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Le Francois v. Goel

Supreme Court of California

June 9, 2005, Filed

S126630

Opinion

 [**637]  [***251]   CHIN, J.—In this lawsuit, defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court denied the motion. More than a year later, some of the defendants again moved for summary judgment on the same grounds. The court granted the second motion. We must decide whether the court had authority to consider the new motion even though it was not based on either new facts or new law. Code of Civil Procedure sections 437c,  [****2]  subdivision (f)(2), and 1008 seemingly prohibit a party from making such a new motion. 1 The Court of Appeal held that the trial court had inherent  [**638]  power derived from the California Constitution to consider the second motion notwithstanding any statutory limitation.

We conclude that sections 437c, subdivision (f)(2), and 1008 prohibit a party from making renewed motions not based on new facts or law, but do  [*1097]  not limit a court's ability to reconsider its previous interim orders on its own motion, as long as it gives the parties notice that it may do so and a reasonable opportunity to litigate the question. So interpreted, the statutes are constitutional.

I. Facts and Procedural History

Plaintiffs Philip Le Francois and Eric Herald sued their former employer, Duet Technologies, Inc., and three officers of that company, claiming that the officers had made certain injurious misrepresentations and false promises. All defendants [****3]  moved for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication (hereafter simply summary judgment). The trial  [***252]  court denied the motion, ruling that plaintiffs had raised a triable issue of material fact. Over a year later, the individual defendants filed a new motion for summary judgment based on the same grounds as the first motion. Plaintiffs opposed the motion on substantially the same basis that they opposed the first motion. They also objected that the second motion was impermissible under section 437c, subdivision (f)(2). The second motion was originally scheduled to be heard by the judge who had heard the first motion, but, without objection, it was transferred to another judge. The second judge granted the new motion and later entered judgment in favor of the individual defendants. 2 

 [****4]  Plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. It concluded that because the second motion was based on the same law and evidence as the first motion, the motion violated sections 437c, subdivision (f)(2), and 1008. It also concluded, however, that the trial court had “inherent power to rule upon the second motion even if it was not based upon new facts or law,” and this “inherent power does not depend on statute, nor may a statute confine it.” Accordingly, it held “that notwithstanding either section 1008 or section 437c (f)(2), [the second judge] had inherent power to exercise his ‘constitutionally derived authority to reconsider the prior interim ruling and correct an error of law on a dispositive issue.’ ” (Quoting  Scott Co. v. United States Fidelity & Guaranty Ins. Co. (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 197, 212 [132 Cal. Rptr. 2d 89].)

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35 Cal. 4th 1094 *; 112 P.3d 636 **; 29 Cal. Rptr. 3d 249 ***; 2005 Cal. LEXIS 5954 ****; 2005 Daily Journal DAR 6743; 23 I.E.R. Cas. (BNA) 17; 2005 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4929

PHILIP LE FRANCOIS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. PRABHU GOEL et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Prior History:  [****1]  Superior Court of Santa Clara County. No. CV787632. Robert A. Baines. Court of Appeal, Sixth Dist., No. H025213.

 Le Francois v. Goel, 119 Cal. App. 4th 425, 14 Cal. Rptr. 3d 321, 2004 Cal. App. LEXIS 895 (Cal. App. 6th Dist., 2004)

Disposition: The court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

CORE TERMS

reconsider, interim, reconsideration, repetitive, renewals, impair, defeat, sponte, sua, impermissible, italics

Civil Procedure, Summary Judgment, Motions for Summary Judgment, Timing of Motions & Responses, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, Altering & Amending Judgments, Governments, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate, Legislation, Enactment, Jurisdiction, Jurisdictional Sources, Statutory Sources, Interpretation, Motions to Reargue, Commercial Law (UCC), Secured Transactions (Article 9), General Overview, Pretrial Matters, Conferences, Case Management