Thursday, June 23, 2011

Shalant v. Gilardi (Cal. Supreme Ct. - June 23, 2011)

I'm liking the California Supreme Court more and more these days.

At a minimum, I like the fact that the Court's taking its error-correction role seriously.  Sometimes you take a case because the decision below is simply wrong, and although it's not the most harmful decision in the universe, it has consequences to at least some other folks.  You could simply depublish it, of course, and that's what the California Supreme Court routinely did in the old days.  But that neither solves the problem in the particular case nor tells the Court of Appeal what its mistake was.  So I like it when the California Supreme Court reviews cases that many state supreme courts would let go.  A court is never too busy, in my view, to review something that's clearly wrong.  If only because, if it's that easy (as they often are), it doesn't take all that much time to correct. 

I'm motivated to make this observation by this case.  It's about whether a vexatious litigant who has a prefiling order that says he can't file new litigation in pro per can have his lawsuit dismissed when he initially files the lawsuit with an attorney but that attorney later withdraws.  In my mind, the statute's pretty clear:  No.  You can force that person to file a bond if the lawsuit's unmeritorious.  But they didn't violate the prefiling order, since they had an attorney, so you can't dismiss the lawsuit.

Now, that's what the Court of Appeal here held, and given that fact, it would have been easy enough for the California Supreme Court to simply let the case stand.  No injustice, after all, since the right result was reached below.  But, as I said last year when the Court of Appeal's decision came out, I thought it was nonetheless a case in which review should be granted.  If only to clarify the rule.

Which is precisely what the California Supreme Court did.  Deciding the case unanimously, and within a year of when the petition for review was filed.

I like that.  I like it a lot.