Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Appellate Division Rebuffs Policy on Jury Fees in UD Cases
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court has invalidated a purported court policy that where jury fees have been waived in an unlawful detainer action based on indigence, the party demanding a jury must nonetheless post the fees, then apply for a refund.
The opinion, certified for publication Thursday and posted on the Internet on Friday, was authored by Presiding Judge Patti Jo McKay. It reverses a judgment for a landlord awarded by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie M. Bowick who conducted a bench trial after the tenant failed to post jury fees.
Bowick had granted the waiver on May 30, 2012, but on July 10, ruled that the defendant had waived the right to a jury trial by failing to post fees. She relied on Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 631(b), which says:
“At least one party demanding a jury on each side of a civil case shall pay a nonrefundable fee of one hundred fifty dollars ($150), unless the fee has been paid by another party on the same side of the case….”
“We find defendant’s contention meritorious in that there is nothing in section 631 to indicate that the Legislature intended to require a party who obtained a waiver of jury fees and expenses to nevertheless post a nonrefundable fee of $150 as a prerequisite to obtaining a trial by jury. However, had the Legislature intended to override previously secured waivers pertaining to jury fees, it would have stated as much. Since the language of section 631 is otherwise clear and unambiguous, there is no need for judicial construction and our inquiry ends....
“The trial court deprived defendant of her constitutional right to a jury trial. Such deprivation constitutes a miscarriage of justice and reversible error per se without the need to demonstrate actual prejudice.”
The case is Munoz v. Silva, 2013 S.O.S. 2702.
Daniel J. Bramzon and Sarah Truesdell Shipitsyna of BASTA, Inc. represented the former tenant. There was no appearance for the landlord.
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