United Farm Workers of America v. Superior Court

Citation122 Cal.Rptr. 877,14 Cal.3d 902,537 P.2d 1237
Decision Date28 July 1975
Docket NumberP,AFL-CI,S.F. 23223
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Parties, 537 P.2d 1237, 89 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 3157, 78 Lab.Cas. P 11,188 UNITED FARM WORKERS OF AMERICA,etitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Respondent; WILLIAM BUAK FRUIT COMPANY, INC., Real Party in Interest.

Jerome Cohen and Sanford N. Nathan, Salinas, for petitioner.

No appearance for respondent.

Fred Okrand, John D. O'Loughin, Jill Jakes, Mark D. Rosenbaum, Daniel C. Lavery and Joseph Remcho, Los Angeles, as amici curiae on behalf of petitioner.

William S. Marrs, Berkeley, for real party in interest.

MOSK, Justice.

In this labor controversy we consider the constitutionality of the practice of ex parte issuance of temporary restraining orders affecting substantial free speech interests, without a showing that the party seeking the injunction made a reasonable, good faith effort to afford the opposing party or counsel notice and opportunity to be heard. As will appear, we conclude that the ex parte issuance of temporary restraining orders in such circumstances violates the freedom of speech guarantees of both the United States Constitution (1st & 14th Amends.) and the Constitution of the State of California (art. I, § 2).

The relevant facts can be summarized briefly. On September 27, 1974, the real party in interest, William Buak Fruit Company (hereinafter referred to as the fruit company), filed a verified complaint for injunctive relief, accompanied by three supporting declarations, in the Santa Cruz Superior Court (respondent herein). Named as the defendants in that action were the United Farm Workers of America, AFL--CIO (an unincorporated association functioning as a labor organization, and petitioner in the instant proceeding), and certain of its members.

In its complaint the fruit company alleged that the defendants had engaged in 'mass picketing' at its orchards and on its property, with 'such an aggregation of pickets thereat as to unduly interfere with ingress and egress from said premises . . . (and) to such an extent as to reasonably induce fear of physical molestation and violence.' The fruit company also alleged that the defendants had 'trespassed' on its property 'for the purpose of coercing (fruit company) employees . . . to cease working . . . (and) in such a manner as to reasonably induce fear of physical molestation.' It further alleged that in connection with the mass picketing and trespassing the defendants had threatened, or caused to be threatened, with bodily harm, workers who sought, accepted, or continued harvesting work in its orchards. The requisite danger of irreparable injury cited to support the request for injunctive relief was potential interference with the harvesting of an apple crop alleged to be worth in excess of $500,000. The supporting declarations alleged the value of the apple crop, the affiants' personal observation of mass picketing, and reports by crew leaders and workers of 'threats,' 'coercion,' and 'trespass' by the defendants. 1

None of the defendants, including petitioner, was given notice, either formal or informal, of the request for the temporary restraining order, and as a result none appeared, either in person or by counsel, before the trial judge. The fruit company made no showing that it had been unable to notify defendants or their counsel, nor did it allege that it had attempted to do so. On September 30, 1974, the court issued a temporary restraining order limiting picketing at the apple ranch by members of the United Farm Workers, and restricting access to the migrant labor camp located on the fruit company's property. The defendants were first notified of the proceedings when served later that day with the summons, complaint, temporary restraining order, and order to show cause. 2

On October 3, 1974, petitioner moved to dissolve the temporary restraining order on the grounds that it had been issued ex parte and without notice to any defendants and was thus unconstitutional, and that the fruit company had not made a factual showing sufficient to justify injunctive relief. The court denied the motion, and continued the order in effect.

In this proceeding, petitioner seeks a writ of prohibition commanding the Santa Cruz Superior Court to refrain from enforcing or continuing in effect the temporary restraining order.

An initial question of mootness arises because the superior court replaced the temporary restraining order with a preliminary injunction after an adversary hearing on October 17, 1974. (See Code Civ.Proc., § 527; 2 Witkin, Cal.Procedure (2d ed. 1971) Provisional Remedies, § 87, p. 1522.) Petitioner contends, however, that in recent years a number of trial courts have issued and enforced similar ex parte orders affecting First Amendment rights, and asserts that the practice is not unusual. Such orders can and do have a critical and far-reaching impact on labor disputes in this state. Yet because of their limited duration, orders of this nature elude appellate review. Because this case thus 'poses an issue of broad public interest that is likely to recur,' we exercise what has been described as our 'inherent discretion to resolve that issue.' (In re William M. (1970) 3 Cal.3d 16, 23, 89 Cal.Rptr. 33, 37, 473 P.2d 737, 741.)

