Sanctions for Partially Frivolous Appeals in California

Patrick BurnsPosted by on Nov 2, 2020 in Appellate Practice, California Supreme Court, Good Writing

Sometimes in an appeal, the appellant takes a “kitchen sink” approach to briefing by advancing a number of baseless claims. Appellant has the burden of showing the lower court erred and may believe if it hurls enough contentions, maybe one will stick. Even though some of appellant’s arguments may have merit, that type of shotgun approach to appellate litigation can be frustrating and costly for a respondent tasked with investigating and responding to all of the arguments.

But, in California, a respondent facing such a scenario may—in the right kind of case—be able to recover a portion of its attorney fees for a “partially frivolous” appeal.

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LAW OF THE CASE: Application in California Courts

David CasarrubiasPosted by on Aug 25, 2020 in Appellate Practice, California Supreme Court

There are a handful of legal doctrines that can be difficult to comprehend, but the law of the case doctrine shouldn’t be one of them. Yet, time and again, the doctrine seems to perplex litigants, especially when deciding whether it is binding or discretionary, and whether it has any application to a trial court’s own prior rulings. The answers to both of these questions are important to understand before asking a court to revisit a prior ruling.

The basic rule is this: a ruling or holding stated in an appellate court opinion is binding on all inferior courts in all subsequent proceedings related to the same parties in the same action. (Morohoshi v. Pacific Home (2004) 34 Cal.4th 482, 491.)

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Attorneys, Clients, Constructive Knowledge, and Malicious Prosecution

Neil BardackPosted by on Jul 20, 2020 in Anti-SLAPP, Appellate Practice, California Supreme Court

The recent Court of Appeal decision in Roche v. Hyde, Nos. A150459, A1500462 (filed 6/30/20), though unpublished, presents a cautionary tale for lawyers and clients. The case arises out of sale of a winery in Sonoma County by Roche (“Seller”) to Ram’s Gate, LLC (“Buyer”). The focus of the fraud and misrepresentation claims by the Buyer was Seller’s failure to disclose a seismic report that showed an active fault line under a building pad. Seller maintained the report had been delivered to the attorney for a predecessor entity of Buyer (these entities had common ownership and the same attorney, Hyde), in a previous attempt to buy the winery.

After discovering the seismic issues impacting Buyer’s construction plans, Buyer sued for breach of contract, fraud and negligence, alleging the non-disclosure of the seismic fault. After protracted discovery to obtain Buyer’s files and those of its attorney Hyde to prove prior knowledge of the seismic facts, resulting in multiple court orders to produce requested documents, Buyer dismissed its case without prejudice to avoid court ordered discovery sanctions and also agreed to pay Seller’s attorney’s fees and costs.  End of story? 

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Summary Judgment & Hearsay Objections: Viable Since Sweetwater?

Gary A. WattPosted by on May 8, 2020 in Anti-SLAPP, California Supreme Court

In Sweetwater Union High School Dist. v. Gilbane Building Co. (2019) 6 Cal.5th 931, the California Supreme Court examined evidence burdens in the context of the anti-SLAPP statute. Despite resolving anti-SLAPP issues, the opinion has serious implications for summary judgment motions that may not be obvious.

In resolving anti-SLAPP issues, Sweetwater analogized to summary judgment motions. In the anti-SLAPP context, once protected activity has been demonstrated, courts are to accept the opposing party’s evidence as true, and see whether the moving party has nonetheless defeated the opposing party’s showing “as a matter of law.” It doesn’t just sound like summary judgment, the Sweetwater Court expressly described the minimal merit prong of an anti-SLAPP motion as a “summary-judgment-like procedure.”

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Anti-SLAPP Motions: Use It or Lose It

Gary A. WattPosted by on Sep 18, 2018 in Anti-SLAPP, California Supreme Court

A recent California Supreme Court decision resolved the issue of what claims can be subject to a Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 special motion to strike attacking an amended complaint. (Newport Harbor Ventures, LLC v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism (2018) 4 Cal.5th 637.) Specifically, the issue was whether an anti-SLAPP motion attacking an amended complaint could challenge claims already present in earlier versions of the complaint. The Court answered “no.”

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California Supreme Court: Trial Courts Must Provide Court Reporters for Indigent Litigants to Protect Their Right to Meaningful Appeal

Adam HofmannPosted by on Jul 24, 2018 in California Supreme Court

Ever since the Great Recession ushered in drastic cuts to state-court budgets, litigators have grown accustomed to the absence of court reporters in California courts. For trials and potentially dispositive motion hearings (and for all court hearings in unusually significant matters) lawyers have learned to arrange for their own court reporters, in order to make a complete record for appeals. This is an inconvenience for practicing lawyers and a regrettable expense for their clients. For indigent litigants, however, it can effectively imperil the right to appeal, as the California Supreme Court recently held.

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