Thursday, April 23, 2009

Silverbrand v. County of Los Angeles (Cal. Supreme Ct. - April 23, 2009)

Sometimes you win in the Court of Appeal and you're really, really happy. Until the case gets taken up by the California Supreme Court. At which point you sometimes realize, if you're smart: "Oh my. I'm going to totally get killed. My argument is wrong on the merits and totally inequitable. This ain't going to be pretty."

That's what I imagine Daniel Barer must have -- or at least should have -- thought in this one. The issue is whether the prison "mailbox" rule (i.e., that a notice of appeal by an incarcerated prisoner is deemed filed when s/he delivers it to the prison mailbox, as opposed to the Clerk of the Court) applies in both criminal cases (where it's been a longstanding rule) as well as civil cases. The County of Los Angeles successfully persuaded the Court of Appeal to distinguish between these two areas, but then the California Supreme Court granted review. And it was Mr. Barer's job to defend the Court of Appeal's ruling.

Which is possible, of course. But on the merits, there's no way the distinction should hold. And this fact did not go unnoticed. In a move that wasn't at all surprising to pretty much anyone, the California Supreme Court ultimately decided unanimously that the mailbox rule applied in both civil as well as criminal cases.

Sometimes you've got a dog of an argument. In that event, just enjoy the ride. Sure, you're going to lose, and get grilled in the process. But articulate the best position you can and, thereafter, don't feel bad when you get crushed. It isn't you. There's nothing personal about it. You were just on the wrong side. And, in truth, the world's a better place for you losing. So be happy it all worked out.