Jurisdiction Not Lost Where Order Was Based on Misstated Facts, Opinion Declares
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The plaintiffs’ voluntary dismissal of their action did not divest the court of jurisdiction to yank the sanctions it previously awarded in their favor, Div. Three of the First District Court of Appeal held Friday.
Acting Presiding Justice Carin T. Fujisaki authored the opinion which affirms an order by San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charles F. Haines.
Haines had awarded plaintiffs Jonathan and Jordan Manhan $3,060 in discovery sanctions against defendant Shannon Gallagher, a San Francisco attorney, in a landlord-tenant dispute. After they dismissed their action without prejudice, the judge heard a motion to vacate the sanction order on the ground that Gallagher had learned that the Manhans had not incurred the legal fees they had claimed and that their lawyer had provided services on a pro bono basis.
Given the dismissal, the Manhans argued on appeal, the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction to make further orders.
“We disagree,” Fujisaki wrote.
She acknowledged that “as a general rule, a voluntary dismissal of an action deprives the court of both subject matter and personal jurisdiction in that case. But, the jurist said, there are exceptions where it is necessary “to give effect to a former party’s statutory rights.”
“Here, the case at hand concerns statutory sanctions, the imposition and reconsideration of which was a collateral issue not directly based on the merits of the underlying proceeding….That a court retains jurisdiction to decide a motion for reconsideration of sanctions is consistent with critical functions that reconsideration performs, such as allowing courts to correct errors and thereby prevent miscarriages of justice, and pressuring litigants to use great care in presenting motions and ascertaining the facts….There is no sound basis in logic or public policy to deny a remedy to a party burdened with sanctions obtained through misrepresentation (whether or not intentional) simply because a plaintiff dismisses an action. Disallowing reconsideration when sanctions are based on misrepresentations plainly violates a reasonable sense of justice and fair play….
“We thus conclude a trial court’s authority to reconsider sanctions survives even after a plaintiff voluntarily dismisses an action. Plaintiffs raise no other challenges to the propriety of the subject order and so we end our discussion here.”
The case is Manhan. v. Gallagher, A158152.
Kenneth B. White and Thomas M. Brown, partners in the downtown Los Angeles firm of Brown, White & Osbourn, represented the Manhans on appeal, and Gallagher was in pro per.
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