IT Corp. v. County of Imperial

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtBIRD
Citation672 P.2d 121,35 Cal.3d 63,196 Cal.Rptr. 715
Decision Date25 November 1983
Parties, 672 P.2d 121, 20 ERC 1174 IT CORPORATION, Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Appellant, v. COUNTY OF IMPERIAL, Defendant, Cross-complainant and Respondent. L.A. 31706.

Page 715

196 Cal.Rptr. 715
35 Cal.3d 63, 672 P.2d 121, 20 ERC 1174
IT CORPORATION, Plaintiff, Cross-defendant and Appellant,
v.
COUNTY OF IMPERIAL, Defendant, Cross-complainant and Respondent.
L.A. 31706.
Supreme Court of California.
Nov. 25, 1983.

Page 716

[35 Cal.3d 65] [672 P.2d 122] Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Charles C. Ivie, Willard K. Halm, Los Angeles, David M. Houston-Reeve, South Pasadena, Patrice I. Kopistansky, Beverly Hills, Deborah S. Feinerman, Los Angeles, Horton, Knox, Carter & Foote, Orlando B. Foote and Frank A. Oswalt III, El Centro, for plaintiff, cross-defendant and appellant.

James H. Harmon, County Counsel, Latham & Watkins, David L. Mulliken and Hayden J. Trubitt, Newport Beach, for defendant, cross-complainant and respondent.

Adrian Kuyper, County Counsel (Orange), and John R. Griset, Deputy County Counsel, Santa Ana, as amici curiae for defendant, cross-complainant and respondent.

[35 Cal.3d 66] BIRD, Chief Justice.

What is the proper test for issuance of a preliminary injunction when a governmental entity seeks to enjoin an alleged violation of a zoning ordinance which specifically provides for injunctive relief?

Page 717

I.

IT Corporation (IT), is a firm specializing in the transportation and management of hazardous wastes. On July 18, 1979, IT applied to the County of Imperial (County), [672 P.2d 123] for a conditional use permit (CUP) to construct and operate a hazardous waste disposal facility. The proposed location for the facility was a 640-acre site known as Superstition Hills. In its application for the CUP, IT indicated that it planned to dispose of "toxic substances" and "geothermal wastes" at the facility. IT also sought an amendment to the County's general plan and a zoning change to permit development of the proposed project.

On September 4, 1979, IT first presented the Superstition Hills project to the County's board of supervisors (Board) at their regular meeting. IT representatives and the Board discussed several aspects of the project. The Board was informed that the facility would be similar to another "strictly geothermal" site which IT was currently operating in Lake County.

Subsequently, the County hired outside consultants to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) pursuant to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. Issued in April of 1980, the EIR described the areas to be serviced by the Superstition Hills facility and the nature of the wastes to be processed at the site. The EIR explained that while the project was initially proposed to meet the needs of geothermal and agricultural industries, IT also intended to process wastes from "other industrial sources."

On July 23, 1980, IT issued a draft of its operations plan. The plan stated that the project would process wastes from "other industrial sources" as well as those generated by agricultural and geothermal industries. In addition, the plan contained a "laundry list" of the specific wastes IT anticipated receiving from these "other industrial sources."

In the spring and summer of 1980, both the Board and the County's planning commission held hearings on IT's requested amendment of the County's general plan and zoning laws. These amendments were approved on May 20, 1980, and July 1, 1980, respectively.

[35 Cal.3d 67] The planning commission also held a hearing on IT's application for a CUP. On August 13, 1980, the planning commission approved issuance of the CUP, authorizing IT to construct and operate the Superstition Hills site "for the disposal of geothermal waste, pesticide containers and other Class I materials 1 ... as described in the application, the Final Environmental Impact Report ... and the operation plan ...." The CUP was issued to IT on September 17, 1980. Among the various general and specific conditions included in the CUP was that IT "comply with all applicable laws and regulations" and "secure all necessary permits."

After securing the requisite permits, IT began operating the Superstition Hills facility on December 18, 1980. Allegedly, not only were geothermal and pesticide wastes processed but also a number of other general heavy industrial wastes.

