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Leisha Hendrix et al v. the Superior Court of San Bernardino County et al

January 10, 2011

LEISHA HENDRIX ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



APPEAL from the Superior Court of Orange County. Jamoa A. Moberly, Judge. (Super.Ct.Nos. SCVSS137487 & CIVSS814913)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McKinster J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

OPINION

Affirmed.

This is an appeal by plaintiffs and appellants, Leisha Hendrix, Kathy Sellers, Jane Folmer, Eva Sager, and Phillip Livoni (collectively referred to as plaintiffs), all of whom are official court reporters employed by defendant and respondent, The Superior Court of San Bernardino County (hereafter the Court), from the judgment entered against them and in favor of the Court and defendant and respondent, Tressa Sloan Kentner, the Court's executive officer, on plaintiffs' petition for writ of mandate.*fn2 In that petition plaintiffs sought to compel defendants to pay them at the higher rate specified in Government Code section 69950, subdivision (a) any time plaintiffs had to recreate a previously transcribed reporter's transcript. In the published portion of this opinion we hold that the higher rate of compensation applies only to the first transcription of the reporter's notes. In the unpublished portion we hold that plaintiffs also failed to establish a contractual right to the higher rate of compensation. Therefore we will affirm the judgment.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This is the third appeal in this matter, which began in 2006 when plaintiffs Hendrix, Sellers, and Folmer, along with their collective bargaining representative, San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA), filed their original petition for writ of mandate in case No. SCVSS137487 to compel defendants to pay them at the higher rate of compensation set out in Government Code section 69950, subdivision (a)*fn3 when for various reasons plaintiffs are required to recreate a reporter's transcript. Because plaintiffs had not complied with the Government Tort Claims Act, the trial court entered a judgment of dismissal on that writ petition after granting defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings. We affirmed the judgment of dismissal in case No. E044287 with respect to the individual claims for compensation but reversed as to the claims seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.*fn4

In October 2008, plaintiffs Hendrix and Livoni filed a second petition for writ of mandate against defendants (case No. CIVSS814913) again seeking both compensation and a declaration of their rights to compensation under section 69950, subdivision (a) for original transcripts they previously had prepared but allegedly were required for various reasons to recreate. In November 2008, the trial court consolidated the two writ proceedings in accordance with the parties' stipulation and then transferred the consolidated matter to Orange County Superior Court on February 20, 2009. In June 2009, plaintiffs filed a consolidated petition for writ of mandate that combined the claims from both cases.

In that consolidated petition, plaintiffs alleged in pertinent part that plaintiffs are required to prepare transcripts of proceedings as part of their duties provided for by law; California Rules of Court, rule 8.336(d)(2) and rule 8.616(b)(1) require court reporters to prepare an "original" transcript along with a specified number of copies; when the Court first orders a court reporter to prepare a transcript, the court reporter is compensated at the rate specified in section 69950, subdivision (a), which is $0.85 for each 100 words contained in the original and $0.15 for each 100 words contained in copies ordered at the same time; court reporters are sometimes directed to produce a new original of a previously produced transcript; in those instances the Court compensates reporters at the rate specified in section 69950, subdivision (b), which is $0.20 for each 100 words contained in the new original, and $0.15 for each 100 words contained in any copies ordered at the same time. Plaintiffs alleged that when court reporters are required under the noted rules of court to prepare new original transcripts of previously prepared original transcripts, the reporters must be compensated at the higher rate set out in section 69950, subdivision (a).

At a hearing on the consolidated petition held August 14, 2009, the trial court issued a tentative decision denying the petition in its entirety, but then took the matter under submission. On September 25, 2009, after requesting additional briefing, the trial court issued a second tentative ruling that also denied the writ petition. The two tentative rulings became the trial court's order. Plaintiffs appeal from the subsequently entered judgment.

DISCUSSION

1.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

To obtain a writ of mandate under Code of Civil Procedure section 1085 a petitioner must show, among other things, "that the respondent has failed to perform an act despite a clear, present and ministerial duty to do so, and that the petitioner has a clear, present and beneficial right to that performance." (Riverside Sheriff's Assn. v. County of Riverside (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 1285, 1289 [Fourth Dist., Div. Two].) Ordinarily we would review the trial court's denial of the writ to determine whether the findings and judgment are supported by substantial evidence. (Ibid.) In this case, the facts are undisputed, and in any event the issue presented does not turn on the facts but instead depends on the meaning and purpose of section 69950, subdivision (a). Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which we conduct de novo. (Ghirardo v. Antonioli (1994) 8 Cal.4th 791, 799-801.) In determining statutory construction we begin ...


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