Monday, July 10, 2006

Jogani v. Jogani (Cal. Ct. App. - July 10, 2006)

Number of published opinions issued by the California Court of Appeal today: 9.

Number of published opinions issued by the Ninth Circuit today: 0.

Ah, those lazy July days. At least if you've got life tenure, I guess.

Anyway, this opinion by Justice Mallano is the best (and most interesting) of the bunch. It's admittedly a long one, topping out at 33 pages. But I still enjoyed reading it. It's about judicial estoppel, and is one of a long list of cases that holds that judicial estoppel doesn't apply because the first court didn't necessary accept or rely on the false statements. (Justice Mallano also published another opinion on the exact same topic -- Gottlieb v. Kest -- earlier today. And that one's 46 pages. So a big judicial estoppel day for Justice Mallano.)

It's an interesting doctrine and an interesting story here. You learn about a guy who, in 1979, had property worth $375 million (and $100 million net equity) in residential apartments in Los Angeles. And who, by the mid-1990s, had lost the $100 million in net equity and now had equity of negative $50 to $70 million. But, in an awesome display of two-way rachet we call leverage, by 2002 owned properties with a value in excess of $1 billion and net equity of $550 million. Quite a chunk of change.

You'll also learn about his brothers, who allegedly helped turn things around and was owed half -- in other words, $225 million -- of that equity. And, perhaps predictably, how brothers thereafter started suing brothers over the resulting largess. And, to make matters more interesting (and to bring judicial estoppel into play), how one of the brothers, who had been sued by many, many people during the downturn in real estate, had "allegedly" (i.e., pretty clearly, in my mind) lied under oath at a gazillion judgment debtor exams about how he wasn't involved in any partnerships and didn't have any assets. And how his brothers thereafter tried to use these statements against him to estop him from claiming to the contrary in his lawsuit against his family.

So a family fight, lots of lies, defrauded creditors, and a ton of money. Should keep it interesting, at least for a Monday. On the merits, Justice Mallano does a good job, and in the end, I agree with him, even though at points during the opinion he somewhat lost me. Still, in a way, that's perhaps the sign of a good opinion: the ability to convince the reader that you're right, even though the reader at various points is pretty darn skeptical.

I especially liked the last half-dozen or so pages, in which Justice Mallano explains why the judgment debtors may (with an emphasis on may) potentially have some relief against the liar. Still, I'd like to see DAs go after a lot more people for perjury in civil cases than they do. Perhaps even here. Some of this stuff is pretty darn egregious.

A nice 33-page diversion on a day in which my in-laws arrive from North Carolina to stay with us for a week. :-)

POST-SCRIPT: The California Court of Appeal cranked out another one at the end of the day to make it an even 10. Double digits versus zero. Even more impressive!