Orr v. Superior Court of City and County of San Francisco

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation73 Cal.Rptr. 830
Decision Date10 December 1968
PartiesVerne ORR, Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles, and Department of Motor Vehicles, a Department of the State of California, Petitioners, v. SUPERIOR COURT of the State of California FOR the CITY and COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Respondent, Peter ALVARADO, John Batista Berberena, and Norman Del Bosque, Real Parties in Interest. Civ. 25833.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., Victor D. Sonenberg, Deputy Atty. Gen., San Francisco, for petitioners.

Gilbert T. Graham, Norman Nayfach, Peter E. Sitkin, Steven J. Antler, San Francisco, Robert Y. Bell, Santa Rosa, for real parties in interest.

SIMS, Associate Justice.

By their petition for a writ of prohibition, the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles and the department seek to restrain the respondent superior court from taking any further action against them in which the real parties in interest, by petition for writ of prohibition and mandate and by complaint in intervention, pray for a judgment declaring sections 16080 and 16100 of the Vehicle Code 1 unconstitutional and void, in an of themselves, and as applies to real parties in interest, and for restoration of their driving privileges and licenses. Petitioners' demurrer to the petition in the lower court was overruled. After petitioners answered each side interposed a motion for summary judgment. The court denied each motion and made the following order: " * * * the matter will be set on the Court's calendar for hearing. If upon the trial, it appears from the evidence that petitioners and the intervener were without fault as to the accidents which resulted in the suspension orders, a writ of mandate will issue compelling respondent to restore their licenses." Intervention of this court is sought on the grounds that the lower court is proceeding in excess of its jurisdiction. (Code Civ.Proc. §§ 1102 and 1103; City & County of S.F. v. Superior Court (1959) 53 Cal.2d 236, 243-245, 1 Cal.Rptr. 158, 347 P.2d 294; Harden v. Superior Court (1955) 44 Cal.2d 630, 634-636, 284 P.2d 9; Tide Water Assoc. Oil Co. v. Superior Court (1955) 43 Cal.2d 815, 820-821, 279 P.2d 35; City of San Diego v. Superior Court (1950 36 Cal.2d 483, 485, 224 P.2d 685; City Council of City of Santa Monica v. Superior Court (1962) 204 Cal.App.2d 68, 71-73, 21 Cal.Rptr. 896; and see 3 Witkin, Cal.Proc., Extraordinary Writs, § 36, subd. a, pp. 2512-2513.) The matter has been heard following the issuance of an alternative writ.

In the spring of 1967, the real parties in interest herein were uninsured drivers of vehicles which were involved in accidents on the California highways. Thereafter, the Department of Motor Vehicles sent notices to the parties requesting either that they post security with the department as required by Vehicle Code section 16020, 2 or that they risk suspension of their licenses and registration as provided by Vehicle Code sections 16080 and 16100. The parties failed to comply with the request to post security and in each case the department ordered that the party's drivers license and registration be suspended.

Real parties in interest Alvarado and Berberena filed a petition for writ of prohibition and mandate with respondent court requesting that the department be directed to set aside the orders of suspension issued in their respective cases. Real party in interest Del Bosque was allowed to intervene in the action by order of court. In their petitions the parties alleged, inter alia, that they had been involved in automobile accidents, that at the time of the accidents they were driving uninsured vehicles, but that they were not culpable in the respective accidents. The petitions stated that the parties were without sufficient funds to purchase automobile insurance or to post the required security deposits, and that without the use of their automobiles they were incapable of seeking gainful employment.

The answer contended that no determination of blame or liability was required as a prerequisite to a departmental demand for a security deposit, and that unless a party was specifically exempted by statute (§§ 16050-16057), involvement in an accident was the only criterion to be considered by the department before fixing the amount of security.

Petitioners, in support of their motion for summary judgment below contended, and before this court assert that it is the uninsured driver's involvement in an accident, and not his actual culpability, that is the basis for the requirement of posting security under the provisions of California Financial Responsibility Laws (Veh.Code, Div. 7, §§ 16000-16553) which require evidence of, or posting of security after an accident (id., Ch. 1, §§ 16000-16110); and that since fault is not the test of that requirement, it is not material on the issue of suspension for failure to post security, and cannot be the subject of judicial inquiry by the lower court.

