This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 10/17/2020 at 01:21:23 (UTC).

JULIUS JOHNSON VS MELISSA ENGLISH , ET AL.

Case Summary

On 06/10/2019 JULIUS JOHNSON filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against MELISSA ENGLISH . This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Spring Street Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is JAMES E. BLANCARTE. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******5546

  • Filing Date:

    06/10/2019

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Other Contract

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Spring Street Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Judge

JAMES E. BLANCARTE

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

JOHNSON JULIUS

Defendants

ENGLISH MELISSA

BURTON LUNONA

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Defendant Attorney

HASIC HALIL

 

Court Documents

Notice (name extension) - Notice Non-Opposition to Joint Petition to Confirm Arbitration

10/7/2020: Notice (name extension) - Notice Non-Opposition to Joint Petition to Confirm Arbitration

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award)

10/15/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award)

Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award)

7/29/2020: Minute Order - Minute Order (Hearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award)

Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for [Minute Order (Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to Strike; Hearing on De...)]

2/13/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - Certificate of Mailing for [Minute Order (Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to Strike; Hearing on De...)]

Minute Order - Minute Order (Court Order Re: Continuance of Hearing on Demurrer)

12/10/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (Court Order Re: Continuance of Hearing on Demurrer)

Opposition (name extension) - Opposition Opposition to Joint Demurrer

12/4/2019: Opposition (name extension) - Opposition Opposition to Joint Demurrer

Request for Judicial Notice - Request for Judicial Notice

10/30/2019: Request for Judicial Notice - Request for Judicial Notice

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint) - Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

10/30/2019: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint) - Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order - Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

9/23/2019: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order - Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

Amended Complaint - Amended Complaint

9/26/2019: Amended Complaint - Amended Complaint

Request for Judicial Notice - Request for Judicial Notice

7/25/2019: Request for Judicial Notice - Request for Judicial Notice

Demurrer - without Motion to Strike - Demurrer - without Motion to Strike

7/25/2019: Demurrer - without Motion to Strike - Demurrer - without Motion to Strike

Declaration (name extension) - Declaration Re Meet and Confer Per CCP 430.41

7/25/2019: Declaration (name extension) - Declaration Re Meet and Confer Per CCP 430.41

Complaint - Complaint

6/10/2019: Complaint - Complaint

Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

6/10/2019: Civil Case Cover Sheet - Civil Case Cover Sheet

Summons - Summons on Complaint

6/10/2019: Summons - Summons on Complaint

First Amended Standing Order - First Amended Standing Order

6/10/2019: First Amended Standing Order - First Amended Standing Order

Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case - Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case

6/10/2019: Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case - Notice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case

19 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 10/15/2020
  • DocketJudgment is to be entered for Defendant Lunona Burton and Defendant Melissa English, an individual against Plaintiff Julius Johnson, an individual on the Amended Complaint (1st) filed by Julius Johnson on 09/26/2019 for the principal amount of $6,855.00 for a total of $6,855.00.

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  • 10/15/2020
  • DocketMinute Order (Hearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award)

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  • 10/15/2020
  • DocketHearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award scheduled for 10/15/2020 at 11:00 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 updated: Result Date to 10/15/2020; Result Type to Held - Motion Granted

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  • 10/07/2020
  • DocketNotice Non-Opposition to Joint Petition to Confirm Arbitration; Filed by: Melissa English (Defendant); Lunona Burton (Defendant); As to: Julius Johnson (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/29/2020
  • DocketProof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by: Melissa English (Defendant); Lunona Burton (Defendant); As to: Julius Johnson (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/29/2020
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by: Melissa English (Defendant); Lunona Burton (Defendant)

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  • 07/29/2020
  • DocketHearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award scheduled for 10/15/2020 at 11:00 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25

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  • 07/29/2020
  • DocketMinute Order (Hearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award)

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  • 07/29/2020
  • DocketOn the Court's own motion, Hearing on Motion for Order To Confirm Arbitration Award scheduled for 07/29/2020 at 10:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 Held - Continued was rescheduled to 10/15/2020 11:00 AM

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  • 03/03/2020
  • DocketOn the Court's own motion, Non-Jury Trial scheduled for 12/07/2020 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 25 Not Held - Advanced and Vacated on 02/13/2020

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38 More Docket Entries
  • 07/25/2019
  • DocketDemurrer - without Motion to Strike; Filed by: Melissa English (Defendant); Lunona Burton (Defendant)

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  • 07/25/2019
  • DocketDeclaration Re Meet and Confer Per CCP 430.41; Filed by: Melissa English (Defendant); Lunona Burton (Defendant)