Shortly thereafter, the County began to informally investigate the nature of the wastes being processed at the facility. On January 13, 1981, the Board adopted a "Resolution Regarding Conditional Use Permit Issued to IT Corporation." The resolution noted a possible ambiguity in the terms of the CUP. Both the planning director and the CUP application indicated that the CUP pertained "only to geothermal wastes and wastes generated by the pesticide application industry." However, the EIR and IT's operation plan "appear[ed] to refer to disposal of other types of wastes."

Page 718

Accordingly, the planning commission was requested to conduct a hearing "to clarify any possible ambiguity in the permit relative to the types of wastes which may be received at the IT site." The resolution also affirmed that importation of solid [672 P.2d 124] wastes from outside the County for disposal at the site was prohibited by County ordinance. 2 In addition, the planning director was requested to conduct an investigation to determine whether wastes had been processed at the site in violation of the permit and, if appropriate, to issue a notice of violation.

[35 Cal.3d 68] On January 19, 1981, IT received notice from the County of a public hearing "to clarify ambiguities in the permit issued to IT Corporation." The hearing was scheduled for January 28, 1981.

Two days prior to the scheduled hearing, IT filed a complaint against the County for injunctive and declaratory relief. The lawsuit sought to prevent the County from either modifying or revoking the CUP, or enforcing its anti-importation ordinance. IT stated in its complaint that the CUP "clearly establish[ed]" that IT was authorized to process not only geothermal and pesticide wastes but all hazardous waste materials listed in the EIR and the operations plan. It was further alleged that the County's restriction on importation of hazardous wastes from other counties was unenforceable because it violated both the federal Constitution and state law.

On February 12, 1981, the County filed a cross-complaint against IT, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from IT's alleged violation of the CUP. 3 The cross-complaint stated that the CUP authorized IT to dispose of only geothermal and pesticide wastes at the site. The County further alleged that it was suffering irreparable harm from IT's violation of the CUP and that the County could not be fully compensated for this harm by an award of damages.

Hearings on the County's motion for preliminary injunction were held on nine different days during the months of May, June and July.

In August, the trial court issued its findings and order. First, the court found that, contrary to the contentions of both parties, the terms of the CUP were ambiguous. As a result, extrinsic evidence was considered to construe the terms of the CUP. Based on this evidence, the court found that the CUP "must be construed to restrict disposal of waste types to geothermal wastes, pesticide containers, wastes related to these specified [materials,] and wastes resulting from emergency spills." Lastly, the trial court found that IT was using the site to dispose of wastes not permitted by the CUP. Accordingly, [35 Cal.3d 69] the court issued a preliminary injunction restraining IT from disposing of any unauthorized wastes at Superstition Hills.

Page 719

IT sought review and this appeal followed. 4

672 P.2d 125

II.

The principal question raised by this appeal concerns the proper standard for the issuance of a preliminary injunction when a governmental entity seeks to enjoin an alleged violation of a zoning ordinance which specifically provides for injunctive relief.

The law is well settled that the decision to grant a preliminary injunction rests in the sound discretion of the trial court. (Continental Baking Co. v. Katz (1968) 68 Cal.2d 512, 527, 67 Cal.Rptr. 761, 439 P.2d 889; People v. Black's Food Store (1940) 16 Cal.2d 59, 61, 105 P.2d 361; People v. Synanon Foundation, Inc. (1979) 88 Cal.App.3d 304, 309, 151 Cal.Rptr. 757.) As this court explained in People v. Black's Food Store, supra, 16 Cal.2d at page 61, 105 P.2d 361. "The authorities are numerous and uniform to the effect that the granting or denial of a preliminary injunction on a verified complaint, together with oral testimony or affidavits, even though the evidence with respect to the absolute right therefor may be conflicting, rests in the sound discretion of the trial court, and that the order may not be interfered with on appeal, except for an abuse of discretion. [Citations.]"