Real parties in interest contend that it is established as the law of this state that the department must consider the question of liability in connection with the demand for security, and any ensuing, suspension; that the statute, as administered in the manner contended by petitioners, is unconstitutional in that equal protection of the law has been denied to nonculpable uninsured drivers who are involved in an accident; that the statute as administered is unconstitutional because it has no reasonable relationship to the statutory purpose of compensating the victims of negligent drivers; and that procedural due process requires that uninsured motorists be given notice and a hearing on all issues prior to suspension of their licenses.

It is concluded that the reasons hereinafter set forth that the statute is constitutional; that as interpreted by the law of this state the department must consider the culpability of the uninsured motorist before demanding security; that no hearing is required before the department, but that the licensee is entitled to judicial review to determine, not his culpability, but whether there was evidence before the department from which it could determine that there was a reasonable possibility that a judgment would be recovered against him. Therefore, the trial court may not be restrained from proceeding in the action before it. The petition must be denied, and the alternative writ, heretofore issued, will be discharged.

Constitutionality of the Statute

The provisions of the financial responsibility laws governing the suspension of a driver's license for failure to post security have been upheld against attack that they were unconstitutional on the following grounds: "1. The statute violated the due process provisions of the federal Constitution (Amendment XIV, § 1) and the state Constitution (art. I, § 13) in that no provision was made for hearing before the department, or for recourse to the courts, before suspension of a license.

"2. Judicial power was delegated to an administrative body in violation of the state Constitution (art. III, § 1, art. VI, § 1), in that no sufficient standard was provided to guide the department in determining the amount of security.

"3. The effect of the statute was an arbitrary discrimination in violation of the equal protection clause of the federal Constitution (Amendment XIV, § 1) and the uniform operation of law provision of the state Constitution (art. I, § 11) in that: (a) The posting of security by a driver who might not be culpable was required. (b) Those who were financially able to carry insurance or post security were favored as against those who were not. (c) The provisions permitting any person in whose name more than 25 motor vehicles were registered to qualify as a self-insurer created an arbitrary classification." (Escobedo v. State Department of Motor Vehicles of California (1950) 35 Cal.2d 870, 874, 222 P.2d 1, 4.) 3

Real parties in interest insist that procedural due process requires that uninsured motorists be given notice and a hearing on all issues prior to suspension of their licenses. In Escobedo the court recognized that there was no express provision in that statute concerning hearing before determination by the department that security must be deposited or the operator's license be suspended. (Stats.1947, ch. 1235, pp. 2738-2743, adding former §§ 419-420.9 to the Vehicle Code. Cf. present §§ 16000-16084.) 4 It pointed out that under the provisions of the Vehicle Code, the licensee was not entitled to a hearing when suspension was mandatory (former § 315; and cf. present §§ 13950-13953 and 14101, subd. a); and that suspension of the operator's license was mandatory "whenever it had been determined that a motor vehicle accident had occurred and damages exceeding $100 ensued which probably might result [emphasis added] in 'a judgment or judgments for damages * * * recovered against such operator,' * * * ;; (35 Cal.2d at pp. 874 and 875, 222 P.2d at p. 4.) The court concluded, "Suspension of the license without prior hearing but subject to subsequent judicial review did not violate due process if reasonably justified by a compelling public interest. [Citations.] The compelling public interest here appears from the obvious carelessness [emphasis added] and financial irresponsibility of a substantial number of drivers and from" circumstances which made it "apparent that to require a hearing in ever case before suspension of a license would have substantially burdened and delayed if not defeated the operation of the law." (Id., at pp. 876-877, 222 P.2d, at pp. 5-6. See also Eye Dog Foundation v. State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind (1967) 67 Cal.2d 536, 545, 63 Cal.Rptr. 21, 432 P.2d 717; Hough v. McCarthy (1960) 54 Cal.2d 273, 285, 5 Cal.Rptr. 668, 353 P.2d 276; Turner v. Dept. Motor Vehicles (1968) 265 A.C.A. 737, 741, 71 Cal.Rptr. 616; and Cook v. Bright (1962) 208 Cal.App.2d 98, 102-103, 25 Cal.Rptr. 116.)

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