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  • 06/12/2019
  • DocketOrder to Show Cause Re: Failure to File Proof of Service scheduled for 06/13/2022 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 06/12/2019
  • DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 12/07/2020 at 08:30 AM in Stanley Mosk Courthouse at Department 94

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  • 06/12/2019
  • DocketCase assigned to Hon. James E. Blancarte in Department 94 Stanley Mosk Courthouse

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  • 06/10/2019
  • DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: Julius Johnson (Plaintiff); As to: Melissa English (Defendant); Lunona Burton (Defendant)

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  • 06/10/2019
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by: Julius Johnson (Plaintiff); As to: Melissa English (Defendant); Lunona Burton (Defendant)

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  • 06/10/2019
  • DocketFirst Amended Standing Order; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 06/10/2019
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Limited Civil Case; Filed by: Clerk

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  • 06/10/2019
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: Julius Johnson (Plaintiff); As to: Melissa English (Defendant); Lunona Burton (Defendant)

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: 19STLC05546    Hearing Date: October 15, 2020    Dept: 25

HEARING DATE:    Thu., October 15, 2020 JUDGE /DEPT: Blancarte/25

CASE NAME Johnson v. English, et al. COMP. FILED: 06-10-19

CASE NUMBER    19STLC05546 FAC: 09-26-19

NOTICE: OK DISC. C/O: NONE

MOTION C/O: NONE

TRIAL DATE: NOT SET

PROCEEDINGS: JOINT PETITION TO CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD  

MOVING PARTY:   Defendants/Petitioners Melissa English and Lunona Burton

RESP. PARTY: None

PETITION TO CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD  

(CCP § 1285, et seq.)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendants/Petitioners Melissa English and Lunona Burton’s Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award is GRANTED. Judgment to be entered against Plaintiff/Respondent pursuant to the Arbitration Award in the amount of $6,855.00. Defendants to file proposed judgment within ten (10) days’ notice of this order.

SERVICE

[X] Proof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) OK

[X] Correct Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) OK

[X] 16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) OK

OPPOSITION: None filed as of October 9, 2020 [   ] Late [X] None

REPLY: None filed as of October 9, 2020 [   ] Late [X] None

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background & Discussion

In April 2017, Defendants Melissa English (“English”) and Lunona Burton (“Burton”) signed an Attorney Fee Agreement (the “Agreement”) with Plaintiff Julius Johnson (“Johnson”) and The Law Office of Julius Johnson & Associates (“Law Offices”) to handle certain estate-related matters. (Pet., p. 3:6-11, English Decl., ¶ 2, Exh. A.) The Agreement included a provision requiring a “minimum non-refundable fee” of $6,500. (Id.)

On March 20, 2019, pursuant to the Agreement, English, Burton, Johnson, and Law Offices participated in an arbitration hearing conducted by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. (Id. at p. 3:22-23; English Decl., ¶ 3 Exh. B.)

On May 2, 2019, the Arbitrator rendered an award in favor of Defendants English and Burton and against Plaintiff Johnson and Law Offices, jointly and severally, in the amount of $6,855.00, which included a refund of the $6,500.00 retainer fee and costs of $355.00, plus interest at the legal rate from the 30th day after the date of service of the award (the “Arbitration Award”). (Id.)

On June 10, 2019, Plaintiff Johnson filed an action for breach of contract, common counts, and declaratory relief against Defendants English and Burton (collectively, “Defendants”). Johnson also filed a Rejection of Award and Request for Trial After Attorney-Client Arbitration. On September 26, 2019, Johnson filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) for common count/quantum meruit and declaratory relief. On October 30, 2019, Defendants filed a joint demurrer to Plaintiff’s FAC and to the Rejection of Award and Request for Trial After Attorney-Client Arbitration. On February 13, 2020, the Court sustained Defendants’ demurrer without leave to amend. (2/13/20 Minute Order.)

On January 15, 2020, Defendants filed the instant Joint Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award (the “Petition”) against Plaintiff Johnson. At the initial July 29, 2020 hearing, the Court granted Defendants’ request for judicial notice and found that the Petition satisfied the filing requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 1285.4, the service requirements of Sections 1283.6 and 1290.4, and the timeliness requirements of Sections 1288 and 1288.4. (7/29/20 Minute Order.) Although the Court was inclined to grant the Petition, it noted that the Notice of Hearing stated the hearing would take place in Department 94 at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse and that no updated notice with the correct hearing location was filed. (Id.) Thus, the Court ordered Defendants to file and serve an updated notice of hearing. (Id.)

