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Ogunsalu v. Superior Court (California Commission on Teacher Credentialing)

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division

May 31, 2017


         ORIGINAL PROCEEDING in mandate. Timothy B. Taylor, Judge. Petition dismissed as moot. San Diego County Super. Ct. No. 37-2016-00037994-CU-WM-CTL.

          Cornelius Oluseyi Ogunsalu, in pro. per., for Petitioner.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, and Chara L. Crane, Deputy Attorney General, for Real Party in Interest.

          NARES, J.

         In this case, we conclude that the vexatious litigant prefiling requirements of Code of Civil Procedure[1] section 391.7 apply to a self-represented litigant, previously declared a vexatious litigant, who filed a writ of mandate proceeding in the superior court to challenge the denial of his request to continue an administrative proceeding where the vexatious litigant was the respondent in the administrative proceeding. Accordingly, the superior court correctly subjected the vexatious litigant to the prefiling requirements of section 391.7. Because subsequent events have rendered effective relief impossible, we dismiss the petition as moot.


         The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Commission) notified Cornelius Oluseyi Ogunsalu that it had found probable cause to recommend the suspension of his preliminary teaching credentials for 21 days and that Ogunsalu's application for a clear credential would be granted only upon completion of the suspension. The Commission's letter notifying Ogunsalu of its adverse action recommendation informed him of options that were available to him to respond to the recommendation, one of which was to request an administrative hearing to challenge the recommendation. Ogunsalu requested an administrative hearing. The Commission issued an official accusation and statement of issues (Accusation) regarding Ogunsalu. (Ed. Code, § 44242.5, subd. (c)(3)(B).) The Accusation required Ogunsalu to timely request a hearing. (Gov. Code, § 11505.) Although not included in the record, Ogunsalu presumably timely requested a hearing as the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) assigned hearing dates to the matter and served the notice of assigned hearing dates on Ogunsalu.

         Ogunsalu requested a continuance of the administrative hearing before the Commission. An administrative law judge (ALJ) of the OAH denied the continuance on the ground Ogunsalu had not shown good cause for the continuance. Ogunsalu, who is a vexatious litigant, sought to challenge the denial of the continuance request by filing a petition for writ of mandate in the superior court. (See Gov. Code, § 11524, subd. (c) [party may seek judicial review of denial of continuance of administrative hearing within 10 working days of denial].) The court denied his request to file new litigation by vexatious litigant under section 391.7.

         Ogunsalu then requested permission from this court to file a petition for a writ directing the superior court to vacate its order denying his request to file the petition for writ of mandate in that court. In the proposed filing, he contended that the superior court had abused its discretion by relying on his status as a vexatious litigant to deny his request to file the petition for writ of mandate, because he is a "defendant" in the administrative hearing before the Commission and sought to "appeal" a ruling against him in that proceeding.

         We denied the request on the grounds the prefiling requirements for vexatious litigants applied and Ogunsalu had not shown his proposed filing had merit. Ogunsalu petitioned the California Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court granted the petition and transferred the matter to this court "for reconsideration in light of John v. Superior Court (2016) 63 Cal.4th 91');">63 Cal.4th 91 [(John)]". We solicited and obtained an informal response from the Commission.

         The Commission contends that the prefiling requirements apply to Ogunsalu because he was the plaintiff who sought to commence new litigation in the superior court and in this court. The Commission further contends that both the superior court and this court properly denied Ogunsalu's requests for permission to file new litigation, because the proposed litigation lacked merit in that Ogunsalu had not shown good cause to continue the administrative hearing. Attached to the informal response are copies of a letter and the ALJ's proposed decision revoking Ogunsalu's teaching credential, which indicate the hearing that Ogunsalu sought to continue had already occurred and the proposed decision would be presented to the Commission at its February 2017 meeting.


         I. MOOTNESS

         As a preliminary matter, this court cannot grant Ogunsalu any meaningful relief on his writ petition, because the administrative hearing he sought to continue has already concluded, and the petition is therefore moot. (Lockaway Storage v. County of Alameda (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 161, 174-175 [case is moot if events have made any effective relief impracticable or impossible].) Nonetheless, a reviewing court may exercise its inherent discretion to resolve an issue rendered moot by subsequent events if the question to be decided is of continuing public importance and is a question capable of repetition, yet ...

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