Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Standard Microsystems Corp. v. Winbond Electronics Corp. (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 24, 2009)

Ever get the feeling that, sometimes, the justices might take things a little . . . personally?

Not overly so, mind you. Since they're talking about the law, after all. But check out this paragraph from Justice Rushing:

"On February 8 and 11, 2008, respectively, WIL and WEC filed separate motions to set aside the default and quash service of process. Although both notices of motion cited section 473(b), the only cogent legal argument offered by either was that service had been defective. That is, the argument was cogent as to WIL, which argued that the service on it “failed to comply with the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters ("Hague Service Convention") in serving the summons and complaint . . . .” The gist of the supporting argument was that the Hague Service Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, does not contemplate the service of process, as distinct from other materials, by mail. WIL acknowledged that one California decision had held otherwise, but dismissed that case as “not determinative” in view of contrary authority. In doing so it either overlooked or ignored the fact that the cited decision, Denlinger v. Chinadotcom Corp. (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 1396, 1399-1400, came out of this court, which would have appellate jurisdiction over any ruling the trial court might make. Nor did it acknowledge that we had, in that decision, pointedly examined conflicting authorities and concluded that the “the better, and more modern, view” is that in the absence of specific objection by the adhering country, the convention allows service by mail. (Id. at pp. 1400-1405.) Instead defendants countered with a case decided shortly after Denlinger that, without citing it, acknowledged the conflicting lines of authority and declined to decide which to follow since the service there was defective under California law. (In re Alyssa F. (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 846, 853.)"

Too funny.

I also liked the last paragraph of the opinion. Which demonstrates, in my mind, a keen and insightful knowledge of both the realities of modern litigation as well as the benefits that flow from crafting the law in light of those realities:

"[I]f one carried plaintiff's rope-a-dope hypothesis as far as mere fancy will allow, one might suppose that having craftily suffered a default for purposes of delay, they were just as happy to take a fall on the first motion for relief and to endure a permanent injunction against them, all in the expectation of securing relief from it too when they finally acknowledged the role of attorney fault and invoked the mandatory provisions of section 473. But fancy affords no basis for adjudication. Perhaps it will someday occur that a defendant has so little to lose from a default judgment that he is willing to gamble on securing the mere purchase of delay that would come from suffering its entry and then seeking its vacation based upon a trumped-up claim of attorney fault. It is difficult to formulate a credible set of circumstances in which such a strategy would actually make sense, but we cannot rule it out in the abstract. It is sufficient to the present occasion to say that there is no evidence in this record on which to attribute such an intention to defendants or their attorney. Nor did the trial court appear to do so. It simply read Jerry’s more broadly than the governing statute will permit. So far as this record shows, defendants' attorney in fact believed, quite mistakenly, that his clients were not obligated to respond to the complaint as served on them, and incurred no great risks in failing to do so. He was grossly mistaken on both points. The resulting default and default judgment were unquestionably the product of attorney fault, and defendants were entitled to relief under the mandatory provisions of section 473(a)."

Makes sense to me.