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Dana Point Safe Harbor Collective v. the Superior Court of Orange County

December 9, 2010

DANA POINT SAFE HARBOR COLLECTIVE, PETITIONER,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY, RESPONDENT; CITY OF DANA POINT, REAL PARTY IN INTEREST.



Orange County Super. Ct. No. 30-2009-00298200

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Moreno, J.

Ct.App. 4/3 G042878

[and four related cases*]

*The Point Alternative Care, Inc., v. Superior Court (City of Dana Point, Real Party in Interest) (Orange County. Super Ct. No. 30-2009-00298187; Ct. App. 4/3, No. G042893 [S180468]); Holistic Health v. Superior Court (City of Dana Point, Real Party in Interest) (Orange County. Super. Ct. No. 30-2009-00298196; Ct. App. 4/3, No. G042883 [S180560]); Beach Cities Collective v. Super. Ct. (Orange County Super. Ct. No. 30-2009-00298208; Ct.App. 4/3, No. G042880 [S180749]); Dana Point Beach Collective v. Super. Ct. (Orange County Super. Ct. No. 30-2009-00298206; Ct.App. 4/3, No. G042889 [S180803]).

The question posed by these consolidated cases is whether a trial court's order compelling compliance with a legislative subpoena (Gov. Code, § 37104 et seq.) is appealable. We conclude that it is. Accordingly, we reverse the orders dismissing these appeals and remand the cases to the Court of Appeal for further proceedings.

Facts and Procedural History

Government Code section 37104 gives cities the power to issue legislative subpoenas.*fn1 In 2009, the City of Dana Point (the City) subpoenaed documents from five medical marijuana dispensaries: Dana Point Safe Harbor Collective, The Point Alternative Care, Inc., Beach Cities Collective, Dana Point Beach Collective, and Holistic Health, Inc. (collectively "dispensaries"). The purpose of the subpoenas was to "gather[] information that could assist the City with its investigation as to whether medical marijuana dispensaries located in the City [were] in compliance with applicable law." The subpoenas requested documents related to all aspects of the dispensaries' business activities, including their business licenses, payroll arrangements, and purchasing activities, and information about their members. Though some of the dispensaries partially responded to the subpoenas, all of the dispensaries objected to production of much of the requested information.

When the dispensaries refused to produce the requested documents, the City's mayor reported that fact to the superior court, as required by the relevant statute. The superior court held a hearing to determine whether the dispensaries were required to comply with the subpoenas. Following the hearing, the court issued a single "Final Ruling" applicable to all five dispensaries. In that document, the court found "that the City's subpoenas were properly served in the furtherance of a proper legislative purpose" and ordered the dispensaries to comply with the subpoenas, subject to a protective order.

The dispensaries separately appealed the order. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals on the ground that the order was not appealable. The dispensaries sought review on the question of appealability. We granted review to resolve a split among the Courts of Appeal on that issue.

Discussion

A. General Principles of Appealability

The right to appeal is wholly statutory. (Powers v. City of Richmond (1995) 10 Cal.4th 85, 108.) Code of Civil Procedure section 904.1 lists appealable judgments and orders. Chief among them is a "judgment" that is not interlocutory, e.g., a final judgment.*fn2 A judgment is the final determination of the rights of the parties (Code Civ. Proc., § 577) " 'when it terminates the litigation between the parties on the merits of the case and leaves nothing to be done but to enforce by execution what has been determined.' " (Sullivan v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (1997) 15 Cal.4th 288, 304, quoting Doudell v. Shoo (1911) 159 Cal. 448, 453.) " 'It is not the form of the decree but the substance and effect of the adjudication which is determinative. As a general test, which must be adapted to the particular circumstances of the individual case, it may be said that where no issue is left for future consideration except the fact of compliance or noncompliance with the terms of the first decree, that decree is final, but where anything further in the nature of judicial action on the part of the court is essential to a final determination of the rights of the parties, the decree is interlocutory.' " (Griset v. Fair Political Practices Com. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 688, 698, italics added, quoting Lyons v. Goss (1942) 19 Cal.2d 659, 670.)

As we explained in Morehart v. County of Santa Barbara (1994) 7 Cal.4th 725, the purpose of the final judgment rule is to prevent " 'piecemeal disposition and multiple appeals' " which " 'tend to be oppressive and costly. [Citation.] Interlocutory appeals burden the courts and impede the judicial process in a number of ways: (1) They tend to clog the appellate courts with a multiplicity of appeals. . . . (2) Early resort to the appellate courts tends to produce uncertainty and delay in the trial court. . . . (3) Until a final judgment is rendered the trial court may completely obviate an appeal by altering the rulings from which an appeal would otherwise have been taken. [Citations.] (4) Later actions by the trial court may provide a more complete record which dispels the appearance of error or establishes that it was harmless. (5) Having the benefit of a complete adjudication . . . will assist the reviewing court to remedy ...


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