State California v. Superior Court

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtMOSK; WRIGHT
Citation12 Cal.3d 237,115 Cal.Rptr. 497
Parties, 524 P.2d 1281, 7 ERC 1190 The STATE of California et al., Petitioners, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY, Respondent; VETA COMPANY et al., Real Parties in Interest. L.A. 30269. In Bank
Decision Date02 August 1974

Page 497

115 Cal.Rptr. 497
12 Cal.3d 237, 524 P.2d 1281, 7 ERC 1190
The STATE of California et al., Petitioners,
v.
The SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY, Respondent;
VETA COMPANY et al., Real Parties in Interest.
L.A. 30269.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
Aug. 2, 1974.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 19, 1974.

[12 Cal.3d 242]

Page 500

[524 P.2d 1284] Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Carl Boronkay, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Anthony M. Summers, Deputy Atty. Gen., for petitioners.

No appearance for respondent.

Rutan & Tucker, Milford W. Dahl, Sr., Homer L. McCormick, Jr., and Leonard A. Hampel, Santa Ana, for real parties in interest.

MOSK, Justice.

Real parties in interest, two California corporations and a partnership (hereinafter collectively referred to as Veta), applied for a [12 Cal.3d 243] permit from the California Coastal Zone Conservation Commission (hereinafter the Commission) to develop land within the coastal zone, as defined in the California Coastal Zone Conservation Act of 1972 (Pub.Resources Code, § 27000 et seq., hereinafter the Act).

The Commission denied the permit, and Veta filed a petition in the superior Court for a writ of mandamus and other relief against the State of California, the Commission, its members, and two Commission employees. 1 Veta's petition set forth 6 causes of action, and in connection therewith, Veta filed a set of 81 interrogatories and a motion to compel answers. The Commission demurred generally and specially to each cause of action, except insofar as Veta sought a determination, pursuant to section 1094.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure, whether the Commission's order denying the permit was erroneous. 2 The

Page 501

[524 P.2d 1285] Commission also opposed the motion to compel answers to the interrogatories. On January 14, 1974, the trial court overruled the demurrers and granted Veta's motion to compel answers. The Commission now seeks to review those rulings by prerogative writ. We issue the alternative writ because of the importance and urgency of the issues involved. 3

[12 Cal.3d 244] The Underlying Action

The first cause of action asserted in the proceeding below seeks a review of the Commission's denial of the permit pursuant to section 1094.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and prays for damages of $14,777,987. The second count alleges that the Commission had a mandatory duty to grant the permit or perform certain other acts, and is based on the provisions of section 1085 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which provides a remedy sometimes referred to as 'traditional mandamus.' 4 The third seeks a declaration that Veta is entitled to construct its development without a permit from the Commission or that it is entitled to a permit based upon the showing made before the Commission. The fourth and fifth causes of action are related in that the fourth challenges the constitutionality of the Act and the fifth attempts to enjoin the Commission from expending public funds to administer the Act. The sixth cause of action seeks damages in inverse condemnation.

First Cause of Action

The allegations of the first cause of action are as follows: During 1968, Veta determined to develop its property, formulated plans and obtained various permits toward that end, and expended over $1 million prior to February 1, 1973, in such efforts. Although Veta had a vested right to proceed with its development, it filed an application for a building permit with the South Coast Regional Commission in an effort to avoid dispute. The regional commission granted the permit, but notices of appeal from its decision were filed by various groups and persons. These purported appeals were invalid because, inter alia, they were not timely filed, the appealing parties had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, and they had no standing to take an appeal. Thus, the state Commission had no jurisdiction to hear the appeals form the regional commission. At

Page 502

[524 P.2d 1286] the hearing of the appeals, the Commission failed to afford Veta a fair hearing in that, among other things, the Commission failed to follow its own regulations or the Act, denied Veta sufficient time and opportunity to present evidence, failed to consider certain documents filed by Veta, and heard [12 Cal.3d 245] evidence from the Commission staff in secret prior to the hearing. The Commission's decision was not supported by the evidence. Finally, since the Commission failed to make any findings prior to denying the permit, its determination was invalid and the decision of the regional commission became final. The allegations of the first cause of action are incorporated by reference in each of the subsequent counts.

