Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yamaha Motor Co. v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - May 26, 2009)

I'm definitely going to talk about this one.

First, on a pedantic level, I must say it's a bit frustrating to have an opinion (like this one) dated as published yesterday but put on the court's web site only today. Not a biggie, but still.

Second, this is yet another opinion with some great conversational lingo. This time by Justice Sills. Plus, as an added bonus, a forthright admission that the Court of Appeal isn't initially omnicient. Here's how the opinion begins:

"This court issued an OSC in response to this petition for writ of mandate because it presents an issue of some public importance that has not yet been squarely faced by a California state court, in a published opinion, in this particular context: The question of whether a Japanese manufacturer can be served under California law simply by serving the Japanese manufacturer's American subsidiary. The trial court ruled that a Japanese manufacturer could indeed be validly served that way. The method just seemed too easy a way to get around the Hague Service Convention and we scheduled an OSC on the petition to give us the chance to study the issue. On review, however, it turns out that, yes, it really is that easy."

That's a sweet opening. On many different levels. I wholeheartedly approve.

Third, I also like how Justice Sills critiques a California Supreme Court case (here, Cosper v. Smith & Wesson) that he finds unpersuasive and suggests that it might be just fine for the California Supreme Court to take the issue up. Mind you, I think there are much, much better cases than this one to serve as potential vehicles for overruling (or at least limiting) Cosper -- given the relationship between the parent and subsidiary here, I can readily imagine a better case (perhaps something akin to the facts of Cosper itself) to highlight the potential errors of existing precedent. Still, it adds value for the Court of Appeal to suggest that, in an appropriate case, it might be time to reexamine the existing law. So I'm again totally on board.

The only thing I disagree with on this one concerns something entirely parochial. Justice Sills goes off on an (admittedly funny) tangent in the middle of the opinion when he says "the bulk of the Cosper decision is devoted to the due process minimum contacts problem on which first year civil procedure professors usually spend too much time." Ouch! I gotta take that one personally, and -- of course -- at least briefly respond; first, by noting that I don't believe that any civil procedure professor in the nation assigns Cosper to the students, and second that I think we spend exactly the right about of time on minimum contacts, especially if (as in my class) it's the very first topic the students learn on a very much non-intuitive (for them) topic. I may have to invite Justice Sills down to teach my students minimum contacts next year. Trust me: It ain't easy.

That said -- and, again, I loved even the slam -- this is a great one. And not even that long (and tops out at less than a dozen pages). After yesterday's gay marriage opinion, that's a luxury we can all enjoy.