Coastside Fishing Club v. Cal. Resources, No. A116026.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtKline
Citation158 Cal.App.4th 1183,71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87
PartiesCOASTSIDE FISHING CLUB et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CALIFORNIA RESOURCES AGENCY et al., Defendants and Respondents.
Decision Date14 January 2008
Docket NumberNo. A116026.
71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87
158 Cal.App.4th 1183
COASTSIDE FISHING CLUB et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
CALIFORNIA RESOURCES AGENCY et al., Defendants and Respondents.
No. A116026.
Court of Appeal, First District, Division 2.
January 14, 2008.

[71 Cal.Rptr.3d 89]

Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP, Thomas M. Peterson, Benjamin P. Smith, San Francisco, Snyder, Miller & Orton LLP, James L. Miller, San Francisco, Jennifer L. Shoda, for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Edmund G. Brown Jr., Attorney General, Mary E. Hackenbracht, Sr. Asst. A.G., John Davidson, Supervising Deputy A.G., William Jenkins, Deputy Attorney General, for Respondents California Resources Agency arid Department of Fish and Game.

Kenyon Yeates LLP, Charity Kenyon, Sacramento, for Respondent Resources Legacy Fund Foundation.

KLINE, P.J.


The trial court interpreted a statute as conferring authority on an executive branch agency to enter a contract to obtain private funds to defray the costs of implementing a statutory scheme for which the Legislature failed to provide adequate public funds. This appeal challenges that interpretation of the statute primarily on the ground that it is inconsistent with the rule against delegation of

71 Cal.Rptr.3d 90

legislative power implicit in the doctrine of separation of powers.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

On August 27, 2004, respondents, the California Resources Agency (Agency) and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), which is supervised by the Agency, entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with respondent Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (Foundation), a private nonprofit organization,1 for the purpose of facilitating implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). (Fish & G.Code, § 2850 et seq.)2 As later explained in detail, the Legislature failed to appropriate funds sufficient to support the new and substantial planning responsibilities the MLPA required DFG to complete within a specified period. The MOU was designed to rectify this problem through creation of a "publicprivate partnership" providing the resources necessary to comply with these mandates.

Appellants, Coastside Fishing Club, a nonprofit organization representing recreational fishermen, and Michael J. Nolan, a member of the Club residing in Del Norte County and a California taxpayer, claim that the MOU was not authorized by the MLPA; was improperly devised by the Agency and DFG to "appropriate" money in a manner other than that prescribed by the California Constitution (Cal. Const., art. XVI, § 7 ["Money may be drawn from the Treasury only through an appropriation made by law and upon a Controller's duly drawn warrant"]), and thereby also violated the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers (id., art. Ill, § 3 ["The powers of state government are legislative, executive, and judicial. Persons charged with the exercise of one power may not exercise either of the others except as permitted by this Constitution"]).

On December 14, 2005, appellants filed in the Del Norte County Superior Court a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief and petition for writ of mandate (Code Civ. Proa, § 1085) seeking, among other remedies, "a judgment declaring that the private funding of administrative acts and regulatory processes is unconstitutional under the California and U.S. Constitutions." On July 6, 2006, after the case had been transferred to the San Francisco Superior Court, state respondents filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the Foundation joined in the motion. On the same date, the Foundation demurred to appellants' pleading on the grounds that

71 Cal.Rptr.3d 91

the trial court had no jurisdiction over the subject of the causes of action alleged in the pleading, and the pleading did not state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action (Code Civ. Proc., § 430.10, subds. (a), (e)), and state respondents joined in support.

