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

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

Twitter, Standing, and “Standing”

William Carleton has an interesting and important post up at Counselor @ Law regarding a recent New York State Court decision involving Twitter, Occupy Wall Street, and something the court calls “standing.”  Bill sets out the facts of the case in his post, but the gist as is follows: New York is investigating Malcolm Harris in connection with alleged disorderly conduct during the OWS (or #OWS, in the hashtag-laden parlance of the Court’s opinion) protests. Pursuant to that investigation, the New York DA’s office issued a subpoena to Twitter to produce Harris’s tweets related to #OWS. Harris was notified of the subpoena and moved to quash it. The Court denied Harris’s motion, holding that Harris “has no standing to move to quash the subpoena.”

Bill takes issue with the Court’s holding on standing — calling it “downright crazy” — and I tend to agree. He points out that Harris had “obvious interests at stake” in the subpoena, since the subpoena goes after his tweets in connection with a criminal investigation of him. How could he not have standing!?

Well, like I said, I agree with Bill — and I’d like to spend a few words expanding on that agreement and discussing how courts often use the term “standing” in all sorts of different circumstances with different meanings all of which leads to a good deal of sloppiness. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Jurisdiction is Jurisdictional

There’s a lot of build up and procedural background in Magee v. Rite Aid (Division 1, January 17, 2012) (published April 23, 2012), but in the end it’s all just sound and fury signifying, well… not nothing, but not much. In the end, the Court of Appeals held that the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals (“Board”) has subject matter jurisdiction over any workers’ compensation-related matter, regardless of whether that matter is beyond the Board’s proper scope of review. If the Board decides a workers’ comp issue outside of its scope of review, such a decision may be an error of law, but it is not a jurisdictional error. Accordingly, a party’s failure to challenge such an error on review (either to the Superior Court of the Court of Appeals) constitutes the waiver of any claim that the Board’s decision was outside the scope of review. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Unlawful Detainer Jurisdiction For Dummies

In Angelo Property Co. v. Maged Hafiz (Division 2, April 17, 2012), the Court of Appeals goes into a lot of detail (and that’s saying something, coming from me) explaining the limits of the trial courts’ unlawful detainer jurisdiction. I’ll do my best to sum up the Court’s 37 pages in, well, something less than that. Continue reading

Daily Decisions: Not All Time Limits Are Jurisdictional

In Buecking v. Buecking (Division 1, April 2, 2012), the Court of Appeals reviewed a decree of marital dissolution.  The husband (let’s call him “Husband”) and wife (or “Wife”) were married for nine years and had three kids.  But after nine years, Wife filed for legal separation (not dissolution).  Then, almost four months later, Wife and Husband jointly amended the filing to request dissolution. After a one-day trial, the Superior Court entered an order of child support, a parenting plan, and a decree of dissolution.  The Court’s order/decree came down two months after the amended filing but six months after the original filing.

Husband was not happy, so he appealed, arguing that the Superior Court was without jurisdiction to enter the decree of dissolution.  What’s the problem?  Well, under RCW 26.09.030 the Superior Court “shall” proceed on a matter seeking dissolution after “ninety days have elapsed since the petition was filed.” And while the Court issued its order/decree ninety days after the original petition, ninety days had not yet passed since the filing of the amended petition — the one actually seeking dissolution.

So when does the waiting period run: from the first filing or from the filing requesting dissolution?  The Court of Appeals doesn’t decide, because Husband never raised the issue below.  While the Court concedes that entry of the order “may be a legal error,” that alleged error “does not result in loss of jurisdiction”  Accordingly, as a non-jurisdictional error, it can be waived, and Husband waived it by not raising it below.  The Court of Appeals therefore affirmed the Superior Court’s order/decree.