Perez v. Richard Roe 1, B182814.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation146 Cal.App.4th 171,52 Cal.Rptr.3d 762
Decision Date27 December 2006
Docket NumberNo. B182814.,B182814.
PartiesCristin PEREZ et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. RICHARD ROE 1 et al., Defendants and Respondents.
52 Cal.Rptr.3d 762
146 Cal.App.4th 171
Cristin PEREZ et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
RICHARD ROE 1 et al., Defendants and Respondents.
No. B182814.
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 8.
December 27, 2006.

[52 Cal.Rptr.3d 763]

Furtado, Jaspovice & Simons and Richard J. Simons, Hayward; Law Offices of Joseph George and Joseph George Sr., Sacramento; Law Offices of Daniel U. Smith and Daniel U. Smith, Kentfield, for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Kiesel, Boucher & Larson, William L. Larson, Beverly Hills, for Sandra Graves as Amicus Curiae on behalf Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Neumiller & Beardslee and Paul N. Balestracci, Stockton; McNamara, Dodge, Ney, Beatty, Slattery & Pfalzer, and Thomas G. Beatty, Walnut Creek, for Defendants and Respondents.


Plaintiffs Cristin Perez and Daniel Howard appeal from the judgment dismissing their childhood sexual abuse complaint against The Roman Catholic Bishop of

52 Cal.Rptr.3d 764

Stockton because the statute purporting to revive their previously dismissed complaints violated California's constitutional separation of powers doctrine. We affirm.


Cristin Perez and Daniel Howard sued the Roman Catholic Bishop of Stockton in July 2003, alleging that they had been the victims of sexual abuse by one of its parish priests in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when they were both minors.1 Howard and Perez had each sued the Bishop before, but their complaints were dismissed in 1994 and 1995, respectively, under the then applicable one-year statute of limitations. (Code Civ. Proc, § 340; Tietge v. Western Province of the Servites, Inc. (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 382, 385, 64 Cal. Rptr.2d 53 (Tietge).)2 The judgment against Howard became final in February 1996 after the California Supreme Court denied his petition seeking review of an appellate court decision affirming the trial court's judgment. The judgment against Perez became final in June 1996 when her appeal from the trial court's order was dismissed.

In 1998, the Legislature expanded the limitations period for actions against entities that employed or supervised abusers until three years from the date the plaintiff discovers that psychological injury occurring after age 18 was due to childhood sex abuse, but no later than the plaintiffs 26th birthday. (§ 340.1, subds.(a)(2)-(3); Mark K v. Roman Catholic Archbishop (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 603, 610, fn. 4, 79 Cal.Rptr.2d 73.) Effective January 1, 2003, the Legislature removed the age 26 cut-off for claims based on a defendant's alleged failure to safeguard the plaintiff from a perpetrator's sexual abuse when the defendant knew or had reason to know the perpetrator had committed unlawful sexual conduct. After that time, the limitations period on those claims would expire three years from the plaintiffs discovery that adult-onset psychological injuries had been caused by acts of childhood sexual abuse. (§ 340.1, subds.(a), (b)(2).) As part of that amendment, the Legislature revived for a one-year period all actions that fell within subdivision (b)(2), but which were otherwise barred because the previous limitations period had expired. (§ 340.1, subd. (c).) The revival provision does not apply to actions "litigated to finality on the merits before January 1, 2003." However, "[t]ermination of a prior action on the basis of the statute of limitations does not constitute a claim that has been litigated to finality on the merits." (§ 340.1, subd. (d)(1).) Appellants' 2003 complaint alleged that their action fell under this provision. The Bishop demurred, contending that the Legislature's attempt to unravel a final judgment violated the separation of powers doctrine. (Cal. Const., art. Ill, § 3.) The trial court agreed, sustained the demurrer without

52 Cal.Rptr.3d 765

leave to amend, and entered a judgment of dismissal for the Bishop. We hold that the trial court was correct, and affirm the judgment.3


In reviewing a judgment of dismissal after a demurrer is sustained without leave to amend, we must assume the truth of all facts properly pleaded by the plaintiff-appellant. Regardless of the label attached to the cause of action, we must examine the complaint's factual allegations to determine whether they state a cause of action on any available legal theory. (Black v. Department of Mental Health (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 739, 745, 100 Cal.Rptr.2d 39.) The judgment will be affirmed if it is proper on any of the grounds raised in the demurrer, even if the court did not rely on those grounds. (Pang v. Beverly Hospital, Inc. (2000) 79 Cal.App.4th 986, 989, 94 Cal.Rptr.2d 643.)

