California Court of Appeals, Second District, Seventh Division
In re HARLEY C., et al., Persons Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
MARIA O., Defendant and Appellant.
from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County
No. 17LJJP00093B-C Nancy Ramirez, Judge. Reversed.
Christopher R. Booth, under appointment by the Court of
Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.
C. Wickham, County Counsel, Kristine P. Miles, Assistant
County Counsel, and Stephen P. Watson, Deputy County Counsel
for Plaintiff and Respondent.
ACTING P. J.
juvenile dependency matter set for a contested dispositional
hearing, the juvenile court refused to permit mother Maria O.
to testify or to call witnesses because her counsel had not
filed a joint trial statement as required by a local rule. We
conclude that the local rule is invalid and reverse the
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
July 19, 2018, jurisdictional hearing on a juvenile
dependency petition with respect to Mother's children,
Harley C., and S.C., Mother waived her right to a trial and
submitted on the reports. The juvenile court found that the
children came within the court's jurisdiction pursuant to
Welfare and Institutions Code section 300, subdivisions (b)
[failure to protect] and (j) [abuse of sibling].
requested a contested dispositional hearing. Mother sought
placement of the children with her,  while the Department
of Children and Family Services recommended that jurisdiction
be terminated with a family law order granting the
children's father sole physical custody and joint legal
custody, with monitored visitation for Mother. Minors'
counsel recommended that the case remain open and that Mother
be offered reunification services.
juvenile court released the children to their father pending
the dispositional hearing. The court set a date for the
contested hearing, and, at Mother's request, ordered that
DCFS provide a supplemental report concerning Mother's
visitation and progress in her case plan. The court waived
the minors' presence at the dispositional hearing because
Mother did not anticipate calling them to testify.
the contested dispositional hearing took place on September
26, 2018, DCFS continued to recommend termination of
jurisdiction. The minors' position had changed, however:
they now requested termination of jurisdiction with legal and
physical custody of the children to their father and
unmonitored visits in a public setting for Mother.
admitting DCFS's exhibits into evidence without
objection, the juvenile court asked, “Are any witnesses
to be called?”
counsel said, “Your Honor, I actually would like S[.C.]
to testify briefly as to a report that we have
received.” S.C. was present in court that day.
counsel objected on the ground that Mother had not filed any
document with the court “so that we would be... able to
inform my client that this was going to occur. It is
inappropriate for this to be asked for on the morning of the
trial.” Minors' counsel acknowledged that Mother
was likely making this request because Minors' counsel
had changed position on the requested disposition, but she
objected nonetheless, stating, “This information is in
the report. I believe it's [Evidence Code section]
court ruled, “Court notes that the adjudication was set
on July 19th. Court has procedures in place when contests are
set and that's for a joint trial exhibit to be provided
indicating what witnesses are to be called. Court has not
received a trial statement, and the court is denying the
request-the last-minute request for S[.C.] to testify
counsel responded, “Your Honor, that would be over
Mother's objection. I would note that Minors were in-were
in agreement with Mother's position to at least keep the
case open. [¶] As we walked in the door, [Minors'
counsel] told me that she is no longer in that position. The
joint trial statement policies were not instituted until
mid-August. This case was set before that. [¶] There was
also no date set for joint trial statements when this matter
was set for contest.”
is not the court's responsibility, ” said the
juvenile court. “Counsel knows what the procedures are
and they are to follow the court's procedures.”
counsel explained that the reason for her last-minute request
that S.C. testify was Minor's counsel's last minute
change in her recommended disposition. Mother's counsel
asked for a continuance if the court would not permit S.C. to
testify that day because no statement had been filed,
“so I can prepare a joint trial statement and then all
parties will be noticed that I would be asking for S[.C.] to
testify. [¶] I think my client is put at a disadvantage
for this last-minute information and change in position.