We are reinforced in this conclusion by the United States Supreme Court's similar rejection of mootness contentions in Carroll v. Princess Anne (1968) 393 U.S. 175, 89 S.Ct. 347, 21 L.Ed.2d 325. There the petitioners challenged the procedural validity of an ex parte temporary restraining order forbidding the continuation of a rally and speeches advocating racial supremacy. The Supreme Court held, inter alia, that although the order under attack had long since expired, the issue of its validity was clearly not moot. Quoting from Southern Pacific Terminal Co. v. ICC (1911) 219 U.S. 498, 31 S.Ct. 279, 55 L.Ed. 310, Justice Fortas explained, "(judicial) consideration ought not to be . . . defeated, by short term orders, capable of repetition, yet evading review . . ..' Id., at 515, 31 S.Ct., at 283.' (Id. at p. 179, 89 S.Ct. at p. 350.) 3

We turn therefore to the merits of the controversy. Petitioner contends that the United States Supreme Court's unanimous holding in Carroll v. Princess Anne (1968) supra, 393 U.S. 175, 89 S.Ct. 347, compels the invalidation of the temporary restraining order because it was issued ex parte without a showing that the fruit company made a reasonable, good faith effort to afford petitioner or the other defendants or their counsel notice and an opportunity to be heard. The Carroll ruling condemns such an ex parte process when the order in question affects First Amendment rights. (See also Anderson v. Dean (N.D.Ga.1973) 354 F.Supp. 639, 642--643.)

While acknowledging that the factual circumstances in the matter before us differ somewhat from those in Carroll, we find the reasoning in that decision instructive on a number of points. It will be remembered that Carroll involved the ex parte issuance of a temporary restraining order prohibiting the continuation of a rally and speeches advocating racial supremacy; this case involves the ex parte issuance of a temporary restraining order limiting labor picketing and access to migrant labor camps. While the fruit company correctly contends that in certain respects the courts have treated labor picketing differently from other activities arguably protected by the First Amendment, the difficulties inherent in an ex parte proceeding are common to both areas. We focus first on these procedural difficulties.

Two basic defects are typical of ex parte proceedings. The first is a shortage of factual and legal contentions. Not only are facts and law from the defendant lacking, but the moving party's own presentation is often abbreviated because no challenge from the defendant is anticipated at this point in the proceeding. The deficiency is frequently crucial, as reasonably adequate factual and legal contentions from diverse perspectives can be essential to the court's initial decision on whether or not the circumstances warrant a temporary restraining order.

In the present case, for example, the court had before it only the verified complaint and three one-page affidavits signed by persons whose interests precisely paralleled those of the fruit company requesting injunctive relief. 4 Furthermore, these affidavits consisted in large part of conclusionary declarations and statements which, if offered in testimony by a witness at trial, could be excluded as hearsay. 5 However, because the proceeding was ex parte defense counsel had no opportunity to present counteraffidavits or argument.

This lack of opportunity to make an opposing presentation is in itself enough to render suspect ex parte proceedings affecting First Amendment rights. 6 As the United States Supreme Court pointed out in Carroll, 'The facts in any case involving a public demonstration are difficult to ascertain and even more difficult to evaluate. Judgment as to whether the facts justify the use of the drastic power of injunction necessarily turns on subtle and controversial considerations and upon a delicate assessment of the particular situation in light of legal standards which are inescapably imprecise. In the absence of evidence and argument offered by both sides and of their participation in the formation of value judgments, there is insufficient assurance of the balanced analysis and careful conclusions which are essential in the area of First Amendment adjudication.' (Fns. omitted; 393 U.S. at p. 183, 89 S.Ct. at p. 353.)

The second major defect which often inheres in the ex parte issuance of a restraining order affecting First Amendment rights relates to the framing of such orders. Even if some form of restraining order is warranted, the fact that only the party seeking to circumscribe First Amendment...

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