Saturday, February 25, 2017

Ref Don't Matter if the Decision Was Right

Stella v. Asset Management Consultants, Inc., No. B269207 (D2d7 Feb 6, 2017)

A limited partnership agreement for a real estate investment contains a provision that subjects any dispute arising from or related to it to judicial reference under Code of Civil Procedure § 638. A motion for reference was granted, and the referee subsequently granted a demurrer based on the statute of limitations. The plaintiff appeals both the reference order and the demurrer.*

Taking an interesting tack, the Court of Appeal affirms the sustained demurrer. Then, since the court addressed de novo the merits of the dismissal in exactly the same fashion as it would had the order been by a superior court judge, it finds any error in granting the reference harmless. It thus declines to reach the merits of that decision.

*A § 638 reference is somewhat like an arbitration, but it is subject to the ordinary rules of civil procedure. In the case of a consensual general reference, the referee’s ruling essentially gets entered as a decision of the court, from which a judgment can be entered and then subject to appeal like any civil judgment. See § 644(a).

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