Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Bad briefing fails to snatch defeat...

For today's lesson in "bad briefing does not necessarily preclude victory on appeal," see the decision posted here (at the somewhat unusual time of 6:40 p.m.).
This is obviously not the cleanest way to win an appeal, and puts more of a burden on the court than it should rightly bear. But when justice demands it, you end up with decisions reading this like this:
Image result for winning in spite of oneself
Somehow this seems appropriate.
We begin our factual recitation by stating two rules which every appellant must follow. First, an appellant must include all “significant facts” in his or her brief. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(2)(C).) Failure to state all of the evidence fairly in the brief waives the alleged error. (Foreman & Clark Corp. v. Fallon (1971) 3 Cal.3d 875, 881.) Second, an appellant’s contentions must be supported by reasoned argument. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(1)(B).) An unsupported contention is deemed abandoned. (In re Phoenix H. (2009) 47 Cal.4th 835, 845.)
Defendant’s appellate brief omits critical facts and, although she recounts much legal authority, she does so without analyzing how her authority relates to the significant facts in this case. We could simply affirm the judgment on the ground that defendant’s claims of error have been waived or abandoned on appeal. But even the most cursory review of the evidence submitted to the trial court in support of plaintiff’s application for a default judgment establishes that the judgment far exceeds any amount demanded in the complaint. Accordingly, because the judgment is clearly void, we instead choose to ignore the defects in defendant’s briefing. Having detected the error, we will not affirm a void judgment.