C.A. Reverses Judge Meiers’s Judgment, Says She Applied Personal Notions, Not the Law
Hoffstadt Faults Judge for Not Adhering to Statute,
Spurning His 2021 Opinion Interpreting Statute
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Barbara Ann Meiers, a frequently reversed judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, was reversed yesterday by the Court of Appeal because she refused to follow the dictates of a 1980 statute and a 2021 Court of Appeal opinion interpreting that law, instead applying the legislatively supplanted common law rule.
The statute is Code of Civil Procedure §764.060, a part of the Quiet Title Act, and the case Meiers sidestepped is Tsasu LLC v. U.S. Bank Trust, N.A.
Authoring the opinion in Tsasu was Justice Brian M. Hoffstadt of this district’s Div. Two. It was also Hoffstadt who wrote yesterday’s opinion, in which he said:
“Specifically, Tsasu confirmed that section 764.060 provides that a party acquiring title to property ‘in reliance’ on a quiet title judgment retains its rights in that property—even if that judgment is subsequently invalidated as void—as long as the party is a ‘purchaser or encumbrancer for value’ who lacked ‘knowledge of any defects or irregularities in [the earlier quiet title] judgment or the proceedings.’…Here, the trial court declined to follow the plain text of section 764.060 and Tsasu, and instead followed the pre-Act, common law rule that deems invalid any and all rights deriving from a judgment later invalidated as void.”
The opinion reverses a judmment invalidating a deed of trust.
Hoffstadt declared that Meiers’s “reasoning steps outside the lines of proper judicial analysis.” He scolded:
“Determining what best serves public policy is the job of our Legislature, not individual judges. This is especially true where, as here, the Legislature has already come to a different public policy determination on precisely the same issue—that is, that a person shall retain its rights in property that derive from a quiet title judgment, even if that judgment is declared void ‘based on [a] lack of actual notice to a party’ to that judgment. (§ 764.060) By effectively rewriting section 764.060, the trial court not only transgressed the fundamental maxim that courts may not ‘rewrite statutes’…, but also anointed itself a super-legislature imbued with the power to second-guess the public policy determinations of our Legislature.”
He went on to say:
“[T]he trial court suggested that it was justified in ignoring section 764.060 because that section is unconstitutional. Unlike a trial court’s preference for a different rule as a matter of public policy, a trial court’s conclusion that a statute is unconstitutional can justify ignoring a statute….But section 764.060 is not unconstitutional.”
Strikes Different Balance
The jurist elaborated:
“The common law rule invaliding the rights of an encumbrancer who relied on a judgment later invalidated as void, even if the encumbrancer acted in good faith and without knowledge of the possible voidness, rested on the courts’ balancing of the equities as between the original owner and the encumbrancer….Section 764.060 strikes a different balance of the equities that favors the encumbrancer, at least as to quiet title judgments that comply with the Act’s more stringent requirements and when the encumbrancer acts without knowledge of any defects in the judgment. Because this reassessment of the balance rationally furthers our Legislature’s goal of increasing the marketability of title, it is sufficiently rational to withstand constitutional scrutiny.”
The case is Ridec LLC v. Hinkle, B317420.
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