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County of El Dorado v. Superior Court (Thomas Austin)

California Court of Appeals, Third District

October 30, 2019

COUNTY OF EL DORADO et al., Petitioners,
v.
The SUPERIOR COURT OF EL DORADO COUNTY, Respondent; Thomas Austin et al., Real Parties in Interest.

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDINGS in mandate. Stay issued. Petition denied. Warren C. Stracener, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. PC20150633)

Page 621

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 622

         COUNSEL

         Michael J. Ciccozzi and David Livingston, County Counsel, Kathleen A. Markham, Deputy County Counsel; Abbott & Kindermann, William W. Abbott, Sacramento, and Glen C. Hansen, Sacramento, for Petitioner.

          Jennifer Bacon Henning for California State Association of Counties, Rural County Representatives of California, and League of California Cities as Amici Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

          No appearance for Respondent.

         Kuzyk Law, Mark J. Leonardo, Malibu, Reid H. Breitman, Lancaster; Benedon & Serlin, Douglas G. Benedon, Lancaster, Wendy S. Albers, Woodland Hills, for Real Parties in Interest.

          Bernard Carlson in pro. per. for Friends of El Dorado County as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Real Parties in Interest.

          OPINION

         Butz, J.

Page 623

          Real parties in interest Thomas and Helen Austin (the Austins) filed an action to recover development impact fees under the Mitigation Fee Act (Gov. Code, � 66000 et seq.)[1] for the failure of petitioners County of El Dorado and its Community Development Agency (collectively "County")[2] to make prescribed findings to justify the continuing need for 11 fees assessed by the County and its special districts. The trial court denied a second demurrer that renewed the County’s previous claim that the limitations period for the Austins’ action expired. On the County’s petition for a writ of mandate to overturn this ruling, we issued an alternative writ or order to show cause and, with the acquiescence of the Austins, issued a stay of proceedings. On plenary review, we shall vacate the stay and deny the County’s petition for writ of mandate.[3]

          FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

          We do not act as an adjunct to the superior court’s motion department. We should exercise discretion to review rulings on pleadings with extreme reluctance, confining it "to instances of such grave nature or of ... significant legal impact." (Babb v. Superior Court (1971) 3 Cal.3d 841, 851, 92 Cal.Rptr. 179, 479 P.2d 379.) The present case is simply a desultory request by particular landowners for a refund of fees that a particular local entity failed to justify. We are not aware, at least through the vehicle of the present litigation, that floodgates will open to challenges of mitigation fees for failure to make these prescribed findings on a statewide basis[4] if we do not rule in the County’s behalf at the pleadings stage on the question of the proper limitations period. This is as opposed to the context of a subsequent ruling premised on a factual showing as to the limitations period, or a ruling on the merits of the underlying dispute that might moot the whole issue— in contrast with the Babb decision regarding the propriety of cross-complaints for malicious prosecution in pending actions. Moreover, if the purported size of the administrative record (as the County asserts) were a ground for writ ...


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