That same day, Defendants filed a Notice of Ruling demonstrating they gave Plaintiff proper notice of the continued hearing. (7/29/20 Notice of Ruling, Proof of Service.) As the Court previously found all requirements of the Petition had been satisfied (7/29/20 Minute Order), and as Plaintiff has now been given proper notice, the Petition is GRANTED. Judgment to be entered in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff.

A. Attorney’s Fees and Costs

Defendants also argue that, pursuant to the Agreement, they are entitled to recover reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. (Pet., p. 5:26-28.) The Agreement states, in pertinent part, “…the prevailing party in ay [sic] such arbitration shall be awarded its reasonable costs and attorney’s fees incurred in connection with the dispute.” (Id., English Decl., ¶ 3, Exh. B.) Costs are also independently permitted on a petition to confirm an arbitration award. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1293.2; MBNA America Bank, N.A. v. Gorman (2006) 147 Cal.App.4th.Supp. 1, 7.) Defendants’ request for attorney’s fees and costs to be considered pursuant to a noticed motion and memorandum of costs.

IV. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Defendants/Petitioners Melissa English and Lunona Burton’s Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award is GRANTED. Judgment to be entered against Plaintiff/Respondent pursuant to the Arbitration Award in the amount of $6,855.00. Defendants to file proposed judgment within ten (10) days’ notice of this order.

Moving parties are ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 19STLC05546    Hearing Date: July 29, 2020    Dept: 25

HEARING DATE:    Wed., July 29, 2020 JUDGE /DEPT: Blancarte/25

CASE NAME Johnson v. English, et al. COMP. FILED: 06-10-19

CASE NUMBER    19STLC05546 FAC: 09-26-19

NOTICE: NO (Hearing Location)  DISC. C/O: NONE

MOTION C/O: NONE

TRIAL DATE: NONE

PROCEEDINGS: JOINT PETITION TO CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD  

MOVING PARTY:   Defendants Melissa English and Lunona Burton

RESP. PARTY: None

PETITION TO CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD  

(CCP § 1285, et seq.)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendants Melissa English and Lunona Burton’s Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award is GRANTED ON THE CONDITION THAT, before the hearing, Defendants file a proof of service demonstrating they notified Plaintiff of the change in hearing location.

Otherwise, the hearing is CONTINUED TO OCTOBER 15, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE. If continued, at least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Defendants must file a supplemental proof of service demonstrating Plaintiff was given proper notice of the updated hearing location. Failure to do so may result in the Petition being placed off calendar or denied.

SERVICE

[X] Proof of Service Timely Filed (CRC, rule 3.1300) OK

[X] Correct Address (CCP §§ 1013, 1013a) OK

[X] 16/21 Court Days Lapsed (CCP §§ 12c, 1005(b)) OK

OPPOSITION: None filed as of July 27, 2020 [   ] Late [X] None

REPLY: None filed as of July 27, 2020 [   ] Late [X] None

ANALYSIS:

  1. Background

In April 2017, Defendants Melissa English (“English”) and Lunona Burton (“Burton”) signed an Attorney Fee Agreement (the “Agreement”) with Plaintiff Julius Johnson (“Johnson”) and The Law Office of Julius Johnson & Associates (“Law Offices”) to handle certain estate-related matters. (Pet., p. 3:6-11, English Decl., ¶ 2, Exh. A.) The Agreement included a provision requiring a “minimum non-refundable fee” of $6,500. (Id.)

On March 20, 2019, pursuant to the Agreement, English, Burton, Johnson, and Law Offices participated in an arbitration hearing conducted by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. (Id. at p. 3:22-23; English Decl., ¶ 3 Exh. B.)

On May 2, 2019, the Arbitrator rendered an award in favor of Defendants English and Burton and against Plaintiff Johnson and Law Offices, jointly and severally, in the amount of $6,855.00, which included a refund of the $6,500.00 retainer fee, costs of $355.00, plus interest at the legal rate from the 30th day after the date of service of the award (the “Arbitration Award”). (Id.)

On June 10, 2019, Plaintiff Johnson filed an action for breach of contract, common counts, and declaratory relief against Defendants English and Burton (collectively, “Defendants”). Johnson also filed a Rejection of Award and Request for Trial After Attorney-Client Arbitration. On September 26, 2019, Johnson filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) for common count/quantum meruit and declaratory relief. On October 30, 2019, Defendants filed a Joint Demurrer to Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint and to the Rejection of Award and Request for Trial After Attorney-Client Arbitration (the “Demurrer”). On February 13, 2020, the Court sustained Defendants’ demurrer without leave to amend.