A trial court will be found to have abused its discretion only when it has " 'exceeded the bounds of reason or contravened the uncontradicted evidence.' " (Continental Baking Co. v. Katz, supra, 68 Cal.2d at p. 527, 67 Cal.Rptr. 761, 439 P.2d 889, quoting Estate of Parker (1921) 186 Cal. 668, 670, 200 P. 619; California State University, Hayward v. National Collegiate Athletic Assn. (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 533, 544, 121 Cal.Rptr. 85.) Further, the burden rests with the party challenging the injunction to make a clear showing of an abuse of discretion. (Socialist Workers etc. Committee v. Brown (1975) 53 Cal.App.3d 879, 889, 125 Cal.Rptr. 915; People v. Gordon (1951) 105 Cal.App.2d 711, 723, 234 P.2d 287; Remillard Brick Co. v. Dandini (1941) 47 Cal.App.2d 63, 68, 117 P.2d 432.)

This court has traditionally held that trial courts should evaluate two interrelated factors when deciding whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction. The first is the likelihood that the plaintiff will prevail on the merits at trial. The second is the interim harm that the plaintiff is likely to [35 Cal.3d 70] sustain if the injunction were denied as compared to the harm that the defendant is likely to suffer if...

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219 practice notes
  • Oiye v. Fox
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 11, 2012
    ...rests with the party challenging the injunction to make a clear showing of an abuse of discretion.” (IT Corp. v. County of Imperial (1983) 35 Cal.3d 63, 69, 196 Cal.Rptr. 715, 672 P.2d 121.) Defendant contends that the injunction in this case merits heightened appellate scrutiny because it ......
  • H-Chh Associates v. Citizens for Representative Government, H-CHH
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 28, 1987
    ...rests with the party challenging the injunction to make a clear showing of an abuse of discretion. (IT Corp. v. County of Imperial (1983) 35 Cal.3d 63, 69, 196 Cal.Rptr. 715, 672 P.2d With regard to the First Amendment rights involved in this appeal, however, the majority fails to apply the......
  • White v. Davis, No. S108099.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 1, 2003
    ...that is likely to result from the granting or denial of interim injunctive relief. As explained in IT Corp. v. County of Imperial (1983) 35 Cal.3d 63, 69-70, 196 Cal.Rptr. 715, 672 P.2d 121: "This court has traditionally held that trial courts should evaluate two interrelated factors when d......
  • People v. Uber Techs., Inc., A160701, A160706
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 2020
    ...party challenging the injunction to make a clear showing the trial court abused its discretion. ( IT Corp. v. County of Imperial (1983) 35 Cal.3d 63, 69, 196 Cal.Rptr. 715, 672 P.2d 121 ( IT Corp. ).) The trial court's order on a request for a preliminary injunction "reflects nothing more t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
220 cases
  • Oiye v. Fox
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 11, 2012
    ...rests with the party challenging the injunction to make a clear showing of an abuse of discretion.” (IT Corp. v. County of Imperial (1983) 35 Cal.3d 63, 69, 196 Cal.Rptr. 715, 672 P.2d 121.) Defendant contends that the injunction in this case merits heightened appellate scrutiny because it ......
  • H-Chh Associates v. Citizens for Representative Government, H-CHH
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 28, 1987
    ...rests with the party challenging the injunction to make a clear showing of an abuse of discretion. (IT Corp. v. County of Imperial (1983) 35 Cal.3d 63, 69, 196 Cal.Rptr. 715, 672 P.2d With regard to the First Amendment rights involved in this appeal, however, the majority fails to apply the......
  • White v. Davis, No. S108099.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • May 1, 2003
    ...that is likely to result from the granting or denial of interim injunctive relief. As explained in IT Corp. v. County of Imperial (1983) 35 Cal.3d 63, 69-70, 196 Cal.Rptr. 715, 672 P.2d 121: "This court has traditionally held that trial courts should evaluate two interrelated factors when d......
  • People v. Uber Techs., Inc., A160701, A160706
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 2020
    ...party challenging the injunction to make a clear showing the trial court abused its discretion. ( IT Corp. v. County of Imperial (1983) 35 Cal.3d 63, 69, 196 Cal.Rptr. 715, 672 P.2d 121 ( IT Corp. ).) The trial court's order on a request for a preliminary injunction "reflects nothing more t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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