Thursday, June 1, 2017

D2d5 Retreads on a Broad Read of "Default or Dismissal"

Urban Wildlands Grp. v. City of L.A., No. B271350 (D2d5 Apr. 13, 2017)

Plaintiff filed for a writ of administrative mandamus but failed to file the administrative record with the trial court. The court denied the writ on the merits, finding that Plaintiff hadn’t met its burden to show error in the record. Plaintiff then sought relief under Code of Civil Procedure § 473(b) based on the fact that his attorney messed up the filing due to neglect. The court denied discretionary relief but granted under the mandatory relief provision in § 473(b).

But mandatory relief under § 473(b) is available only to address a default or dismissal. As we’ve discussed before, there’s an unresolved split of authority about what that means, with some courts reading “default or dismissal” narrowly and others giving it a little more leeway. Interestingly, the court here adopts the narrower reading even though the same division had previously authored two opinions going the other way. See In re Marriage of Hock & Gordon-Hock, 80 Cal. App. 4th 1438, 1442 (2000); Avila v. Chua, 57 Cal. App. 4th 860, 866 (1997). The court purports to disapprove of these cases.

Based on the narrow rule, what happened here wasn’t a default or dismissal. The trial court ruled against Plaintiff on the merits, finding that it wasn’t entitled to a writ because it failed to substantiate error in the underlying administrative proceeding. So the trial court erred in granting mandatory relief.

Reversed.

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