the issue in the first instance. This could mean that a defendant is stripped of anti-SLAPP protection if an action is filed in federal court.

Read More

California Supreme Court Clarifies Constitutional Limits on Groundwater Fees

Adam HofmannPosted by on Dec 29, 2017 in Appellate Practice

On Monday, December 4, 2017, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in City of San Buenaventura v. United Water Conservation District.  The case partially resolved a long-running dispute regarding the validity of fees the United Water Conservation District charges all groundwater pumpers in its jurisdiction.  While this case has been followed most closely in the community of water-rate nerds (myself included), there are broader impacts on government revenue and constitutional interpretation in general.

Read More

Peremptory Challenge Denied? Take a Writ

Josephine MasonPosted by on Nov 7, 2017 in Appellate Practice

In the Roman Republic, the right to appeal (provocatio, as in “provocation”) from a magistrate’s summary use of power was regarded as one of the most important safeguards of liberty. The democratic force of the right to appeal survives today. (See, e.g., Griffin v. Illinois (1956) 351 U.S. 12, 18; Cassandra Burke Robertson, The Right to Appeal (2013), 91 N.C. L. Rev. 1219.) Indeed, it is often said that everything may be reviewed on appeal, but as in almost every aspect of law, there is an exception: In California, a trial judge’s refusal to be recused by way of a peremptory challenge is reviewable only by writ. (Code Civ. Proc., § 170.6.) Here are some practical tips for optimizing the chances of obtaining review.

Read More

Expert Testimony, Hearsay, and Summary Judgment

Gary A. WattPosted by on Oct 18, 2017 in Appellate Practice

I’ve been watching the ripple effects of People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665, which has been labeled “a paradigm shift” regarding out-of-court statements and expert testimony under California hearsay law. (People v. Ochoa, 7 Cal. App. 5th 575, 588 (2017).) Sanchez boils down to the difference between an expert relying on hearsay case-specific facts (which has always been permissible) and an expert relating those facts to the jury (which Sanchez now prohibits unless the hearsay problem is solved). But what about summary judgment motions?

Read More

Expert Testimony, Case-Specific Facts, and Hearsay

Gary A. WattPosted by on Sep 15, 2017 in Appellate Practice

In People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665, the California Supreme Court held that expert testimony involving case-specific facts is subject to exclusion as hearsay—just like any other testimony. In so holding, the Court overruled its prior decisions, including People v. Montiel (1993) 5 Cal.4th 877, which permitted courts wide latitude in allowing experts to base their opinions on case-specific facts that are hearsay. Montiel’s relaxed approach rested upon the use of limiting instructions informing the jury that they could consider hearsay as going to the basis of the opinion, but not for the truth. Thus, under Montiel, “there was no longer a need to carefully distinguish between an expert’s testimony regarding background information and case-specific facts.” (Sanchez, 63 Cal.4th at p. 679.)     

According to Sanchez, Montiel ignored an undeniable truth, that “when any expert relates to the jury case-specific out-of-court statements, and treats the content of those statements as true and accurate to support the expert’s opinion, the statements are hearsay. It cannot logically be maintained that the statements are not being admitted for their truth.” (Id. at p. 686.) As a result, if an expert will testify to case-specific out-of-court statements as part of the facts supporting the opinion, then “like any other hearsay evidence, such statements will only be admitted through an applicable hearsay exception.” (Ibid.)

Read More

Short-lived Victories With Unintended Results: the Interim Adverse Judgment Rule

Neil BardackPosted by on Aug 30, 2017 in Appellate Practice

Winning on appeal can sometimes spawn further litigation, including the launching of a malicious prosecution action. Indeed, if your client has prevailed in defeating a Uniform Trade Secrets Act (“UTSA”) case, been awarded attorney fees because the trial court found that action was brought in bad faith by the former employer, and the trial court’s decision upheld on appeal, malicious prosecution jumps out as the next logical step, right?

Maybe not. According to the California Supreme Court’s recent decision in Parrish v. Latham & Watkins, 2017 DJDAR 7724 (8/10/17), it all depends on whether your client (the former employee) brought a motion for summary judgment (or other ruling on the merits but not on technical or procedural grounds) which the former employer defeated on the merits (made a minimal showing of issues of fact requiring trial). In Parrish, a former employer sued former employees for misappropriation of trade secrets under the UTSA. After defeating the employees’ motion for summary judgment on flimsy evidence but albeit arguably meritorious, the employer lost a full evidentiary trial because the employer was shown to have no factual basis for bringing the action and did so for anti-competitive reasons. The former employees obtained substantial attorney’s fees on the grounds of bad faith as defined in the UTSA. Then, of course, they filed a malicious prosecution action against the employer’s lawyers. But that action was dismissed by way of an anti-SLAPP motion.

Read More