Southwestern Inv. Corp. v. City of Los Angeles

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtSHENK; GIBSON; CARTER
Citation38 Cal.2d 623,241 P.2d 985
Decision Date21 March 1952

Harold B. Cooper, El Monte, for appellant.

Ray L. Chesebro, City Atty., John L. Flynn, Asst. City Atty., and Weldon L. Weber, Deputy City Atty., all of Los Angeles, Lawrence L. Otis, Gilbert E. Harris, James F. Healey, Jr., and Harold Arman, all of Los Angeles, as amici curiae, for respondent.

SHENK, Justice.

On January 28, 1946, the District Court of Appeal, Second District, Division One affirmed a judgment adverse to the plaintiff, Southwestern Investment Corporation, in an action to establish a resulting trust by virtue of certain transactions had with the defendant, City of Los Angeles. 72 Cal.App.2d 689, 165 P.2d 497. A petition for rehearing was denied on February 14, 1946. A petition for hearing in this court was denied on March 28, 1946. The remittitur issued and was filed in the superior court on April 2, 1946.

On November 3, 1950, the plaintiff filed in the District Court of Appeal a notice of motion to recall the remittitur and reinstate the cause. The motion was grounded on misapprehension of the facts and on inadvertence caused by fraud or imposition on the court. The motion was granted on September 12, 1951, on the ground of the court's misapprehension of the facts when it rendered the prior decision. The defendant filed in this court a petition for hearing and a petition for the writ of prohibition. On November 8, 1951, the petition for hearing was granted.

The petition for hearing was granted because of a serious doubt arising as to whether the effect of the granting of the motion was in fact to cure an inadvertence or mistake of the court or was merely to correct judicial error. The sufficiency of the explanation to excuse the delay in making the motion was also considered to require investigation. The opinion on its face was deemed insufficient to justify the order and might create a dangerous precedent, as will appear from the following discussion.

As is quite usual in such cases, the moving party seeks a modification of the judgment. In this case the plaintiff seeks a modification by correction of the trial court's findings to accord with the asserted facts, and a reversal of the adverse judgment with possible directions to enter judgment in its favor.

That a remittitur may be recalled on the reviewing court's own motion, on motion or petition after notice supported by affidavits, or on stipulation setting forth the facts which will justify the granting of the order is now determined by Rule. Rule 25(d), Rules on Appeal; 36 Cal.2d at p. 22. The question as to when the facts constitute grounds for the granting of the motion is resolved by the case law. Other than for the correction of clerical errors, the recall may be ordered on the ground of fraud, mistake or inadvertence. The recall may not be granted to correct judicial error. Rowland v. Kreyenhagen, 24 Cal. 52, 59; Trumpler v. Trumpler, 123 Cal. 248, 252-253, 55 P. 1008; Estate of Ross, 189 Cal. 317, 318, 207 P. 1014; Isenberg v. Sherman, 214 Cal. 722, 725-726, 7 P.2d 1006; In re Rothrock, 14 Cal.2d 34, 38-39, 92 P.2d 634; In re McGee, 37 Cal.2d 6, 229 P.2d 780; Haydel v. Morton, 28 Cal.App.2d 383, 385, 82 P.2d 623; Chaney v. L. A. County, etc., Retirement Board, 61 Cal.App.2d 701, 703, 143 P.2d 707; Ellenberger v. City of Oakland, 76 Cal.App.2d 828, 830, 174 P.2d 461. In the McGee case it was pointed out that a decision is inadvertent if it is the result of oversight, neglect or accident, as distinguished from judicial error. In Chinn Ott Wong v. Title Ins. & Trust Co., 91 Cal.App.2d 1, 204 P.2d 387, an order recalling the remittitur was vacated when on analysis it appeared that the purpose of the recall was merely to amend the judgment on appeal.

The salient facts, given in greater detail in 72 Cal.App.2d 689, 16 P.2d 497, which were before the court on the appeal are the following:

Henry G. Weyse formerly owned approximately 15 acres at Washington Boulevard and Alameda Street in Los Angeles which formed a depression about 400 feet wide known as the Diamond Pit. In May 1927 Weyse gave to the plaintiff corporation on a 50% royalty basis the exclusive leasehold right to use the pit for dumping purposes. On November 22, 1929, Weyse deeded to the city for a consideration of $175,000 a 90 foot right of way (later amended to 90 feet and the necessary slopes) through the pit for the purpose of extending Washington Boulevard. Weyse granted a temporary easement around the southerly side of the pit for rerouting Washington Boulevard. Through various written negotiations had among the plaintiff, the city and the Board of Public Works, grant deeds to the remaining acreage passed through escrow from Weyse to the city; and quit claim deeds containing no reservations or exceptions were executed to the city by the plaintiff upon payment of $8500. At some time during the transactions delinquent taxes and penalties to the extent of about $32,000 were cancelled. See City of Los Angeles v. Ford, 12 Cal.2d 407, 84 P.2d 1042. The deeds, which provided for reversionary interests when the fill was completed, were accepted by the city on November 26, 1935. On December 18, 1935, the Board of Public Works wrote to the plaintiff giving consent to the use by the plaintiff of the southerly portion of the pit for dumping purposes. This consent was without authorization by the city, and on June 10, 1936, the city evicted (the plaintiff says 'ejected') the plaintiff from the pit.

