Daily Decisions: Jurisdiction Revisited (and Muddled)

There’s a lot of back story in A & W Farms v. Raymond E. Cook (Division 3, May 22, 2012), but I’ll do my best to summarize the gist of the relevant facts.

A & W Farms (“A&W”) sued Raymond Cook and got a judgment against him (well, against his business). During that litigation, Cook purchased a ranch, but arranged the transaction so that it was placed in the name of Adeline Johnson (another defendant in this action). A&W then moved, in a supplemental proceeding, to set aside the purchase as a fraudulent transfer to Johnson. There were lots of problems with discovery in the fraudulent transfer action: Johnson was not amenable to deposition; Cook avoided service and, for some time, refused to appear; &c.

In the end, the trial court concluded that the purchase of the ranch in Johnson’s name, instead of Cook’s name, was a fraudulent transfer. The court therefore quieted title to the ranch in Cook’s name, which meant it was subject to A&W’s judgment.

So what’s the problem? Well, this is another case about subject matter jurisdiction! Cook argued in the Court of Appeals that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over A&W’s fraudulent transfer claim because it “should have been brought in the county where the property is located.” Having just read MHM&F, LLC v. Edward Pryor, Jr. (Division 1, May 21, 2012) (or perhaps the Ziff Blog summary!) you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Of course there was subject matter jurisdiction! The Washington Constitution grants broad SMJ to the superior courts that is not subject to statutory whittling!” At least, that’s what I thought.  Continue reading

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Daily Decisions: Federal Statute Adequately Protects Alleged Washington Public Policy

Ah, the tort of wrongful termination in violation of public policy (“WTVPP”). It’s one of those little quirks of Washington law that made the bar exam so fun to study for. In Charles Rose v. Anderson Hay & Grain Company (Division 3, May 22, 2012), the Court of Appeals held that, even assuming there existed a Washington public policy in need of protection, the relevant federal statute adequately protected that policy. Accordingly, the plaintiff’s claim for WTVPP under Washington law was properly dismissed. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Meritless Defamation Claim Results in Sanctions

Dee Ann Stiles used to be the Secretary for the Shore Woods Homeowners’ Association (“Association”). Gerald Kearney was a former member of the Association’s Executive Board (prior to Stiles’s tenure) and apparently he didn’t think Stiles was doing a very good job. Kearney wrote some “hostile” emails to the Board claiming that there were “inherent problems” with Stiles’s work on the Board and specifically stating that her meeting minutes were “written from the point of view of someone with an axe to grind” and telling Stiles, “Do your job even-handedly or step down.”

So of course, Stiles sued for defamation! Unfortunately (for her) the trial court concluded that she failed to offer any “credible or cognizable evidence” regarding (1) the falsity of Kearney’s statements, (2) whether the statements were privileged, or (3) her claimed damages. That’s no good. The court “concluded that the complaint was not well-grounded in fact or law and that Young [Stiles’s attorney] failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry before filing the complaint.” Accordingly, the trial court awarded sanctions against Stiles and Young under CR 11 and RCW 4.84.185.

Stiles appealed. The Court of Appeals, in Dee Ann Stiles v. Gerald Kearney (Division 2, February 29, 2012) (published May 22, 2012), affirmed the trial court in full. The Court of Appeals’ decision was initially unpublished, which likely explains why the Court’s analysis of the sanction issue is very superficial. Basically, the Court sets out the general legal standards, states that the trial court properly recognized those standards, and that the decision to impose sanctions based on a “well-written six-page memorandum opinion” was not an abuse of discretion. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Court of Appeals Again Clarifies Subject Matter Jurisdiction

There are a lot of facts in MHM&F, LLC v. Edward Pryor, Jr. (Division 1, May 21, 2012), but none of them really matter. The short story: Pryor owed money on a mobile home space, he didn’t pay, so the plaintiff filed an unlawful detainer action against him. Pryor lost.

On appeal, Pryor raised two issues that he failed to raise in the trial court: (a) that the wording on the summons was defective and (b) that the mobile home association for the group of lots should have been named as a necessary party. Pryor claimed his failure to raise these issues below was not fatal because they both went to the trial court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: “Slayer Rule” Does not Apply to Self-Defense

“Marni Rice and Michele Parrott were in a committed relationship” — until the two had an argument and Parrott wound up dead. Plaintiff Robin Parrot-Horjes then sued individually and on behalf of Parrott’s estate seeking (a) damages for wrongful death and (b) to prevent Rice from taking money from Parrott’s life insurance policy under the common law “slayer rule.” Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Wanna Appeal a Fine? There’s a Fee for That

John Morrison was hit with a bunch of Department of Labor & Industries citations for violations of the state electrical laws. He wanted to appeal, so he did. But he didn’t pay the $200 filing fee for such appeals. Why not? Well, Morrison thought the fee was unconstitutional because the “pay to appeal” procedure deprived him of property (his money!) without due process. Continue reading

The Eleventh Amendment Throws in the Towel

It looks like I’m not going to get any answers to my questions about the “11th Amendment” argument to “invalidate” Citizens United.

Last week, I discussed the Essential Information’s amicus brief, which was a complement to The Eleventh Amendment Movement’s (“TEAM”) amicus brief, both of which argued that the Eleventh Amendment deprived the Supreme Court of jurisdiction to review (and reverse) a Montana state court decision rejecting Citizens United. At the end of the day, my main observations were (1) that even if TEAM and Essential Information were 100% right about everything they said, the Montana law could still be reversed the moment Montana tried to actually enforce it, and (2) that even if the Supreme Court rejected Ex parte Young as a basis for jurisdiction in the district courts, it would be a huge break from precedent for the Supreme Court to decide that it did not have appellate jurisdiction over state court cases that (admittedly) could not be initially filed in federal court. (The TEAM brief did not address this second issue at all; the Essential Information addressed the issue, but tried to make it seem like prior cases favored their approach, which they did not.) Continue reading