On September 6, 2006, the trial court issued an order determining that (1) a provision of the MLPA—subdivision (b)(1) of section 285 — authorized the Agency and DFG to enter into the MOU; (2) the resources provided by the Foundation under the MOU are not monies drawn on the state treasury and the MOU therefore does not involve the legislative power to appropriate money in violation of article XVI, section 7, of the California Constitution; (3) the use by an executive branch agency of public funds to seek private "matching funds" does not violate the doctrine of separation of powers set forth in article III, section 3, of our Constitution; and (4) the resources provided by the Foundation do not amount to a "gift" and the MOU therefore does not violate Government Code section 11005, which requires approval by the California Director of Finance of certain gifts or dedications to the state. For these reasons, the court granted the motion for judgment on the pleadings without leave to amend, sustained the demurrer without leave to amend, and dismissed with prejudice the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief and petition for writ of mandate. Judgment for respondents was entered on September 21, 2006.

This timely appeal was filed on November 3, 2006.

DISCUSSION
I.
The Standard of Review

Orders granting judgment on the pleadings or sustaining a demurrer are reviewed in this court de novo. (Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Lyons (2000) 24 Cal.4th 468, 515, 101 Cal.Rptr.2d 470, 12 P.3d 720 [judgment on the pleadings]; Filet Menu, Inc. v. Cheng (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 1276, 1279, 84 Cal.Rptr.2d 384 [demurrer].) "`Because a demurrer both tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint and involves the trial court's discretion, an appellate court employs two separate standards of review on appeal. [Citation] ... Appellate courts first review the complaint de novo to determine whether or not the ... complaint alleges facts sufficient to state a cause of action under any legal theory, [citation], or in other words, to determine whether or not the trial court erroneously sustained the demurrer as a matter of law. [Citation.]' (Cantu v. Resolution Trust Corp. (1992) 4 Cal.App.4th 857, 879[, 6 Cal.Rptr.2d 151], fn. omitted.)' [11] `Second, if a trial court sustains a demurrer without leave to amend, appellate courts determine whether or not the plaintiff could amend the complaint to state a cause of action. [Citation.]' [Citation.]" (Filet Menu, Inc. v. Cheng, pp. 1279-1280, 84 Cal.Rptr.2d 384.) Because appellants stand on the complaint as alleged and propose no amendments, the only question for us is whether the allegations of the complaint state any legally sufficient claims.

We do not review the reasons for the trial court's ruling; if it is correct on any theory, even one not mentioned by the court, and even if the court made its ruling for the wrong reason, it will be affirmed. (Davey v. Southern Pacific Co. (1897) 116 Cal. 325, 329-330, 48 P. 117; see also In re Marriage of Burgess (1996) 13 Cal.4th 25, 32, 51 Cal.Rptr.2d 444, 913 P.2d 473; Day v. Alta Bates Medical Center (2002) 98 Cal.App.4th 243, 252, fn. 1, 119 Cal.Rptr.2d 606.)

71 Cal.Rptr.3d 92
II.
The Marine Life Protection Act

The MLPA declares that "California's marine protected areas (MPAs)3 were established on a piecemeal basis rather than according to a coherent plan and sound scientific guidelines. Many of these MPAs lack clearly defined purposes, effective management measures and enforcement. As a result, the array of MPAs creates the illusion of protection while falling far short of its potential to protect and conserve living marine life and habitat." (§ 2851, subd. (a).) In order to improve the design and management of the MPA system, the MLPA directs the Fish and Game Commission (Commission)—which independently establishes the policies DFG must follow in administering programs and enforcing laws pertaining to fish, wildlife, and natural resources of the state—to adopt a "Marine Life Protection Program" designed to achieve legislatively specified goals. (§§ 2853, subd. (b)(1)-(6), 2859.) The Commission, which is not a party to this action, is also directed to "adopt a master plan that guides the adoption and implementation of the Marine Life Protection Program ... and decisions regarding the siting of new MPAs and major modifications of existing MPAs." (§ 2855, subd. (a).) Like DFG, the Commission is located within the Agency; however, unlike the DFG or the Agency, the Commission is an independent constitutional body. (Cal. Const., art. IV. § 20.)