The Commission demurred to the first cause of action on several grounds. While conceding that the allegations were sufficient for the purpose of reviewing the denial of the permit under section 1094.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the Commission demurred generally to Veta's claim for damages, relying upon the immunities set forth in section 818.4 and 821.2 of the Government Code. Those sections provide that neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable for injury caused by the refusal to issue a permit if the entity or employee is authorized to determine whether the permit should be issued.

It is obvious from the terms of the Act that the Commission is authorized to determine whether a permit should be issued. (Pub.Resources Code, § 27400 et seq.) Veta claims, however, that the immunity has no application to its first cause of action because that count is not founded upon the Commissioner's refusal to issue the permit but, rather, upon the Commission's violations of Veta's rights in the respects described in the complaint, particularly the denial of a fair hearing.

There is no merit to this contention. In order to avoid the application of the immunity sections of the Government Code, Veta attempts to elevate the alleged violations of its rights by the Commission in the course of the proceedings which led to the denial of the permit into the very foundation of its first cause of action. The purpose of section 1094.5 is to inquire into the validity of any Final administrative order. The only final order in the present case is the denial of the permit, and that denial is obviously the gravamen of the first cause of action. Thus, there can be no doubt that Veta's claim for damages in the first cause of action is founded upon the denial of the permit by the Commission.

Veta further asserts that these immunity provisions are not a bar to its claim for damages because they are superseded by section 1095 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which allows damages in a mandamus action. 5 [12 Cal.3d 246] Veta appears to argue that since section 815.2, subdivision (b), of the Government Code states that public entities enjoy the immunities of their officers '(e)xcept as otherwise provided by statute,' section 1095 must be deemed to 'otherwise provide.'

This argument is also unmeritorious. It seems clear that sections 818.4 and 821.2 of the Government Code were intended by the Legislature to qualify section 1095 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The latter provision, which was in effect for more than a century before the enactment of the immunity provisions of the Government Code in 1963 (compare Stats.1851, ch. 5, § 477, p. 126, with Stats.1963, ch. 1681, § 1), merely authorizes damages in a mandamus proceeding where such damages are otherwise appropriate. The general provisions of section 1095 of the Code of Civil Procedure were not intended to prevail over the

Page 503

[524 P.2d 1287] specific immunities granted by sections 818.4 and 821.2 of the Government Code. Otherwise, those immunities would be rendered virtually inoperative since a cause of action for damages would be appropriate each time a permit was denied if the demand for damages was combined with a petition for a writ of mandate to compel the issuance of the permit. 6 The Legislature could not have intended to sanction evasion of the statutory immunity which it provided in sections 818.4 and 821.2 of the Government Code by such a simple pleading device.

Several cases have held that those provisions preclude damages against a city or a public employee for the refusal to issue a permit. (Selby Realty Co. v. City of San Buenaventura, supra, 10 Cal.3d 110, 127, 109 Cal.Rptr. 799, 514 P.2d 111; Burns v. City Council (1973) 31 Cal.App.3d 999, 1004--1005, 107 Cal.Rptr. 787; Brown v. Los Angeles (1968) 267 Cal.App.2d 849, 850--851, 73 Cal.Rptr. 364.) Ellis v. City Council (1963) 222 Cal.App.2d 490, 35 Cal.Rptr. 317, upon which Veta relies, is distinguishable. Ellis held only that a building inspector was personally liable in damages for an intentional and arbitrary refusal to perform a ministerial duty (Id., p. 497, 35 Cal.Rptr. 317). The opinion does not discuss the immunity provisions of the Government Code, which were not enacted until several years thereafter.

