Mallett v. Superior Court, C

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation8 Cal.Rptr.2d 829,6 Cal.App.4th 1853
Docket NumberNo. C,C
PartiesRichard M. MALLETT, et al., Petitioners, v. SUPERIOR COURT, San Joaquin County, Respondent; Benvenuto "Nick" CROCI, Real Party in Interest. iv. C009144.
Decision Date09 June 1992

Paula Champagne, Steven B. Berlin, Thomas Gennaro, Littler, Mendelson, Fastiff & Tichy, San Francisco, for petitioners.

Terry Dermody and Carol D. Stiles, Stockton, for respondent.

Richard J. Gibson, Gibson & Gibson, Stockton, for real party in interest.

DAVIS, Associate Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Pursuant to Government Code section 68073, county boards of supervisors are to provide "suitable" rooms for holding superior, municipal and justice courts and "sufficient" attendants, equipment, furniture and supplies necessary for the transaction of the business of the court. 1 Petitioners, the municipal court judges of the Stockton Municipal Court, 2 concluded that the services of its then elected marshal, real party in interest Benvenuto "Nick" Croci, were inadequate and that he was not supplying the court with sufficient attendants for its needs. After notifying and making an unsuccessful request of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors (the Board) petitioners issued an order which relieved Croci of his responsibilities for court security. The order directed the sheriff to assume the duties of court security officer which included responsibility for filling vacant deputy marshal positions and assigning deputies to courtrooms. Croci filed an action for declaratory relief, contending that petitioners exceeded the scope of their authority under section 68073. Petitioners requested summary judgment, which the trial court denied.

Petitioners now seek a writ of mandate, ordering the trial court to vacate its order and to enter a new order granting them summary judgment. The central issue we are asked to decide is whether the judges' determination under section 68073 that the services of its marshal are inadequate compels the granting of summary judgment in their favor as a matter of law, or whether the marshal's declaration disputing this conclusion raises a triable issue of material fact as to the adequacy of those services. To decide this issue we must resolve whether a determination by municipal court judges to exercise their authority under section 68073 is reviewable and, if so, what is the appropriate standard of review. 3

In the unpublished portion of the opinion we reject petitioner's suggestion that the case is moot. In the published portion of the opinion we conclude that petitioners' determination under section 68073 that the services of its marshal are inadequate is subject to review for abuse of discretion. Because a material factual basis for its order is disputed, petitioners were not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law and their petition is denied.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Nick Croci was elected marshal of the Stockton Judicial District in San Joaquin County in 1972. He served in that capacity throughout the events described below.

From 1986 though 1987, petitioners became increasingly concerned about the adequacy of the security and order in their courtrooms which Croci as marshal was to provide. 4 The complaints about the marshal's performance, as summarized in their declarations, included the following: that the marshal (1) refused to hire enough permanent bailiffs; (2) failed to properly train the bailiffs who were hired; (3) failed to respond to security problems, and generated security problems when he changed courtroom procedures without prior consultation with the judges; (4) rarely came to the courthouse and seldom could be located; and (5) embarrassed the judges professionally with conduct such as hugging and kissing a female judge in the courthouse in public view.

On January 12, 1988, petitioners appeared before the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors. The record is not explicit regarding what request was made of the supervisors. Implicit in the record, however, is that the judges asked the supervisors for a court security officer who would fill already allocated deputy marshal positions and assign properly trained deputy marshals to courtrooms. That officer was the sheriff. The Board declined to do so due to what they termed "constraints of law." Following this response, the petitioners issued an order entitled "Order of Court Directing Sheriff to Supply Sufficient Law Enforcement Attendants and Designating Sheriff As Court Security Officer," which became the basis for both Croci's lawsuit against the judges and this petition. 5

In its recitals, the order stated that the Municipal Court "has been adversely impacted by the inadequate provision of sufficient attendants by the Marshal's Office.... The inadequate management, scheduling, supervision, and training by the Marshal's Office of its law enforcement attendants has created hindrances which endanger the safety of the public and adversely affect the proper functioning of the Municipal Court...." As a result, the "Court ... designates the Sheriff of San Joaquin County to serve as Court Security Officer and to supply sufficient law enforcement attendants for the Court." Pursuant to the order, the sheriff was given the following responsibilities: (1) to control, supervise, schedule and exercise all managerial authority including the authority to hire, fire, and discipline all attendants involved in any manner with law enforcement services for the court; 6 (2) to make probationary appointments to vacant law enforcement positions within the Marshal's Office to assure adequate provision of attendants for the Court; and (3) to ensure the adequacy of all court security equipment, court security planning and to prepare a court security plan for the court's review. The marshal was expressly relieved "of his responsibilities of serving as Court Security Officer and of providing law enforcement attendants for the Municipal Court...." As authority for its order, petitioners relied on section 68073 (see fn. 1, supra), section 7 of the Standards of Judicial Administration 7 and/or its inherent powers to do things necessary to provide for its own governance.

After being relieved of his responsibilities for court security, Croci filed a complaint against the county counsel, the county administrator and the judges for (1) intentional infliction of emotional distress and (2) a declaration of his rights and duties in his elected office. 8 Croci alleged that the order conferring the duties of an elected officer upon another before the expiration of the incumbent's lawful term was illegal.

Petitioners moved for summary judgment, asserting that they were entitled to judgment because the order was a lawful exercise of their common law and statutory authority under section 68073. In support of the motion, each of the judges filed a declaration describing problems which they had experienced with court security attendants under Croci's management. Their separate statement of undisputed material facts indicated that in June 1987, an independent consulting firm, Cristando House, Inc., reviewed the Marshal's Office and concluded that it was "significantly mismanaged"; that, based on their observations that law enforcement and security problems existed at the court, they concluded that Croci was not providing sufficient attendants to the court; that they made a request for sufficient attendants to the board which was denied; and that they then issued the order to supply sufficient attendants, described above.

Croci responded with a detailed 28-page declaration in which he generally denied the various incidents described by the judges. In addition, he asserted that he was in his office on a daily basis; that the temporary marshals were all employed through the San Joaquin County Personnel Office and were presumably as thoroughly tested and qualified as the permanent marshals and that he maintained temporary as opposed to permanent marshals in order to provide the greatest number of marshals. Croci disputed that the Cristando House reported that his office was "significantly mismanaged." He alleged that he provided "reasonably adequate services to the Stockton Municipal Court" and that the attendants provided were sufficient.

In its ruling on the declaratory relief claim, respondent, Superior Court of San Joaquin County, stated that the declarations filed by the judges "show ample justification for this order, pursuant to Government Code Section 68073." It denied the judges' motion for summary judgment, however. It found that although the declarations as a whole "established that the judges were acting within their jurisdiction in issuing the order in question," they "establish a triable issue of fact on the question of whether the services of the Marshal are inadequate, so as to support the exercise of discretion." The triable issue was "whether the order in question was an abuse of discretion." The court granted the judges' motion on Croci's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

This petition for a peremptory writ of mandate and a stay followed. Petitioners asserted that respondent's decision is erroneous because section 68073 grants judges authority to be the sole arbiters as to whether or not a marshal's services are adequate for the transaction of court business. We summarily denied the petition and stay.

The judges filed a petition for review in the Supreme Court. The court requested an informal response addressed to the following questions: "Are trial court orders pursuant to Government Code Section 68073 subject to review? If so, under what standard?" The Supreme Court, in bank, granted the petition and transferred the matter to this district, with directions to vacate our order denying...

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