Thursday, February 21, 2008
C.A.: Court Retained Jurisdiction to Renew Judgment Against O.J. Simpson
By By Steven M. Ellis, Staff Writer
O.J. Simpson’s move to Florida did not deprive the Los Angeles Superior Court of jurisdiction to renew a $33.5 million wrongful judgment against him in favor of Ronald L. Goldman’s family, this district’s Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Rejecting Simpson’s argument that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to renew the judgment because he no longer resided in California, Div. Four affirmed Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg’s decision that the court’s original exercise of jurisdiction over Simpson at the time of the judgment gave it continuing jurisdiction over him.
The Court of Appeal similarly affirmed Rosenberg’s ruling that Simpson’s motion, which was filed more than six months after Goldman’s family filed an application to renew the judgment, was untimely under state law requiring an objection be filed within 30 days of a renewal application.
Scheduled to Expire
The judgment—which arose from a wrongful death action brought by Goldman’s family after Simpson was acquitted of murder charges for the 1994 stabbing deaths of Goldman and Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, at Nicole Simpson’s Brentwood home—has grown to approximately $40 million with interest, and was scheduled to expire on March 10, 2007, 10 years after the date of its entry.
Goldman’s father, Fred Goldman, filed an application in September 2006 under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 683.170 to renew the judgment, and served and filed notice of the renewal on Simpson after it was entered by the clerk of the court.
Simpson filed a motion to vacate renewal of the judgment on April 10, 2007. Because a judgment creditor can either file to renew judgments nearing their 10-year expiration date or bring an independent action for enforcement, and because any defense to the latter constitutes a defense to the former under Sec. 683.170(a), Simpson contended that the court’s lack of personal jurisdiction over him—a defense in an independent action—supported his motion to vacate renewal.
Judgment Argued ‘Void’
Arguing that such lack of jurisdiction rendered the judgment void, and that a void judgment can be attacked at any time, Simpson contended that his motion could not be deemed untimely and that his motion to vacate the renewal should therefore be granted.
However, Rosenberg rejected Simpson’s arguments and the Court of Appeal agreed.
Writing for the court, Justice Thomas L. Willhite Jr. said that “Simpson’s logic fails on a host of grounds.”
Willhite conceded that a debtor moving to vacate a renewal could contend that the court lacked personal jurisdiction at the time of the initial judgment, but he said it was “an entirely different matter to contend that the renewed judgment must be vacated because the debtor has insufficient personal contacts with the state to confer personal jurisdiction at the time of the renewal.”
He also noted that trial courts that enter original judgments have continuing jurisdiction to enforce those judgments through the statutory renewal process under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 410.50, explaining:
“[B]ecause entry of the renewal by the court clerk is a ministerial act that merely extends the enforceability of the original judgment, and because the renewed judgment has no independent existence apart from the original judgment…we conclude that the renewal procedure is properly treated as a ‘subsequent proceeding’ under section 410.50. The superior court, therefore, has ongoing, continuing jurisdiction to effectuate the statutory renewal of the judgment, and the renewal is not subject to attack on the ground that the debtor has insufficient personal contacts with California to establish personal jurisdiction when the renewal is entered.”
Presiding Justice Normal L. Epstein and Justice Nora M. Manella joined Willhite in his opinion.
David J. Cook, counsel for the Goldman family, said that the decision showed that “a plane ticket to Miami is not a free pass from a double wrongful death civil judgment.”
Simpson’s attorney, Richard L. Enkelis, told the MetNews that he could see how the justices had arrived at their decision, but said that he disagreed with their interpretation of the law. He said no decision had yet been made whether to appeal.
The case is Goldman v. Simpson, 08 S.O.S. 1142.
Copyright 2008, Metropolitan News Company