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Thompson v. City of Petaluma

California Court of Appeals, First District, Fourth Division

October 10, 2014

BOBBY THOMPSON, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
CITY OF PETALUMA, Defendant and Respondent.

Trial court: County of Sonoma No. SCV-252045 Hon. Elliott Daum, Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Mark T. Clausen, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson, Anita L. Rimes, Julia L. Bond, and Mary C. Tsai, for Defendant and Respondent.

OPINION

RIVERA, J.

Bobby Thompson appeals from a judgment of dismissal after the trial court sustained a demurrer to his complaint against the Petaluma

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Police Department and the City of Petaluma (the City)[1] without leave to amend. He contends that Vehicle Code section 14602.6 (section 14602.6) violates state and federal procedural due process and that the City’s enforcement of the statute violates its terms. We remand the matter with directions to allow Thompson leave to amend his complaint.

I. FACTS

On July 24, 2012, Thompson filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief alleging that he operates a business and pays property taxes in the City. He brings this action to enjoin the Petaluma Police Department from using taxpayer funds to order 30-day impoundment of vehicles pursuant to section 14602.6 when the driver has operated the vehicle without a valid driver’s license but with the consent of the owner of the vehicle. He alleges that section 14602.6’s notice provisions are insufficient to provide the registered owner of an impounded vehicle with the factual grounds for the traffic stop or impound of the vehicle, the statutory basis for the driver’s license suspension or revocation, and the grounds for releasing the vehicle from impound. He thus seeks a declaration that section 14602.6 violates due process due to the inadequacy of its notice provisions and its failure to require a written statement of decision summarizing the grounds for the hearing officer’s decision to impound a vehicle for 30-days, and injunctive relief requiring the notices and written statement of decision.

The City demurred to the complaint, contending that Thompson lacked standing as a taxpayer under Code of Civil Procedure section 526a (section 526a) to bring his complaint. It also asserted that Thompson had failed to state a claim because he had not identified any way in which the City had violated the impoundment provisions of the Vehicle Code nor had he pled any violation of his individual rights. Finally, the City argued that inasmuch as the courts have upheld the constitutionality of section 14602.6, Thompson could seek redress from the Legislature.

The trial court granted the demurrer finding that Thompson lacked standing because a taxpayer has no standing under section 526a in a matter that involves the City’s exercise of executive discretion. The court further ruled that Thompson lacked standing to challenge the City’s “improvident or inefficient use of funds.” The trial court also rejected Thompson’s claims that the City’s use of police officers to enforce section 14602.6 results in illegal government ...


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