Sections 818.4 and 821.2 of the Government Code were discussed in the recent Court of Appeal case of O'Hagan v. Board of Zoning Adjustment (1974) 38 Cal.App.3d 722, 113 Cal.Rptr. 501 (hg. den.) which held the [12 Cal.3d 247] sections to prevail over section 1095 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The court based its conclusion on the fact that the former are special statutes which take precedence over the general provisions of the latter, as well as upon the ground that the immunity provisions could be easily evaded if section 1095 were interpreted to limit their application.

Thus, the trial court erred in overruling the Commission's demurrer to the first cause of action seeking damages because of the Commission's refusal to issue the permit. The Commission also demurred specially on two grounds relating to the claim for damages, asserting a misjoinder or defect of parties and a failure to separately state the causes of action for damages and for mandate. Because we have...

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222 practice notes
  • Griffin Homes, Inc. v. Superior Court (City of Simi Valley)
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Octubre 1990
    ...the action from the scope of administrative mandamus under section 1094.5. (Cf. State of California v. Superior Court (Veta) (1974) 12 Cal.3d 237, 115 Cal.Rptr. 497, 524 P.2d 1281.) City contends that Griffin's "[i]nvocation of the words 'mandatory duty' or similar phraseology does not......
  • Terminal Plaza Corp. v. City and County of San Francisco
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 1 Octubre 1986
    ...they cannot be applied to control discretion as to a matter lawfully entrusted to the City. (State of California v. Superior Court (1974) 12 Cal.3d 237, 247, 115 Cal.Rptr. 497, 524 P.2d 1281, and cases there cited; Harbach v. El Pueblo de Los Angeles etc. Com. (1971) 14 Cal.App.3d 828, 833,......
  • Del Oro Hills v. City of Oceanside, No. D017139
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 23 Enero 1995
    ...public interest. [Citations.]" (Italics deleted.) As the Supreme Court held in State of California v. Superior Court (1974) 12 Cal.3d 237, 250-251, 115 Cal.Rptr. 497, 524 P.2d 1281, a party need not raise challenges to the constitutionality of a statutory measure before an administrati......
  • Hensler v. City of Glendale, No. S032210
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 25 Julio 1994
    ...A declaratory relief action also may be joined with an action in inverse condemnation. (State of California v. Superior Court (1974) 12 Cal.3d 237, 251, 115 Cal.Rptr. 497, 524 P.2d 1281.) Damages for the "taking" may be sought in an administrative mandamus action (Code Civ.Proc., ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
222 cases
  • Griffin Homes, Inc. v. Superior Court (City of Simi Valley)
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 29 Octubre 1990
    ...the action from the scope of administrative mandamus under section 1094.5. (Cf. State of California v. Superior Court (Veta) (1974) 12 Cal.3d 237, 115 Cal.Rptr. 497, 524 P.2d 1281.) City contends that Griffin's "[i]nvocation of the words 'mandatory duty' or similar phraseology does not magi......
  • Terminal Plaza Corp. v. City and County of San Francisco
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 1 Octubre 1986
    ...they cannot be applied to control discretion as to a matter lawfully entrusted to the City. (State of California v. Superior Court (1974) 12 Cal.3d 237, 247, 115 Cal.Rptr. 497, 524 P.2d 1281, and cases there cited; Harbach v. El Pueblo de Los Angeles etc. Com. (1971) 14 Cal.App.3d 828, 833,......
  • Del Oro Hills v. City of Oceanside, No. D017139
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 23 Enero 1995
    ...legitimate public interest. [Citations.]" (Italics deleted.) As the Supreme Court held in State of California v. Superior Court (1974) 12 Cal.3d 237, 250-251, 115 Cal.Rptr. 497, 524 P.2d 1281, a party need not raise challenges to the constitutionality of a statutory measure before an admini......
  • Hensler v. City of Glendale, No. S032210
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 25 Julio 1994
    ...A declaratory relief action also may be joined with an action in inverse condemnation. (State of California v. Superior Court (1974) 12 Cal.3d 237, 251, 115 Cal.Rptr. 497, 524 P.2d 1281.) Damages for the "taking" may be sought in an administrative mandamus action (Code Civ.Proc., § 1095), o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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