On January 15, 2020, Defendants filed the instant Joint Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award (the “Petition”) against Plaintiff Johnson. To date, no opposition has been filed.

  1. Judicial Notice

Defendants request that the court take judicial notice of (1) the Complaint filed on June 10, 2019, (2) the demurrer filed on July 25, 2019, (3) the First Amended Complaint filed on September 26, 2019, (4) the demurrer filed on October 30, 2019, (5) the opposition to the joint demurrer filed on December 4, 2019, and (6) the entire docket in this action. (Request for Judicial Notice, p. 2.)

Defendants’ request is GRANTED. (Evid. Code, § 452, subd. (d).)

  1. Legal Standard & Discussion

 

A. Filing Requirements of a Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award (CCP § 1285.4)

CCP § 1285.4 states: “A petition under this chapter shall:

  1. Set forth the substance of or have attached a copy of the agreement to arbitrate unless the petitioner denies the existence of such an agreement.

  2. Set forth the names of the arbitrators.

(c) Set forth or have attached a copy of the award and the written opinion of the arbitrators, if any.”

(Emphasis added.)

Here, Defendants attached a copy of the parties’ Agreement, which includes an arbitration provision. (Pet., English Decl., ¶ 3, Exh. A.) The Petition also sets forth the name of the neutral Arbitrator and includes a copy of the Arbitration Award. (Id. at ¶ 3, Exh. B.) Thus, the Petition complies with the above requirements.  

B. Service of the Arbitration Award, Petition, and Notice of Hearing (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1283.6, 1290.4)

Code of Civil Procedure, section 1283.6 provides that “[t]he neutral arbitrator shall serve a signed copy of the award on each party to the arbitration personally or by registered or certified mail or as provided in the agreement.”  (Italics added.)

Code of Civil Procedure, section 1290.4 states, in pertinent part:

“(a) A copy of the petition and a written notice of the time and place of the hearing thereof and any other papers upon which the petition is based shall be served in the manner provided in the arbitration agreement for the service of such petition and notice.

(c) If the arbitration agreement does not provide the manner in which such service shall be made and the person on whom service is to be made has previously appeared in the proceeding or has previously been served in accordance with subdivision (b) of this section, service shall be made in the manner provided in Chapter 5 (commencing with Section 1010 ) of Title 14 of Part 2 of this code.

In addition, a party may seek a court judgment confirming an arbitration award by filing and serving a petition at least 10 days, but no more than four years after the award is served on respondents and petitioners.  (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1288, 1288.4.) (Italics added.)

Defendants included a proof of service demonstrating the neutral Arbitrator served a copy of the Arbitration Award on the parties via first-class mail on May 2, 2019. (Pet., English Decl., ¶ 3, Exh. B.)

As noted above, Code of Civil Procedure section 1283.6 requires that the neutral arbitrator’s service by mail be done by registered or certified mail. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1283.6.) (Italics added.) However, a Court may confirm an arbitration award despite an irregularity in service by the arbitrator when the non-moving party has not any suffered prejudice. (Murray v. Civil Service Emp. Ins. Co. (1967) 254 Cal.App.2d 796, 799; see also United Brotherhood of Carpenters etc., Local 642 v. Demello (1972) 22 Cal.App.3d 838, 840 [affirming confirmation of arbitration award despite an irregularity in statutory signature requirements because appellant did not demonstrate it was prejudiced by said statutory violation].) Here, the Arbitrator served both parties by mail, albeit in a slightly different manner than required by statute. In addition, Plaintiff was served with a copy of the Arbitration Award again with this Petition. Indeed, “the sole function of the service of an award upon the parties to an arbitration is to give them notice of the existence and contents of the award.” (Murray v. Civil Service Emp. Ins. Co., supra, at p. 799.) The Court finds that function was satisfied here, and Plaintiff has not filed an opposition demonstrating otherwise.

In addition, the Petition was filed at least 10 days but no more than four years after the Arbitration Award was served on the parties.