On December 18, 1938, the plaintiff commenced the action to impress a trust in the nature of a resulting trust on the defendant to protect the dumping rights which it alleged were retained by virtue of the transactions involved. The trial court's judgment determined that the city acquired a fee title and all rights of ownership and possession in and to the pit, and that the cause was barred by laches. The plaintiff appealed on a settled statement. In the decision on appeal the court noted that fraud was not an issue in the case, that the pleadings contained no allegations of mistake, and that the plaintiff did not seek cancellation or reformation of the instruments in question. The plaintiff sought to base its cause for impressing a trust of its dumping rights upon representations and negotiations occurring prior to the execution of the deeds executed by the plaintiff, which were had not with the city council but with members of the Board of Public Works and the City Engineer. The court pointed out facts indicating that the plaintiff was aware before executing the deeds that there could not be amendment of the escrow instructions to reserve its dumping rights without authorization by the city council. The court held that without reformation, the nature of the title acquired was determined by the claer and unambiguous language of the instruments and not by the declarations of the parties in the negotiations or agreements otherwise; also that there was no instrument in the nature of a defeasance which could be considered a part of the transaction.

Answering the plaintiff's contention that the quitclaim deeds were delivered solely to enable the city to obtain a cancellation of the taxes, the court stated that there was no evidence to justify the conclusion or to rebut the presumption that official duty had been regularly performed. The court rejected the contention that the $8500 consideration received by the plaintiff was grossly inadequate in the absence of the issues of fraud, mistake or any of the grounds for cancellation or reformation of the instruments. The finding of laches was not considered because of the adequacy of other grounds for determination of the issues on appeal. The court rejected as without merit additional contentions in criticism of the findings and conclusions and the failure to find on material issues. The judgment of affirmance followed.

More than three and a half years elapsed after the filing of the remittitur before the plaintiff sought to have it recalled. An affidavit of its president was submitted on the motion, the major portion of which is devoted to an explanation of why the plaintiff did not make the move sooner. The averments show that in this interim the affiant was attempting to invoke other means of redress to regain the plaintiff's dumpting rights, such as by persuasion upon the city council voluntarily to act in the matter, and by appealing to local newspapers, organizations and citizens for support of an equitable claim pursued before the Council. Preparation of voluminous notes and attempts to engage attorneys might excuse a reasonable delay. But time spent in the unsuccessful pursuit of non-judicial redress does not excuse the failure to pursue the judicial course when the law requires that that course be initiated promptly. Cf. Ellenberger v. City of Oakland, supra, 76 Cal.App.2d 828, 836, 174 P.2d 461. In the Rothrock case, supra, 14 Cal.2d 34, 92 P.2d 634, the motion to recall the remittitur was granted about three years after the judgment on appeal became final, but the defendant had promptly and diligently invoked redress through the courts. There it appeared that the judgment of this court on the appeal was mistakenly based on the assumption that the defendant in the criminal prosecution had not made a motion for a new trial. The record showed otherwise and it became obvious that not to correct the court's mistake by amending the judgment would result in a gross injustice.

Unlike the Rothrock case the present situation does not involve the mistaken assumption of a procedural fact upon which the judgment of the court depended. Here the judgment of affirmance was based on the holding that the trial court correctly determined that the executed instruments were clear and unambiguous and conveyed the entire title and possessory rights...

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24 cases
  • People v. Mutch, Cr. 14182
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 24, 1971
    ...should therefore have been granted by the Court of Appeal. Ordinarily, the correct disposition (see Southwestern Inv. Corp. v. City of L.A. (1952) 38 Cal.2d 623, 630, 241 P.2d 985) would be for us to retransfer the proceeding to the Court of Appeal with directions to recall its remittitur a......
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    ...Coastal Com. (1982) 33 Cal.3d 158, 165 [188 Cal.Rptr. 104, 655 P.2d 306], quoting Southwestern Inv. Corp. v. City of L.A. (1952) 38 Cal.2d 623, 626 [241 P.2d 985].) Other than to correct clerical errors, a remittitur may be recalled only on the ground of fraud, mistake, or inadvertence. ( P......
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    ...inadvertent if it is the result of oversight, neglect or accident, as distinguished from judicial error." (Southwest Inv. Corp. v. City of L.A. (1952) 38 Cal.2d 623, 626, 241 P.2d 985.) "[W]hile the general rule is that an appellate court loses all control and jurisdiction over a cause afte......
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    ...if it is the result of oversight, neglect or accident, as distinguished from judicial error." (Southwestern Inv. Corp. v. City of L.A. (1952) 38 Cal.2d 623, 626, 241 P.2d 985.) In Chin Ott Wong v. Title Ins. & Trust Co. (1949) 91 Cal.App.2d 1, 204 P.2d 387, the appellate court recalled the ......
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