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Kaye Hancock v. County of Plumas et al

May 2, 2013


(Super. Ct. No. CV09-00255)

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

Hancock v. County of Plumas



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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

According to the trial court's register of actions, plaintiff Kaye Hancock initiated this action on October 5, 2009, with a complaint that is not of record. In the April 2010 pleading at issue (the second amended complaint), plaintiff included seven counts*fn1 naming defendant County of Plumas (the County) either singly or together with the individual defendants Kelly Stane (now Kelly Murphy), a county employee who oversaw worker compensation issues; Kathleen Williams, the County's Clerk-Recorder; and Melinda Rother, the Assistant Clerk-Recorder.*fn2 The seven counts assert theories of disability, age, and sex discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (Gov. Code, § 12940 et seq.); harassment based on plaintiff's handicap in violation of the FEHA; a failure to prevent the harassment in violation of the FEHA; retaliation against plaintiff in violation of the FEHA for reporting the harassment; and the unauthorized disclosure of confidential medical records in violation of the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act (Civ. Code, § 56).

The trial court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that plaintiff had failed to produce necessary evidence either to support her theories or refute the affirmative defenses of defendants. It accordingly entered judgment for defendants. Plaintiff filed a timely notice of appeal in pro se.

In her "Statement of the Case," plaintiff identifies only the trial court's rulings in connection with the motion for summary judgment as the focus of her appeal, and (with one exception) does not provide any argument in the remainder of her brief about any of the trial court's other rulings in this matter. We thus deem any other issues abandoned. (9 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (5th 3d. 2008) Appeal, § 701, p. 769.) We shall affirm the judgment.


A judgment is presumed correct. (Denham v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 557, 564.) As a result, it is an appellant's fundamental burden to overcome this presumption with an affirmative demonstration of error; an appellant must accordingly provide a sufficient record to support claims of error. (Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1295-1296; Foust v. San Jose Construction Co., Inc. (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 181, 187; Nielsen v. Gibson (2009) 178 Cal.App.4th 318, 324.) Otherwise, the claim of error is forfeited.

In addition, an appellant must adequately develop arguments (with supporting authority) in connection with any claim of error raised on appeal; failure to do so forfeits a claim of error (Imagistics Internat., Inc. v. Department of General Services (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 581, 591, fn. 8, 593 (Imagistics Internat.); Craddock v. Kmart Corp. (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th 1300, 1307; Jones v. Superior Court (1994) 26 Cal.App.4th 92, 99 [issues "do not have a life of their own," and if not raised or supported by argument or authority "we consider the issues waived"]) because it is not appropriate for a court to originate arguments on behalf of an appellant. As part of this duty, an appellant has the obligation to explain the perceived error in a trial court's reasoning (Imagistics Internat., supra, 150 Cal.App.4th at p. 588), because even where we exercise de novo review the trial court is not a " 'potted plant' " to be disregarded (Claudio v. Regents of University of California (2005) 134 Cal.App.4th 224, 230).

Further, in order to allow an appellate court to evaluate a brief properly without taxing scarce judicial resources (whether in issue-spotting or responding to petitions for rehearing that assert overlooked issues), an appellant must organize the argument under headings that clearly identify the issue raised in each section, forfeiting " 'lurking' " arguments that do not have any logical connection with the heading. (Imagistics Internat., supra, 150 Cal.App.4th at p. 593, fn. 10; Smith v. City of Napa (2004) 120 Cal.App.4th 194, 202.) There must also be adequate citations to the record of the evidence supporting a claim of error, or we will deem it to be forfeited. (Duarte v. Chino Community Hospital (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 849, 856; McComber v. Wells (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 512, 522)

These standards are not relaxed in the context of an appellant who chooses to appear in pro se. (Nwosu v. Uba (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 1229, 1246-1247.) It would otherwise be unfair to the particular opponent, and to the demands of other litigants in this court to our timely attention to their claims.

We thus note that plaintiff initially failed to designate a record adequate for us to review her claims of error regarding the ruling on the motion for summary judgment (omitting, e.g., the operative pleading, most of the points and authorities and supporting evidence, and the trial court's ruling on the motion). Defendants, however, cured this defect in their counterdesignation of the record. Plaintiff also filed an opening brief that either intentionally or inadvertently elided a section, because a widowed heading at the bottom of page one ("Statement of Appealability") is followed with a mid-paragraph leap into the stream of her first contention, omitting any statement of the underlying facts. (This first section of her argument presumably lacked a heading identifying the claim of error, because the other two sections lack such a heading.) Plaintiff otherwise failed to comply for the most part in her brief with any of the appellant's duties we summarized above.

Given this manner in which plaintiff has presented her issues to us, we do not have any duty to give plenary consideration to her claims of error. We ...

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