Legal Question in Appeals and Writs in California

In the past there was a small claims court, municipal court, and superior court per Calif county. Now it is small claims court and superior court per Calif. county. I lost a trial by judge suit in municipal court in 1996. I appealed to superior court. The three superior court judged sat on the appeal for 90 days after the oral argument. I was the plaintiff and massacred the three defendants in trial and the appeal. The appellate decision was for the defendants but was signed by ONLY ONE superior court appellate judge. Question: Was this appellate decision "illusury" and invalid? Did my suit conclude as a "draw"? That is, did it conclude as neither a win nor a loss for me the plaintiff and neither a win nor a draw for the defendants? Please respond. Thank you.

Asked on 9/01/13, 9:20 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman
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In most appeals, all three judges agree on the outcome. They issue one opinion, which is written by one of the three and joined by the other two. Ordinarily there will be a notation either before or after the body of the opinion that the other judges joined it.

Even if the opinion in your case was issued improperly, I doubt you can challenge it after so many years. They only way you even might have that option is if the defect made it void. Even then, a void appellate decision would probably not void the underlying judgment -- which you also lost. There may be some way you can still attack the result, but I wouldn't count on it.

Note that the merger of the municipal and superior courts has no bearing on any of this. Cases that used to be handled by the municipal courts are now called "limited-jurisdiction cases" within the superior courts. They are still appealed to three-judge panels of the superior court's appellate division. So the process you remember has not changed. And even if it had, that would not invalidate decisions that were made before the merger.

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Answered on 9/01/13, 9:38 pm
Zadik Shapiro Law Offices of C. Zadik Shapiro
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I agree with Mr. Hoffman but I would point out that the small claims courts is now part of the Superior Court, also.

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Answered on 9/01/13, 9:45 pm
Anthony Roach Law Office of Anthony A. Roach
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I agree with Mr. Hoffman. I would add that your opinion may have been a "per curiam" opinion.

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Answered on 9/02/13, 8:31 am

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