I'm ready to proceed and Minor is here.”
is denying the request, ” the court answered. “We
will proceed to argument if no witnesses are going to be
consulting with Mother, Mother's counsel said, “My
client would like to testify.”
court refused. “As the court stated earlier, unless the
court and counsel were given prior notice through the
statement of what witnesses will be called and what they will
be called to testify to. That was not done so court's not
going to allow any witnesses to be called at
the court just requested any witnesses to be called, ”
Mother's counsel replied. “My client would like to
testify in this matter. I believe she has a right to testify.
[¶] If the court is denying her right to testify in her
own defense for the disposition, then that would be over her
noted, ” the court said, and proceeded to hear
counsel asked for both children to be returned to her, but
indicated that Mother was particularly seeking placement of
S[.C.] in her care. She argued that Mother was more able to
meet S.C.'s medical needs than S.C.'s father was,
citing several medical issues that had arisen while S.C. was
in her father's custody. Mother's counsel cited
Mother's compliance with the case plan: She previously
had documented her completion of 19 of 21 domestic violence
group sessions, and had since completed the rest; she was
attending individual counseling; and she had completed a
parenting class. Mother had also taken an anger management
class although she had not been ordered to do so.
my client was not allowed by the court to testify, ”
Mother's counsel argued, “she would absolutely deny
any allegations that she remains in a relationship with [her
male companion with whom domestic violence had occurred]. She
is no longer in a relationship with him.” Mother's
counsel said that had the court permitted her to examine
S.C., “we would be cross-examining her on her
statements” in a report from the previous month.
on my client's active participation in her case plan and
the-she does have her proof of completion certificate with
her, I would ask that the court allow S[.C.], at the very
least, to return home of parent Mother and/or order for home
of parents for both children, and the court could perhaps
have a primary residence of Harley with the father and S.[C.]
with the Mother.” If the court was inclined to
terminate jurisdiction, she requested either a contested
hearing on the terms of the family law order or shared legal
and physical custody of the children, with primary custody of
S.C. and Harley with Mother unless Harley preferred to reside
primarily with his father.
juvenile court terminated jurisdiction and awarded sole
physical and joint legal custody to the children's
father. As Minors' counsel had recommended, the court
ordered visitation for Mother with the children, with visits
to be monitored if the visit took place in a private setting
and unmonitored if it occurred in public. Mother appeals.
Authority and Procedures for Adopting Local Rules
Scope of Power to Establish Local Rules
authority of California courts to promulgate local rules is
beyond dispute. “[T]rial courts possess inherent
rulemaking authority as well as rulemaking authority granted
by statute. (Rutherford v. Owens-Illinois, Inc.
(1997) 16 Cal.4th 953, 967, 67 Cal.Rptr.2d 16, 941 P.2d 1203
(Rutherford); Code Civ. Proc., §§ 128,
177, 575.1; Gov. Code, § 68070.) ‘It is... well
established that courts have fundamental inherent equity,
supervisory, and administrative powers, as well as inherent
power to control litigation before them. [Citation.]...
“... That inherent power entitles trial courts to
exercise reasonable control over all proceedings connected
with pending litigation... in order to insure the orderly
administration of justice. [Citation.]”'
[Citation.]” (Elkins v. Superior Court (2007)
41 Cal.4th 1337, 1351-1352 (Elkins).)
Legislature has constrained this authority by enacting
Government Code section 68070, which provides that courts may
institute only those local rules that are “not
inconsistent with law or with the rules adopted and
prescribed by the Judicial Council.” (Gov. Code, §
68070, subd. (a).) As a result, “[a] trial court is
without authority to adopt local rules or procedures that
conflict with statutes or with rules of court adopted by the
Judicial Council, or that are inconsistent with the
Constitution or case law.” (Elkins,
supra, 41 Cal.4th at p. 1351.) This limitation
applies whether the court's directive is characterized as
a local rule or as a court policy. (Jameson v. Desta
(2018) 5 Cal.5th 594, ...