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James J. Johnson v. Thomas Guarino et al

October 1, 2012

JAMES J. JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
THOMAS GUARINO ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND RESPONDENTS.



(Super. Ct. No. SCCVCV1000902)

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

Johnson v. Guarino CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

After many years of providing legal representation for indigent criminal defendants in cases in which the public defender declared a conflict, appellant James J. Johnson received no new appointments after responsibility for awarding contracts to conflict counsel was changed from the superior court to the county counsel. Johnson filed suit against Thomas Guarino, Siskiyou County Counsel, and the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors (Board) based on the allegations that they colluded against him in order to shift conflict representation to a law firm based outside the County of Siskiyou (the County). Guarino and the Board demurred on grounds that included Johnson's failure to comply with the California Tort Claims Act (Government Code, § 900 et seq.).*fn1 The trial court dismissed the case after sustaining without leave to amend the demurrers filed by Guarino and the Board.

On appeal, Johnson contends the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrers because he stated valid causes of action for intentional interference with a prospective economic advantage and fraud. We conclude that Johnson has not submitted an appellate record sufficient to show that he complied with the presentment requirement of the Tort Claims Act before bringing this action in superior court. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of dismissal.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In June 2010, Johnson filed a complaint in superior court against Guarino and the Board that sought damages for interference with his contracts awarded by the superior court for indigent criminal legal defense. Johnson alleged that collusion between Guarino and the Board led to the removal of contracting for conflict representation from the purview of the superior court with the result that Johnson was deliberately excluded from providing further legal services to the County. The Board demurred*fn2 on grounds that included the assertion Johnson had failed to properly present his claims under the Tort Claims Act. The trial court sustained the demurrer but "very reluctantly" granted leave to amend. In sustaining the demurrer, the trial court took judicial notice of documents submitted by the Board, including the claim presented by Johnson to the County in May 2010.

Johnson filed a first amended complaint, and defendants responded by demurrer. The demurrer included noncompliance with the Tort Claims Act as a basis for dismissal of the case. The trial court sustained without leave to amend the demurrer to the first cause of action against the Board. The court also sustained the demurrer as to the second cause of action for intentional misrepresentation against Guarino, but with leave to amend.

Johnson filed a second amended complaint against Guarino, and Guarino demurred. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend on grounds "[t]hat it is barred by the failure of plaintiff James J. Johnson to present a claim for the matters alleged in the Complaint against the defendant Thomas Guarino and therefore said plaintiff has failed to comply with the claims presentment requirements of the California Tort Liability Act (. . . §§ 905, 910, 911.2, 945.4, 950.2 and 950.6), sufficient to support his Complaint herein against said defendant" and that "it fails to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action against defendant Thomas Guarino."

DISCUSSION

California Tort Claims Act

Johnson appears to argue that he properly presented his claim to the County in compliance with the California Tort Claims Act. We reject the argument because Johnson has not provided an adequate record to support any argument that his claim complied with the ...


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