Friday, August 23, 2019
Attorney Puts Reputation on the Line in Seeking Clients’ Costs of Roughly $15,000, Claiming He Did Not Tardily Submit Cost Bill; Stratton Basically Calls Him a Liar
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has questioned the veracity of a Simi Valley attorney who claimed that he did not receive a copy of the notice of entry of judgment because the clerk sent it to an old address for him, maintaining that this gaffe meant that he had 180 days to file memoranda of costs.
Justice Maria E. Stratton of Div. Eight wrote the opinion, which was filed Wednesday and not certified for publication. It affirms an order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis striking the successful plaintiffs’ memoranda as untimely.
Judgment was entered in an ejectment action on June 1, 2017 in favor of plaintiffs AV Sikh Center and others, represented by attorney Michael D. Kwasigroch. The lawyer filed the memoranda of costs on Nov. 28, 2017—precisely 180 days after the judgment was entered.
The bill for AV Sikh Center amounted to $14,107.67, and three individual plaintiffs each wanted recompense for the $435 filing fee he paid, with the total amount in controversy merely $15,412.67—but with Kwasigroch’s reputation also proving to be at stake.
The defendants, Antelope Valley Sikh Center and others, moved to tax costs, pointing to a state court rule requiring that a memorandum be filed “within 15 days after the date of service of the notice of entry of judgment...by the clerk.”
Kwasigroch insisted the clerk’s mailing of notice must be disregarded, giving him 180 days, under the rule, where no service takes place. He argued in his opposition that “[p]roper notice of entry of judgment was never served” because “it was served to the wrong address.”
His former office address was on East Los Angeles Avenue in Simi Valley; he now practices at an office on Royal Avenue in that city.
“Counsel for the prevailing parties never received notice of entry of judgment because of this defect in service, and the fact he had moved over two years prior to the entry of judgment. Proper notice of change of address was served on all parties and filed with the court....”
That notice was filed April 14, 2015.
The lawyer represented that he gained knowledge of the entry of judgment as a result of “checking the Internet regularly and seeing the judgment when it was posted.”
At the hearing on the motion to strike, he told Duffy-Lewis he had been checking the court’s website “daily.”
Duffy-Lewis on March 26, 2018, said, in a minute order:
“Motion to strike GRANTED as to all filed cost bills. California Rules of Court 3.1700(a) and (b) require cost bills to be filed within 15 days of entry of judgment. The cost bills were filed 5 months after entry of judgment and therefore are stricken.”
Stratton declared that the appeals court is “not persuaded” by Kwasigroch’s claim that his clients should not be prejudiced by a clerk’s folly. Discounting his version of the facts, she said:
“If appellants’ counsel had been checking the internet daily as represented to the court, appellants would have seen the court’s June 1, 2017 notice of entry of judgment shortly after it was served, not five months later.”
The jurist noted that although Kwasigroch did file a notice of a change of address, he had continued to file papers in the case listing his office address to be that on East Los Angeles Avenue. She said a perusal of the Superior Court’s online docket “reflects the pleading most recently filed by appellants before service of the notice of entry of judgment was, in fact, their counsel’s February 14, 2017 declaration bearing the East L.A. Ave. address.”
Accordingly, she said, “the clerk did not err in serving the notice of entry of judgment on appellants at the East L.A. Ave. address, notwithstanding the two-year-old change of address notice” and Duffy-Lewis did not abuse her discretion “in declining to credit appellants’ assertions and striking the memorandum of costs as untimely.”
The case is AV Sikh Center v. Antelope Valley Sikh Center, B289045.
Kwasigroch acted as counsel on appeal for his trial-court clients. Bruce G. Landau of the Beverly Hills firm of Landau & Landau represented the defendants on appeal, as he did below.
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company