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Direct Capital Corp. v. Brooks

California Court of Appeals, Third District, San Joaquin

August 30, 2017

DIRECT CAPITAL CORPORATION, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
GRANT BROOKS, Defendant and Appellant.

         CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]

         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Joaquin County Nos., STK-CV-UBC-2014-0006707, 39-2014-00313250-CU-BC-STK Linda L. Lofthus, Judge. Affirmed.

          Law Offices of Douglas S. Srulowtiz and Douglas S. Srulowitz for Defendant and Appellant.

          Ferns Adams & Associates and Amanda N. Ferns for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          Duarte, J.

         Disregarding procedural asides raised by the parties, this appeal turns on the distinction between “necessaries of life” and “common necessaries of life” as those phrases are used in different parts of Family Code section 914, [1] and which of the two governs when a person is or is not liable for a debt incurred by a spouse. Here, the trial court found that a debt incurred by an attorney-spouse for office computer equipment was for the necessaries of life for that particular marriage, in part because that spouse's law practice generated community property income. We shall uphold this finding.

         In the published portion of this opinion, we discuss the distinction between necessaries of life, and common necessaries of life. Although long extant, the distinction has not been recently discussed, and--as evidenced by the briefing in this case--can be confusing. (See Rules of Court, rule 8.1105(c)(3) & (8).) In the unpublished portion of this opinion, we consider and reject the non-debtor spouse's claim that we should interpret and apply the terms of a divorce judgment entered after the notice of appeal was filed, because issues arising from that judgment are more properly considered by the trial court in the first instance.

         Accordingly, we shall affirm the order from which this appeal was taken.

         BACKGROUND

         In 2013, plaintiff Direct Capital Corporation (DCC) leased computer equipment to a since-disbarred Kansas attorney (Mary Brooks, with many aliases, hereafter Mary) who practiced immigration law in Stockton.[2] After Mary did not pay, DCC sued her and obtained a judgment for nearly $40, 000. DCC later moved to garnish the wages of her husband, attorney Grant Brooks (Grant). DCC alleged that when the debt was incurred, the marriage was intact, and the judgment thereon (grown to over $43, 000 with interest) was a community obligation.

         At the hearing on DCC's motion held on November 13, 2015, Grant's attorney specially appeared and represented to the court that Grant had filed for divorce the day before, and claimed this deprived the trial court of “jurisdiction” to garnish Grant's wages. The court continued the matter and directed Grant to file an opposition to DCC's motion. Instead, Grant's attorney purported to make a special appearance to dismiss the matter “for lack of jurisdiction, ” again alleging Grant had filed for divorce on November 12, 2015. Grant also argued that because computers were not necessaries of life as used in section 914, his separate property wages were not subject to garnishment therefor. The court treated the dismissal request as an opposition to DCC's motion, and DCC filed a reply, in part claiming the divorce was a sham to defraud creditors.

         After a hearing, the trial court found the debt was a community property obligation, and “there is evidence that the Computers were for necessities of life as it went to the wage earnings for the community.” The court denied the motion to dismiss, and issued a garnishment order. The court then stayed that order, pending this appeal.

         Grant timely appealed from the garnishment order.

         Later, a divorce judgment was entered, and at Grant's request we took judicial notice of the relevant documents showing the terms thereof.

         DISCUSSION

         I

         Grant's Liability ...


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