Friday, March 02, 2007

Franklin Capital Corp. v. Wilson (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 28, 2007)

This opinion brought a smile to my face. It's breezy. It's light-hearted. It even contains jokes (though they're funny only in context). In short, it reads much more like a blog entry -- albeit a 36-page one -- than a judicial opinion. Not something that you usually see.

Mind you, I wouldn't like it if all opinions were like this; some of the structure and content was a little off-putting. But I definitely liked it as an occasional change of pace.

Plus, on the merits, Justice Sills does a pretty good job of distinguishing, rationalizing, and (dare I say it) pretending that a plethora of diffuse and varied cases all -- or almost all -- stand for a core unifying principle. That's helpful, and definitely advances the law. Even if he's wrong, and I liked the fact that Justice Sills even says as much himself, and quotes Henny Youngman to encourage the California Supreme Court to take up the case if an appropriate vehicle. Parenthetically, I also thought that Justice Aronson's brief concurrence was great as well.

So I definitely think this one is worth a read. It's also practically helpful as well, and does a great job explaining precisely -- or at least as precisely as presently possible -- when a party is allowed to avoid a dismissal with prejudice by voluntarily dismissing an action. For example, whether, as here, you can voluntarily dismiss the day before a hearing on an OSC re: dismissal; or, in other cases, voluntarily dismissing after the grant of a demurrer with leave to amend, pending motions for summary judgment, adverse tentative rulings, etc. Important stuff.

My only substantial departure from Justice Sills concerns footnote 1. Trial counsel for Franklin Capital sounds utterly incompetent. And, after reading the briefs, sounds even less capable. I'd have named him in the opinion. But, in footnote 1, Justice Sills decides otherwise, and gives some reasons why. Mind you, I don't find those reasons persuasive, but out of respect for Justice Sills, I'll do the same. But you can look it up if you want. It's hard, but not impossible, to find.

P.S. - You gotta figure that Justice Sills wrote this one himself, right? What extern or clerk would have the gonadular fortitude to write a first draft that looks like this? If I'm wrong, I'd love to meet the responsible party one day. And shake his/her hand.