Powers v. City of Richmond

10 Cal. 4th 85, 40 Cal. Rptr. 2d 839, 893 P.2d 1160 (1995)



When an extraordinary writ proceeding is the only avenue of appellate review, a reviewing court's discretion is quite restricted. The issuance of a writ of mandate is not necessarily a matter of right, but lies rather in the discretion of the court. But where a party has a substantial right to protect or enforce, and this may be accomplished by such a writ, and there is no other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, the party is entitled as a matter of right to the writ. It would be an abuse of discretion to refuse it. Accordingly, when writ review is the exclusive means of appellate review of a final order or judgment, an appellate court may not deny an apparently meritorious writ petition, timely presented in a formally and procedurally sufficient manner, merely because, for example, the petition presents no important issue of law or because the appellate court considers the case less worthy of its attention than other matters. 


Plaintiff candidate for city council filed suit against defendant city pursuant to the Public Records Act. Plaintiff wanted the trial court to compel defendant to prepare and release a report. The court denied the petition for writ of mandate and granted defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff then sought review in the court of appeals by a direct appeal and a petition for writ of mandate. Plaintiff appealed, contending that the appellate jurisdiction provision of Cal. Const. art. VI, § 11, conferred a right of direct appeal from final orders and judgments in proceedings in which trial courts exercised original jurisdiction. The court affirmed.


 Is the rule that claims brought before the trial court under the California Public Records Act are subject to review in the Court of Appeals only by petition for extraordinary writ unconstitutional?




 Superior court decisions in Public Records Act cases are not appealable but instead are "immediately reviewable by petition to the appellate court for the issuance of an extraordinary writ. The history of Gov. Code, § 6259, subd. (c), making petition for extraordinary writ the only mode of appellate review in Public Record Act cases, shows that it was intended not to impair judicial power but to make the appellate remedy more effective for litigants seeking disclosure of public records. Moreover, the fact that issuance of extraordinary writs is discretionary whereas direct appeal guarantees a decision on the merits, does not mean that review by extraordinary writ petition is inherently less effective than a remedy by direct appeal. 

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