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The People v. the Superior Court of San Diego County

June 16, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PETITIONER,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF SAN DIEGO COUNTY, RESPONDENT; LAUREN M., REAL PARTY IN INTEREST.



Petition for writ of mandate challenging orders of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Lawrence Kapiloff, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. JCM225522)

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

pub. order 6/27/11 (see end of opn.)

Petition granted, stay vacated.

In this case we conclude that the juvenile court acted beyond the scope of its authority in rescinding an order of victim restitution and instead ordering the district attorney's office to negotiate with the hospital to discount the victim's medical bills. We, therefore, grant the People's petition.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In November 2009, Lauren M. punched Kristin Feigel numerous times and caused injury. The juvenile court found true that Lauren committed battery on Feigel and placed her on probation. The court also ordered Lauren to pay $6,660.27 in restitution to Feigel for her medical bills.

In November 2010, Lauren moved to modify the restitution order arguing that she is in a difficult financial situation, and Feigel should be required to mitigate her damages by negotiating a discount with the hospital. At the restitution hearing, Lauren did not present any evidence. Rather, her counsel argued that the district attorney's office should be required to assist Feigel with negotiating a discount. The juvenile court denied Lauren's motion, stating that it did not have the authority to order the district attorney's office to negotiate with the hospital. Thus, the court confirmed its prior restitution order.

That same day, the juvenile court rescinded its restitution order without explanation and set another hearing on the matter. At the subsequent restitution hearing, the court stated that it reconsidered its prior decision and determined that it was in the best interest of the victim to negotiate the medical bills. The court further indicated that the district attorney's office should facilitate those negotiations. Accordingly, the court issued an order stating that it would set the restitution amount after "appropriate negotiations" pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 127400 et seq. (Hospital Fair Pricing Act).

This petition followed. We requested a response and stayed proceedings pending further order of this court. Lauren filed a response as the real party in interest.

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

In general, "[t]he standard of review of a restitution order is abuse of discretion. 'A victim's restitution right is to be broadly and liberally construed.' [Citation.] ' "When there is a factual and rational basis for the amount of restitution ordered by the trial court, no abuse of discretion will be found by the reviewing court." ' " (In re Johnny M. (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 1128, 1132.) However, where the issue raised presents a question of law, our review is de novo. (Mamika v. Barca (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 487, 491.)

Here, the People claim that we should review the court's order requiring it to negotiate with the hospital de novo and the order rescinding the prior restitution award for an abuse of discretion. However, we conduct our entire review de novo as the juvenile's court's orders are both premised ...


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