Appeals from Bifurcated Actions — and Writing about the Issue Well

In Kinney v. Overton, case no. G037146 (July 17, 2007), Justice Moore of the Fourth District Court of Appeal uses a “slay the dragon” metaphor to describe the limitations of review of judgments arising from bifurcated portions of a larger case (footnote and citations omitted):

A residential subdivision in Laguna Beach is plagued with litigation involving a morass of legal issues and a plethora of parties — both public and private. The litigation was commenced by Three Arch Bay District against the City of Laguna Beach, Charles Kinney (Kinney) and numerous other parties.  Kinney, a homeowner in the subdivision and a lawyer, filed a cross-complaint and a number of amended cross-complaints, against the State of California, homeowner Sherrie Overton (Overton), and many other parties.

Tiny portions of the litigation have been separated out one by one, bifurcated, and set for trial, in order, we presume, to make an unwieldy ball of wax just a little bit smaller. Those tiny portions have come to us in isolation, one appeal at a time.  But Kinney, as one of the primary protagonists in the litigation, keeps complaining that the courts never slay the dragon and put the beast to rest. However, if the litigation is continually brought to us in bits and pieces, we can only address bits and pieces. We cannot address matters that are outside of the record on appeal or issues that do not arise from the portion of the litigation underlying the appeal in question.  When all  of the parties and issues are not put before this court, and we are not provided with all of the evidence necessary to finally address and resolve all ills, it is not possible for us to slay the dragon. Unless and until Kinney or another party to the litigation drags the entire beast before this court, we will continue to provide answers piecemeal — one talon at a time.

Nifty writing to illustrate a simple principle: the court can review only the dispute properly brought before it, and no more, even if there is a lot more background to the case.

Technorati Tags: , ,