Developments of Interest

New Cases of Interest - June 11, 2013

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Stoltenberg v. Ampton Investments, Inc. (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 1225.  This is a case that involves an issue you don't see very much called the "disentitlement doctrine."  The defendants had appealed from a California judgment in favor of the plaintiffs but did not post a bond to stay enforcement of the judgment.  Plaintiffs had registered the judgment in New York where the defendants were located and attempted to enforce the registered sister state judgment there by serving a subpoena seeking financial information.  The defendant did not comply with the subpoena or with a New York trial court order compelling them to respond to it.  The New York trial court held the defendants in contempt as a result.  The appellate court in California then dismissed the defendant's appeal under the disentitlement doctrine, holding that the doctrine applied to noncompliance with and contempt of New York trial court orders, which noncompliance and contempt directly affected and frustrated the enforcement of the California judgment.

The disentitlement doctrine the court holds gives an appellate court the inherent power to dismiss an appeal when the appellant refuses to comply with a lower court order.  The key element here appeared to be that the appellants/defendants refused to comply with a court order issued in connection with post-judgment discovery which was designed to obtain information to assist in the enforcement of the judgment being appealed and the appellants had not posted a bond regarding the judgment.  It also appears to be key that the defendants/appellants had been found to be in contempt of the post-judgment discovery order issued.  The court noted that this conduct demonstrated an effort to achieve a stay of execution of the money judgment without complying with legal procedures, and such willful disobedience and obstruction of presumptively valid orders form the basis upon which to invoke the disentitlement doctrine.

Copenbarger v. Morris Cerullo World Evangelism (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 1237.  This was an action and a cross-action between a sublessee and a sublessor.  The sublessee initially sued for declaratory relief, breach of contract and intentional interference with contract.  The sublessor initiated an unlawful detainer action.  The defendant filed a special motion to strike (SLAPP) the complaint which the trial court granted.

The court of appeal reversed the order, finding that there was a failure by the defendant to meet its initial burden of demonstrating that the complaint was based on protected activity within the meaning of CCP §425.16.  The complaint involved a required cure regarding maintenance and other related defaults contained within the lease, and at most provided evidence of a dispute of the lease's terms, but nothing that triggered the special procedures of CCP §425.16.

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