Appellate Jurisdiction,  Appellate Procedure,  Notice of Appeal,  Statutory Construction

Who Says CRC 8.108(f)(1) is for Cross-Appeals Only?

Certainly not Division Three of the Fourth District Court of Appeal.  In The Termo Co. v. Luther, case no. G038435 (Dec. 17, 2008), the court holds that the rule of court allowing the 20-day window for “any other party to appeal from the same judgment or order,” triggered by the clerk’s mailing of the notice of the filing of an appeal, means just what it says, notwithstanding its “Cross-appeal” heading.

Termo and Angus Development Corporation were co-petitioners in the administrative writ proceedings.  The trial court denied the writ.  Termo filed its notice of appeal from the judgment on the 59th day following service of notice of entry of judgment — just one day prior to the jurisdictional deadline of 60 days following mailing of notice of entry of judgment.  (See rule 8.104(a)(2), Cal. Rules of Court)  Angus filed its notice of appeal from the same judgment two days later — 61 days following mailing of notice of entry of judgment.  Respondent Hunt Petroleum (AEC), Inc., joined by respondent Director of Conservation Bridgett Luther, moved to dismiss Angus’s appeal on the basis that it was untimely filed.

The applicable rule** states: “If an appellant timely appeals from a judgment or appealable order, the time for any other party to appeal from the same judgment or order is extended until 20 days after the superior court clerk mails notification of the first appeal.” (** The court decided the case on the basis of former rule 8.104(e)(1) as in effect at the time the appeals were taken, but the wording of current rule 8.108(f)(1) is identical, as is the “Cross-appeal” heading noted by the court, and thus the result should be the same under the current rule.)

Respondents contended the rule applies only to cross-appeals and to parties adverse to the first appellant, but simple statutory definitions allowed the court to make short shrift of those arguments:

Hunt contends that California Rules of Court, rule 8.108(e)(1) is inapplicable, for two reasons. First, Hunt says the rule applies only to cross-appeals and Angus did not file a cross-appeal. Second, Hunt asserts that the rule applies only when the party seeking to utilize the 20-day extension period is adverse to the first party to file an appeal. We disagree.

Although the topic heading to California Rules of Court, rule 8.108(e) reads “Cross-appeal,” as Angus points out, “[b]y definition, a cross-appeal is any appeal filed after the first appeal [citation], and [the] rule . . . does not differentiate between cross-appeals which are protective and those which are independent.” (Life v. County of Los Angeles (1990) 218 Cal.App.3d 1287, 1297- 1298, fn. omitted.) Moreover, “[t]he usual rules of statutory construction are applicable to the interpretation of the California Rules of Court. [Citation.]” (Id. at p. 1296.) “‘“When statutory language is . . . clear and unambiguous there is no need for construction, and courts should not indulge in it.” [Citation.]’ [Citation.] Under the guise of construction, the court will not rewrite a law and will not give the words an effect different from the plain and direct import of the terms used. [Citation.]” (Ibid.) Here, the text of rule 8.108(e)(1) contains no limitation of the type asserted by Hunt. It requires neither that an appeal be denominated a “cross-appeal” nor that the second party to file an appeal be adverse to the first party to do so, in order for the 20-day extension period to apply.

In this case, Termo filed a timely appeal from a judgment and an order and, two days thereafter, Angus filed an appeal from the same judgment and order. The appeal of Angus is timely filed under California Rules of Court, rule 8.108(e)(1). The motion to dismiss is denied.

Appellate practitioners already know not to turn away a client just because more than 60 days have elapsed since the notice of entry of judgment was mailed and the client has not yet appealed, because post-trial motions can extend the time to appeal.  (See rule 8.208(b)-(e).)  Make sure you don’t overlook this interpretation of rule 8.108(f)(1), either.

My thanks to Long Beach business litigator Charles Hokanson, who alerted me to this important case, knowing that I was on hiatus when it was published.  Nice to know at least one of you guys is looking out for me!

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