We will not, however, assume the truth of contentions, deductions, or conclusions of fact or law and may disregard allegations that are contrary to the law or to a fact which may be judicially noticed. When a ground for objection to a complaint, such as the statute of limitations, appears on its face or from matters of which the court may or must take judicial notice, a demurrer on that ground is proper. (§ 430.30, subd. (a); Black v. Department of Mental Health, supra, 83 Cal. App.4th at p. 745, 100 Cal.Rptr.2d 39.) We may take judicial notice of the records of a California court. (Evid.Code, § 452, subd. (d).) We must take judicial notice of the decisional and statutory law of California and the United States. (Evid.Code, § 451, subd. (a).)


1. The Separation of Powers Doctrine

The California Constitution divides power equally among three branches of state government: the Legislature (Cal. Const., art. IV, § 1); the executive branch (Cal. Const., art. V, § 1); and the courts. (Cal. Const., art. VI, § 1.) Although there is a certain overlap and interdependence among the three branches, each is constitutionally vested with certain "core" or "essential" functions that the others may not perform. (People v. Bunn (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1, 14, 16,115 Cal.Rptr.2d 192, 37 P.3d 380 (Bunn).) Protection of those core functions is guarded by the

52 Cal.Rptr.3d 766

separation of powers doctrine and is embodied in a constitutional provision which states that one branch of state government may not exercise the powers belonging to another branch. (Cal. Const., art. Ill, § 3; Bunn, supra, at pp. 14, 16, 115 Cal. Rptr.2d 192, 37 P.3d 380; Mandel v. Myers (1981) 29 Cal.3d 531, 539, 174 Cal. Rptr. 841, 629 P.2d 935, fn. 4 (Mandel).) The purpose of this doctrine is to prevent both the concentration of power in a single branch of government and overreaching by one branch against another. (Bunn, supra, at p. 16, 115 Cal.Rptr.2d 192, 37 P.3d 380.)

A core function of the Legislature is to make statutory law, which includes weighing competing interests and determining social policy. A core function of the judiciary is to resolve specific controversies between parties. As part of that function, the courts interpret and apply existing laws such as statutes of limitation. (Bunn, supra, 27 Cal.4th at pp. 14-15, 115 Cal. Rptr.2d 192, 37 P.3d 380 [concerning criminal law statutes of limitation].) Separation of powers principles compel the courts to carry out the legislative purpose of statutes and limit the courts' ability to rewrite statutes where drafting or constitutional problems appear. Those same principles also constrain legislative influence over judicial proceedings. When cases become final for separation of powers purposes, the Legislature may not interpret a statute or otherwise bind the courts with an after-the-fact declaration of legislative intent. While the Legislature may amend a statute and apply the changed law to pending and future cases, the amended statute may not readjudicate or otherwise disregard judgments that are already final. (Id at pp. 16-17, 115 Cal.Rptr.2d 192, 37 P.3d 380, citing to Mandel, supra, 29 Cal.3d at p. 547, 174 Cal.Rptr. 841, 629 P.2d 935.)

In Bunn, and its companion case People v. King (2002) 27 Cal.4th 29, 115 Cal.Rptr.2d 214, 37 P.3d 398 (King), the California Supreme Court announced a rule in the area of criminal law statutes of limitation that we hold is applicable here: if a criminal complaint is dismissed because the statute of limitations has run, and the Legislature later retroactively expands the statute of limitations before that ruling becomes final, then the new limitations period will apply. If the Legislature changes the limitations period after the time for appeal has expired or the ruling has completed its journey through the entire appellate process, however, the Legislature's attempt to revive the criminal action violates the separation of powers doctrine. Because Bunn and King were based in large measure on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc. (1995) 514 U.S. 211, 115 S.Ct. 1447, 131 L.Ed.2d 328 (Plaut), we will first describe Plaut before discussing in detail Bunn and King.

2. Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm

The plaintiffs in Plaut filed a fraud action in federal court based on alleged violations of federal securities laws. The action was filed in 1987 and alleged fraudulent acts that had taken place in 1983 and 1984. When the action was filed, federal courts were required to "borrow" the most analogous state statute of limitations from the jurisdiction where the action was pending. On June 20, 1991, however, the United States Supreme Court changed the controlling law and adopted a uniform federal limitations rule requiring that such actions be filed within one year of discovery of the violation or within three years of the violation. (Lampf v. Gilbertson (1991) 501 U.S. 350, 111 S.Ct. 2773, 115 L.Ed.2d 321 (Lampf).) Another decision issued the same day as Lampf made the Lampf ruling retroactive to all civil actions for securities

52 Cal.Rptr.3d 767

fraud then pending. (James B. Beam Distilling Co. v. Georgia (1991) 501 U.S. 529, 111 S.Ct. 2439, 115 L.Ed.2d 481.) Based on these two decisions, the federal district court where the Plaut action had been filed...

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