DFG's responsibilities under the MLPA are to prepare a draft master plan for consideration by the Commission, convene a "master plan team" to assist in that enterprise, and to carry out those duties in a specified manner (which is described, post, at pp. 105-09). The particular provision of the MLPA at issue, subdivision (b)(1) of section 2855, provides that in order to facilitate adoption of a master plan by the Commission, DFG "shall prepare, or by contract shall cause to be prepared, a [draft] master plan" compliant with the MLPA, and "shall convene a master plan team to advise and assist in the preparation of the master plan, or hire a contractor with relevant expertise to assist in convening such a team." (Italics added.) Appellants' chief claim is that the contracts authorized by this language are only those using public funds for the purpose of procuring expert assistance relating either to preparation of the draft master plan or the convening of a master plan team. Appellants maintain that the Foundation lacks the requisite expertise relevant to those matters4 and that, in any case, it was not the purpose of the MOU to obtain such assistance. As appellants see it, the only and very different purpose of the MOU is simply to provide DFG private funds to

71 Cal.Rptr.3d 93

defray the costs of implementing the MLPA. Appellants claim that neither the Agency nor DFG are statutorily authorized to solicit and employ private funds for that purpose, by means of...

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34 practice notes
  • Guerrero v. Superior Court of Sonoma Cnty., A133202
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 11, 2013
    ...its ruling for the wrong reason, it will be affirmed. [Citations.]’ ( Coastside Fishing Club v. California Resources Agency (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1183, 1190–1191, 71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87.)” ( Curcini, at pp. 637–638, 79 Cal.Rptr.3d III. Real Parties as “Employers” or “Joint Employers” Under the ......
  • United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. v. Reg'l Water Quality Control Bd., A152988
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 27, 2019
    ...the 42 Cal.App.5th 867 general object sought to be accomplished." ( Coastside Fishing Club v. California Resources Agency (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1183, 1202, 71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87 ( Coastside Fishing Club ); see also § 13000 [finding and declaring "that the people of the state have a primary int......
  • Sweeney v. Cal. Reg'l Water Quality Control Bd., A153583, A153585
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 18, 2021
    ...so as to promote the general object sought to be accomplished." ( Coastside Fishing Club v. California Resources Agency (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1183, 1202, 71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87 ; United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. v. California Regional Water Quality Control Bd. (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 851, 866......
  • Sweeney v. Cal. Reg'l Water Quality Control Bd., A153583, A153585
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 18, 2021
    ...so as to promote the general object sought to be accomplished." ( Coastside Fishing Club v. California Resources Agency (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1183, 1202, 71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87 ; United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. v. California Regional Water Quality Control Bd. (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 851, 866......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
33 cases
  • Guerrero v. Superior Court of Sonoma Cnty., A133202
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • March 11, 2013
    ...its ruling for the wrong reason, it will be affirmed. [Citations.]’ ( Coastside Fishing Club v. California Resources Agency (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1183, 1190–1191, 71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87.)” ( Curcini, at pp. 637–638, 79 Cal.Rptr.3d III. Real Parties as “Employers” or “Joint Employers” Under the ......
  • United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. v. Reg'l Water Quality Control Bd., A152988
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 27, 2019
    ...the 42 Cal.App.5th 867 general object sought to be accomplished." ( Coastside Fishing Club v. California Resources Agency (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1183, 1202, 71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87 ( Coastside Fishing Club ); see also § 13000 [finding and declaring "that the people of the state have a primary int......
  • Sweeney v. Cal. Reg'l Water Quality Control Bd., A153583, A153585
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 18, 2021
    ...so as to promote the general object sought to be accomplished." ( Coastside Fishing Club v. California Resources Agency (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1183, 1202, 71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87 ; United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. v. California Regional Water Quality Control Bd. (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 851, 866......
  • Sweeney v. Cal. Reg'l Water Quality Control Bd., A153583, A153585
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 18, 2021
    ...so as to promote the general object sought to be accomplished." ( Coastside Fishing Club v. California Resources Agency (2008) 158 Cal.App.4th 1183, 1202, 71 Cal.Rptr.3d 87 ; United Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. v. California Regional Water Quality Control Bd. (2019) 42 Cal.App.5th 851, 866......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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