Furthermore, Defendants’ proof of service demonstrates that Plaintiff was served with the Petition and notice of hearing via first-class mail and e-mail on January 15, 2020. (Pet., Proof of Service.) Importantly, the notice of hearing states the hearing will be held in Department 94 at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse located at 111 N. Hill St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. (Pet., p. 2:2-7.) Defendants did not file an updated notice noting the hearing is set to be heard in Department 25 of the Spring Street Courthouse. However, because Defendants have satisfied all other requirements, and in the interest of judicial economy, their request to confirm the Arbitration Award is GRANTED ON THE CONDITION THAT they file a proof of service before the hearing demonstrating they gave Plaintiff timely notice of the change in hearing location. Otherwise, the Petition will be CONTINUED.

C. Attorney’s Fees and Costs

Finally, Defendants argue that, pursuant to the Agreement, they are entitled to recover reasonable costs and attorney’s fees. (Pet., p. 5:26-28.) The Agreement states, in pertinent part, “…the prevailing party in ay [sic] such arbitration shall be awarded its reasonable costs and attorney’s fees incurred in connection with the dispute.” (Id., English Decl., ¶ 3, Exh. B.) Costs are also independently permitted on a petition to confirm an arbitration award. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1293.2; MBNA America Bank, N.A. v. Gorman (2006) 147 Cal.App.4th.Supp. 1, 7.) If the Petition is granted, Defendants are to file a memorandum of costs pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 3.1700 and a noticed motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 3.1702.

IV. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Defendants Melissa English and Lunona Burton’s Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award is GRANTED ON THE CONDITION THAT, before the hearing, Defendants file a proof of service demonstrating they notified Plaintiff of the change in hearing location.

Otherwise, the hearing is CONTINUED TO OCTOBER 15, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. in Department 25 at the SPRING STREET COURTHOUSE. If continued, at least 16 court days before the next scheduled hearing, Defendants must file a supplemental proof of service demonstrating Plaintiff was given proper notice of the updated hearing location. Failure to do so may result in the Petition being placed off calendar or denied.

Moving parties are ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 19STLC05546    Hearing Date: February 13, 2020    Dept: 25

DEMURRER

(CCP § 430.41)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendants Melissa English and Lunona Burton’s Demurrer to Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint is SUSTAINED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND.

OPPOSITION: Filed on December 4, 2019 [X] Late [ ] None

REPLY: None filed as of February 8, 2020 [ ] Late [X] None

ANALYSIS:

I. Background

In April 2017, Defendants Melissa English (“English”) and Lunona Burton (“Burton”) signed an Attorney Fee Agreement (the “Fee Agreement”) with Plaintiff Julius Johnson (“Johnson”) and The Law Office of Julius Johnson & Associates (“Law Offices”) to handle certain estate-related matters. (Mot., p. 5:4-7.) The Agreement included a provision requiring a “minimum non-refundable fee” of $6,500. (Request for Judicial Notice (“RJN”), p. 8:16-19.) Johnson and Law Offices were discharged in November 2017. (Mot., p. 5:10-12.)

On March 20, 2019, pursuant to Business and Professions Code sections 6200, et seq. and the Fee Agreement, English, Burton, Johnson, and Law Offices participated in an arbitration hearing conducted by the Los Angeles County Bar Association. (Id. at p. 5:15-17.) At the hearing, Johnson refused to sign the form for binding arbitration, but was unable to articulate a reason allowing him to do so. (RJN, Exh. 2, p. 11, ¶¶ 33-34.) On May 2, 2019, neutral arbitrator Dennis Rihn (“Arbitrator”) found, in pertinent part, that the Fee Agreement was invalid and unenforceable but that Johnson and Law Offices were entitled to the reasonable value of the services they provided. (Id. at p. 13, ¶ A; p. 25, ¶ B.) However, because some of the services provided by Johnson and Law Offices were performed before the parties executed an agreement, and most importantly, because Johnson and Law Offices “did no legal work which had value for [English and Burton],” the Arbitrator found that the reasonable value of any services provided was $0.00. (Id. at p. 25, ¶ B.) Accordingly, the Arbitrator rendered an award in favor of English and Burton and against Johnson and Law Offices, jointly and severally, in the amount of $6,855.00, which included a refund of the $6,500.00 retainer fee and costs of $355.00 (the “Arbitration Award”). (Id. at p. 26.)

On June 10, 2019, Plaintiff Johnson filed an action for breach of contract, common counts, and declaratory relief against Defendants English and Burton (collectively, “Defendants”). Johnson also filed a Rejection of Award and Request for Trial After Attorney-Client Arbitration. On September 26, 2019, Johnson filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) for common count/quantum meruit and for declaratory relief.

