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Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club, Inc. v. City of Lancaster et al

August 2, 2012

MONGOLS NATION MOTORCYCLE CLUB, INC. PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF LANCASTER ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Malcolm H. Mackey, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC439791)

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Appeal dismissed as moot and matter remanded to trial court with directions.

Defendants and appellants City of Lancaster, R. Rex Parris, Ronald D. Smith, Ken Mann, Sherry Marquez, Ed Sileo and Mark V. Bozigian (collectively, the defendants or the City) appeal an order denying their special motion to strike the complaint filed by plaintiff and respondent Mongols Nation Motorcycle Club, Inc. (Mongols Inc.). (Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16.)*fn1

This case involves the interplay of corporations law and appellate procedure. One week after Mongols Inc. was served with the appellants' opening brief, Mongols Inc. filed a certificate of dissolution with the California Secretary of State, indicating the corporation "has been completely wound up." A dissolved corporation continues to exist for the purpose of winding up its affairs. (Penasquitos, Inc. v. Superior Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1180, 1183.) However, the continued pursuit of this lawsuit cannot be deemed part of the winding up process of Mongols Inc., in that the certificate of dissolution indicated the corporation was at all times devoid of any assets, debts or liabilities, and therefore had nothing to wind up. Consequently, the dissolution of Mongols Inc. during the pendency of this appeal renders the appeal moot. Further, in view of the dissolution of the corporate entity, the matter shall be remanded to the trial court with directions to dismiss the action in its entirety.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

1. The complaint.

On June 25, 2010, Mongols Inc., which is the sole plaintiff, commenced this action, naming the following defendants: the City; Parris, mayor and member of the City Council; Smith, vice mayor and member of the City Council; Mann, Marquez and Sileo, members of the City Council; and Bozigian, City Manager. The complaint pled in pertinent part:

Mongols Inc., a California corporation, is a social and fraternal organization with emphasis on riding motorcycles in Southern California. Mongols Inc. planned to hold its annual convention during the weekend of July 17-19, 2009, in Lancaster. Mongols Inc. secured lodging for its convention by entering into a contract with the Desert Inn Hotel (the Hotel) in Lancaster. Mongols Inc. paid the Hotel about $14,000 to reserve over 100 rooms, and an additional $2,500 for a food and beverage guarantee.

Three days before the convention, on July 14, 2009, Parris stated at a City Council meeting that city officials would do whatever it takes to prevent Mongols Inc. from staying in Lancaster that weekend. On July 15, the various defendants met with the owner of the Hotel and told the Hotel the City would close it down unless the Hotel refused to accommodate Mongols Inc; the City's pretext for the threatened closure was that the Hotel owed the City back taxes.

On July 15, 2009, Parris stated to a local television station that "The Mongols are domestic terrorists, and we will treat them accordingly"; the Hotel "will be closed forever tomorrow"; and "I don't care about the civil rights of gang members." He also publicly stated: "We will direct law enforcement to incarcerate you [the Mongols], we will not tolerate your presence. Anybody wearing Mongol colors will serve as a beacon for law enforcement."

On July 16, the various defendants shut down the Hotel by erecting a chain link fence around the establishment, preventing anyone from entering the premises.

Based on the above, Mongols Inc. pled the following causes of action: (1) interference with exercise of civil rights (Civ. Code, § 52.1); (2) deprivation of civil rights under color of state law (42 U.S.C. § 1983); (3) interference with civil rights (Civ. Code, § 51.7); (4) intentional interference with contractual relationship; (5) negligent interference with contractual relationship; (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED); (7) libel per se; and (8) slander per se.

2. The City's responsive pleadings and special motion to strike.

Defendants demurred to the complaint in its entirety, and concurrently filed a motion to strike various portions of the complaint, ...


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