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Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority v. Leslie Keith Kaufman

APPELLATE DIVISION OF THE SUPERIOR COURT STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOR THE COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES


August 18, 2011

MOUNTAINS RECREATION CONSERVATION AUTHORITY, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
LESLIE KEITH KAUFMAN, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Van Nuys Trial Court, Gregory Keosian, Judge. (Van Nuys Trial Court No. 09E13112)

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

TO BE PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION AND JUDGMENT

Affirmed.

This appeal from a trial de novo of an administrative hearing raises the issues of preemption and due process of law. We affirm the judgment.

BACKGROUND

Defendant and appellant Leslie Keith Kaufman received an administrative citation via mail alleging that a vehicle registered to him was captured by automated video equipment failing to obey a stop sign located on property within the jurisdiction of plaintiff and respondent Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA). The cause proceeded to an administrative hearing. At the conclusion thereof, the hearing officer found that appellant had violated sections 4.0 and 4.2.1*fn1 of MRCA Ordinance No. 1-2003, as amended. Appellant timely filed a notice of appeal and a trial de novo was held.

At the trial de novo, Ranger Fernando Gomez testified that he Areviewed a video of a vehicle that failed to stop at a stop sign and authorized the issuance of an administrative citation to the registered owner of the vehicle based on his observation of the vehicle=s failure to stop. [Gomez] showed the video to the court. [Gomez] stated that he made no effort to identify the driver of the vehicle.@

Thereafter, appellant testified and denied that he was Athe driver of the vehicle cited for the moving violation, and testified that there were no photographs taken, or produced, which show any driver, let alone the [d]efendant, in the vehicle at the time the alleged moving violation was alleged to have taken place.@ (Sic.)

At the conclusion of the trial de novo, the trial court took the matter under submission. Later, the trial court affirmed the administrative decision*fn2 and judgment to that effect was subsequently entered. This timely appeal followed.

ISSUES ON APPEAL

Appellant seeks to have this court reverse the judgment on the following grounds: (1) that sections 4.0 and 4.2.1(a) of MRCA Ordinance No. 1-2003, as amended, are preempted by Vehicle Code section 21; (2) that the court erred by finding that the Vehicle Code does not preempt MRCA=s ordinances Aregarding the regulation and contract of the non highway pathways in the boundaries of the MRCA@; and (3) that appellant=s right to due process of law was violated.

DISCUSSION

Any statute, local ordinance or regulation that conflicts with state law is invalid and preempted. (Cal. Const., art. XI, ' 7; O=Connell v. City of Stockton (2007) 41 Cal.4th 1061, 1067; Foley v. Superior Court (2004) 117 Cal.App.4th 206, 209-210; Roble Vista Associates v. Bacon (2002) 97 Cal.App.4th 335, 339.) A conflict exists between state and local law when the local legislation either A>. . . A>duplicates, contradicts, or enters an area fully occupied by general law, either expressly or by legislative implication.=@= [Citations.]@ (Sherwin-Williams Co. v. City of Los Angeles (1993) 4 Cal.4th 893, 897.)

Appellant alleges the last of these C field preemption by express legislative intent*fn3 C as a basis for relief from this court. The general law fully occupies an area of the law when the Legislature expressly manifests its intent to do so. (Sherwin-Williams Co. v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 4 Cal.4th at p. 898.) Contrary to appellant=s assertion, and in regards to the MRCA, we find that the Legislature did not express preemptive intent as to Vehicle Code section 21. During the time period that is pertinent to this appeal, Vehicle Code section 21 proscribed legislation by a local authority Aon the matters covered by this code.@ It provided in full as follows: AExcept as otherwise expressly provided, the provisions of this code are applicable and uniform throughout the State and in all counties and municipalities therein, and no local authority shall enact or enforce any ordinance on the matters covered by this code unless expressly authorized herein.@ (Former Veh. Code, ' 21.)*fn4

The term Alocal authorities@ is defined in Vehicle Code section 385 to mean Athe legislative body of every county or municipality having authority to adopt local police regulations.@ A Acounty@ is, by definition, Athe largest political division of the State having corporate powers.@ (Gov. Code, ' 23000.) A Amunicipality@ is a city*fn5 and, in California, cities are created either by charter or by general law. (Gov. Code, " 34100, 34101.)

A Alocal agency,@ however, includes the following: Aa county, city, whether general law or chartered, city and county, town, school district, municipal corporation, district, political subdivision, or any board, commission or agency thereof, or other local public agency.@ (Gov. Code, ' 54951.)

The MRCA is a Joint Powers Agency C formed under the authority of Government Code section 6500 et seq. C between the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Recreation and Park Districts of Conejo and Rancho Simi. (Tucker Land Co. v. State of California (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 1191, 1194.) It falls within the definition of a local agency and as such, it was statutorily authorized to exercise any power common to each individual entity. (Gov. Code, ' 6502.) Each entity was entitled to enact ordinances in order to carry out its individual functions. The authority for the Conejo and Rancho Simi Recreation and Park Districts is found in Public Resources Code section 5786.1, subdivision (i), which authorized the districts to adopt ordinances provided that the procedures set forth in Government Code sections 25120 through 25132 were followed. The authority for the Santa Monica Conservancy is found in Public Resources Code section 33211.5, subdivision (a)(3), which requires all vehicles within the boundaries of the Conservancy to conform to all posted signs, and section 33211, subdivision (c) which empowers the Conservancy to do Aany and all other things necessary to carry out the purposes@ set forth in the division which includes section 33211.5, subdivision (a)(3).

Thus, by express language, the Legislature authorized agencies such as the MRCA to regulate traffic within their districts so long as the regulations are not in conflict with state law. We find no conflict between the general law and that section of the MRCA ordinance challenged by appellant. AAn ordinance is invalid if it makes illegal the same acts that are made illegal by the general laws of the state. [Citations.]@ (In re Bell (1942) 19 Cal.2d 488, 498.) Sections 4.0 and 4.2.1(a) of MRCA Ordinance No. 1-2003, as amended, do not conflict with any Vehicle Code provisions regarding stop signs. The Vehicle Code, by definition, renders illegal acts that occur on the highway, whereas the MRCA applies to acts on Aany MRCA owned or managed parkland, roadway or parking areas.@ (MRCA, ' 4.0.)

Appellant concedes, in his opening brief, that the Santa Monica Conservation Authority*fn6 was entitled to enforce stop signs posted on the subject property. Appellant argues, however, that contrary to the trial court=s finding in this regard, enforcement in this matter did not take place on Athe non highway pathways in the boundaries of the MRCA.@ The major flaw with appellant=s position is that there is nothing in the record to support his contention that the ordinance was enforced on a highway within the meaning of Vehicle Code section 360.

Appellant=s remaining contention is that his right to due process of law was violated. This argument is based on his comparison of the administrative procedure used for his citation with the procedure that is used when a person is charged with an infraction under the automated traffic enforcement system.*fn7 Appellant argues that it was a violation of his right to due process to prosecute him without any photographic evidence that identified him as the person who violated the MRCA ordinance. Appellant=s constitutional argument is perfunctorily asserted without any discussion of constitutional principles or citation to authority. Under these circumstances, we treat this contention as forfeited. In doing so, we also note that defendant=s citation carried none of the penalties associated with an infraction C he was required to pay a fine without any collateral consequences to his driving privileges C and that the identity of the driver was not an element of the violation.

DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed. Respondent to recover costs on appeal.

WE CONCUR. DYMANT, J. KALIN, J.*fn8


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