Wilson v. Los Angeles County Emp. Ass'n

Decision Date31 August 1954
Citation273 P.2d 824,127 Cal.App.2d 285
PartiesWILSON v. LOS ANGELES COUNTY EMPLOYEES ASS'N et al. Civ. 20111.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

H. J. Wilson, in pro. per.

Lillie & Bryant, and Walter M. Campbell, Jr., Los Angeles, for respondents.

VALLEE, Justice.

Plaintiff appeals from an order denying his motion to expunge the entry of the judgment in this action signed June 5, 1953, and purported to have been entered on June 5, 1953.

In the afternon of June 5, 1953, the judge of the superior court of the County of Los Angeles who tried the action signed the judgment and gave it to his courtroom clerk who stamped it and a carbon copy 'Filed June 5, 1953,' with his signature, and transmitted them by messenger to the judgment section of the main office of the county clerk. The same afternoon a deputy clerk, by stamp and writing, endorsed the original judgment as having been entered in Judgment Book 2559, page 181, numbered the pages of the original judgment as 181, 182, and 183, and wrote June 5, 1953 thereon as the date of entry. She then conformed the carbon copy of the judgment with the original ana placed both of them in a basket on her desk.

A few minutes after 5 o'clock on June 5, plaintiff examined Judgment Book 2559 and found that the last judgment entered in the book was on page 173. He also found, in the same basket on the deputy's desk in which the original and carbon copy of the judgment in this action were lying, the originals and carbon copies of judgments numbered pages 174-180 inclusive of book 2559, which pages were later entered under date of June 8, 1953.

On June 8, 1953, or some time thereafter, the carbon copy of the judgment in this action was inserted in Judgment Book 2559 as pages 181, 182, and 183 thereof. The original judgment was transmitted to the file section for filing in the case file, and a memorandum of the date, book, and page of entry was made in the register of actions.

Some time later defendants' attorney examined Judgment Book 2559 and others and found that judgments are frequently entered out of chronological order. He also found that judgments are frequently entered in books of different numbers at the same time. A large volume of judgments come in from branch courts and judgments are entered by several clerks at the same time, in which case each clerk is assigned a block of numbers, possibly from the same book, and each clerk may complete his assigned block of numbers on dates unrelated to the dates of entry in the other blocks of numbers.

The county clerk filed an affidavit in which he stated the procedure generally followed in entering civil judgments: Prior to August 1, 1952, when a judgment was received for entry a deputy placed an identifying book and page number on the upper margin of the judgment pages and an entry stamp on the first page of the judgment. The entry stamp included space for the date of entry, book and page number in the judgment book, and the signature of the deputy processing the entry. The signed, book and paged, and entry-dated judgment was then photographed, which usually occurred on the day following the paging and numbering. The photocopies were bound together as pages in a judgment book. On August 1, 1952, rule 23 of the superior court of the County of Los Angeles became effective. It requires attorneys to submit with the proposed original judgment a complete and clearly legible copy. Subsequent to August 1, 1952, the county clerk, upon receiving the original signed judgment from the court, together with the carbon copy, conforms the carbon copy to the original, assigns a book, page, and date to the judgment, and thereafter causes it to be bound in the judgment book. The new rule made it 'possible to enter a judgment immediately upon filing without waiting for the photostating process the following day.'

The motion to expunge was made on two grounds: 1. The purported entry is false in fact; 2. The 'carbon copy' procedure is insufficient to constitute entry of the judgment within the requirements of section 668 of the Code of Civil Procedure. It is conceded that the judgment was not entered on June 5, 1953, the date the record shows it was entered.

The pertinent provision of section 664 of the Code of Civil Procedure reads: 'If the trial, in a superior or municipal court, has been had by the court, judgment must be entered by the clerk, in conformity to the decision of the court, immediately upon the filing of such decision; * * *. In no case is a judgment effectual for any purpose until entered.' Section 668, so far as relevant, provides: 'The clerk of the superior court must keep, with the records of the court, a book called the 'judgment book,' in which judgments must be entered.'

Once a judgment has been rendered it is the duty of the clerk to enter it in the judgment book. Until a judgment is entered it is not effectual for any purpose. Phillips v. Phillips, 41 Cal.2d 869, 873-874, 264 P.2d 926. The entry of a judgment consists in the recording of it in the judgment book, and there can be no record of a judgment until so entered. Wilson v. Durkee, 20 Cal.App. 492, 494, 129 P. 617. A judgment is entered when it is actually entered in the judgment book. Verdier v. Verdier, 118 Cal.App.2d 279, 280, 257 P.2d 723. The judgment book is a record of the court; it is the final repository of the determination of the court upon every cause which does to judgment; it is the permanent memorial of those matters ordained by law to be kept. Simmons v. Threshour, 118 Cal. 100, 101, 50 P. 312. At any time before a judgment is entered the court may change its conclusions of law and enter a judgment different from that first announced, and a judge who has heard the evidence may at any time before entry of judgment amend or change his findings of fact. Phillips v. Phillips, 41 Cal.2d 869, 874, 264 P.2d 926.

The date of entry of a judgment is, of course, a judicial record. A judicial record imports verity. The entry should speak the truth and correctly express when it was done. An error in making an entry should not operate to prejudice a party. The entry of the judgment is the initial point from which rights arise thereunder, for the commencement of various acts, and for the tolling of other rights. Lane v. Pellissier, 208 Cal. 590, 593, 283 P. 810. One of the purposes of the statute is to guarantee integrity and verity in the making of the record to the end that the parties and the public may safely rely on the truth of such record and certified copies thereof. The recording on an incorrect date as the date of entry of the judgment is without any binding force. Old Settlers' Investment Co. v. White, 158 Cal. 236, 245-246, 110 P. 922. An erroneous clerical entry in a judicial record should be vacated and set aside. Goddard v. Electric Shovel Coal Corp., 7 Cir., 97 F.2d 754, 758.

Admittedly, June 5, 1953, as the date the judgment was entered is false. A false date of entry of a judgment should not be permitted to stand; it should be expunged. There is nothing in the record here to indicate, as there was in Menzies v. Watson, 105 Cal. 109, 38 P. 641, that the true date of the entry of the judgment cannot be ascertained. The Menzies case is not in point here. That was an appeal from an order denying a motion to correct the date of the entry of the judgment. The trial court and the court on appeal held that the evidence was insufficient to show the actual date of entry. Cf. Verdier v. Verdier, 118 Cal.App.2d 279, 257 P.2d 723. Here plaintiff is not seeking to correct the date; he is seeking to have a false date expunged. Merely because he did not seek to have the date corrected--apparently he has no knowledge of the actual date the judgment was entered--is no reason for permitting what is concededly a false date to stand. The failure of the clerk to record the true date of the entry of the judgment was a failure to perform a ministerial duty which could be performed afterwards at his own instance, or...

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    ...Superior Court, 157 Cal. 703, 708, 109 P. 91; Phillips v. Phillips, 41 Cal.2d 869, 874, 264 P.2d 926; Wilson v. Los Angeles County Employees Ass'n., 127 Cal.App.2d 285, 289, 273 P.2d 824.)8 There is ample evidence to sustain a finding that the disputed portion of the parcel sought to be con......
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