Thursday, June 12, 2014
C.A. Rules for Singer Randy Jackson in Child Support Dispute
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
A parentage action brought against Randy Jackson by his former girlfriend and ex-sister-in-law was properly dismissed because the singer/instrumentalist was never served with the summons and complaint, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Div. Two Tuesday affirmed the judgment in favor of the youngest male offspring of Joseph and Katherine Jackson. Steven Randall Jackson was just three when his brothers began singing as the Jackson Brothers—later the Jackson 5—and joined them after they signed with Epic Records and became The Jacksons.
Randy Jackson has never denied that Genevieve Jackson and her younger brother, Steven Randall Jackson Jr., are his children with Alejandra Loaiza, who was later married to his brother Jermaine Jackson. But he did not know, he insisted, until 2008—when the Department of Child Support Services levied on his bank account—that Loaiza had obtained a judgment obligating him to pay child support.
Court documents show that Loaiza, then 20 and pregnant with Genevieve, filed her action in August 1989. A proof of service purports to show that Jackson was served at his West Los Angeles apartment on Sept. 2.
On Sept. 7, 1989, Jackson—represented by the law firm then known as Manatt, Phelps, Rothenberg and Phillips—filed for bankruptcy. In May 1990, the Manatt firm filed a substitution of attorney in the parentage action, designating Jackson as his counsel in pro per, even though the firm had never appeared in that action.
A default judgment was entered in December 1990, finding Jackson to be Genevieve’s father and ordering him to pay child support.
In moving to set aside the judgment 21 years later, Jackson explained that in 1993, Loaiza had signed an agreement, also signed by longtime Jackson family attorney R. Brian Oxman, stating that Jackson would provide Loaiza and the two children “with housing, rent, utilities, food, and household maintenance” at the Jackson family compound in Encino. The agreement was made effective until the children turned 18, and purported to be “a binding legal agreement to provide” Loaiza “with any and all child support to which [she] or the minor children may be entitled, and to meet and satisfy all such obligations.”
Loaiza lived at the compound from 1993 through 2011. In the meantime, she entered into a marriage that was eventually annulled, married Jermaine Jackson in 1995—prior to the annulment of the first marriage—had two children with him, and continued to live at the Encino residence after her 2008 divorce.
‘Impossible’ to Serve
Oxman said that had he and his client known about the 1990 judgment, they would have petitioned the court for a modification. Jackson testified it was “impossible” for anyone to have served him at the apartment in September 1989, because the high-security building has several employees and no one could have gotten to the 18th floor, where he lived, without his permission.
The practice at the time, he said, was for him to notify the reception desk if he was expecting a visitor. If someone asked for him and wasn’t expected, he explained, they would be told that he didn’t live there.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lloyd Loomis found that explanation persuasive, ruled that the judgment was void for lack of service. Dismissing the action for failure to serve process within the three-year statutory limit, he also ruled that the Manatt firm’s substitution of attorney did not constitute a general appearance by Jackson.
Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst, in an unpublished opinion for the Court of Appeal, said Loomis was correct.
“When a plaintiff or the court fails to comply with the applicable statutes regarding service a judgment is void, not merely voidable,” she explained. “…When a court lacks ‘fundamental jurisdiction’ over the parties or subject matter, any ensuing judgment is void and vulnerable to collateral or direct attack at any time….Importantly, a judgment that is acquired in violation of due process rights is void and must be set aside regardless of the merits of the underlying case….Prejudice is not a factor in setting aside a void judgment or order.”
While the proof of service created a rebuttable presumption that Jackson had been served, the trial judge was entitled to believe his testimony to the contrary, the justice said.
Due Process Violation
The fact that Jackson waited until four years after the attempted levy on his bank account to move to set aside the judgment is irrelevant, the justice wrote, because the judgment was void and was obtained in violation of the defendant’s due process rights.
Given that Jackson “never had any attorneys of record in this case, never personally appeared, and never filed any papers,” she added, the argument that he made a general appearance in the case as a result of the filing of the substitution form fails. A declaration executed in 1990 by Loaiza’s attorney, Marvin Mitchelson—who died in 2004—declaring his belief that the substitution was provided to Loaiza by Jackson “and/or his attorneys of record” was “meaningless,” Ashmann-Gerst said, “because appellant cannot even confirm by whom or when the substitution of attorney was served on her.”
Attorneys on appeal were Elizabeth A. Bell for Loaiza and Brian E. Soriano and Brandon Schantz for Jackson.
The case is Loaiza v. Jackson, B245143.
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