On October 30, 2019, Defendants filed the instant Joint Demurrer to Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint and to the Rejection of Award and Request for Trial After Attorney-Client Arbitration (the “Demurrer”). On December 4, 2019, Johnson filed a late Opposition. To date, no reply brief has been filed.

On January 15, 2020, Defendants filed a Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award, which will be heard on July 29, 2020.

II. Legal Standard

“The primary function of a pleading is to give the other party notice so that it may prepare its

case [citation], and a defect in a pleading that otherwise properly notifies a party cannot be said to

affect substantial rights.” (Harris v. City of Santa Monica (2013) 56 Cal.4th 203, 240.)

“A demurrer tests the legal sufficiency of the factual allegations in a complaint.” (Ivanoff v. Bank of

America, N.A. (2017) 9 Cal.App.5th 719, 725.) The Court looks to whether “the complaint alleges

facts sufficient to state a cause of action or discloses a complete defense.” (Id.) The Court does not

“read passages from a complaint in isolation; in reviewing a ruling on a demurrer, we read the

complaint ‘as a whole and its parts in their context.’ [Citation.]” (West v. JPMorgan Chase Bank,

N.A. (2013) 214 Cal.App.4th 780, 804.) The Court “assume[s] the truth of the properly pleaded

factual allegations, facts that reasonably can be inferred from those expressly pleaded and matters of

which judicial notice has been taken.” (Harris, supra, 56 Cal.4th p. 240.) “The court does not,

however, assume the truth of contentions, deductions or conclusions of law. [Citation.]” (Durell v.

Sharp Healthcare (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 1350, 1358.)

A general demurrer may be brought under Code of Civil Procedure section 430.10, subdivision (e) if insufficient facts are stated to support the cause of action asserted or under section 430.10, subdivision (a), where the court has no jurisdiction of the subject of the cause of action alleged in the pleading. Special demurrers are not allowed in limited jurisdiction courts. (Code Civ. Proc., § 92, subd. (c).)

Leave to amend must be allowed where there is a reasonable possibility of successful amendment. (Goodman v. Kennedy (1976) 18 Cal.3d 335, 348.) The burden is on the complainant to show the Court that a pleading can be amended successfully. (Id.)

Finally, Code of Civil Procedure section 430.41 requires that “[b]efore filing a demurrer pursuant to this chapter, the demurring party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who filed the pleading that is subject to demurrer for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached that would resolve the objections to be raised in the demurrer.” (Code Civ. Proc., § 430.41, subd. (a).) The parties are to meet and confer at least five days before the date the responsive pleading is due. (Code Civ. Proc., § 430.41, subd. (a)(2).) Thereafter, the demurring party shall file and serve a declaration detailing their meet and confer efforts. (Code Civ. Proc., § 430.41, subd. (a)(3).)

III. Request for Judicial Notice

Defendants request that the Court take judicial notice of the California Secretary of State webpage reflecting the status for Law Offices as “FTB Suspended” and of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Attorney Client Mediation Services, “Amended Statement of Decision and Award” in the Matter of Melissa English and Lunona Burton v. Julius Johnson and the Law Offices of Julius Johnson & Associates, Case No. M-270-18-JB. (RJN, Exhs. 1, 2.)

Defendants’ request is GRANTED. (Evid. Code, § 452, subd. (c), (d).)

IV. Discussion

As an initial matter, the Court finds that the Demurrer is accompanied by a meet and confer declaration as required by Code of Civil Procedure section 430.41, subdivision (a). (Demurrer, Hasic Decl., ¶ 2-3.)

Defendants demur to the entire FAC on the basis that the Court does not have jurisdiction over this matter because it has already been decided in arbitration, and thus the Court has no power to disturb the Arbitration Award. (Mot., p. 3:8-13.) In his Opposition, Plaintiff argues that he does not seek to disturb the Award, and is merely seeking redress in civil court to recover the reasonable value of his legal services. (Oppo., p. 3:8-12.)

The Court notes that Johnson filed a Rejection of Award and Request for Trial After Attorney-Client Fee Arbitration, and in that sense is seeking to disturb the Arbitration Award.

Business and Professions Code section 6204 provides, in pertinent part,

“The parties may agree in writing to be bound by the award of arbitrators appointed pursuant to this article at any time after the dispute over fees, costs, or both, has arisen. In the absence of such an agreement, either party shall be entitled to a trial after arbitration if sought within 30 days…”

(Bus. & Prof. Code, § 6204, subd. (a).)

Here, a copy of the Award was served by mail on the parties on May 2, 2019, but Johnson did not file his rejection and request for trial until 39 days later. Thus, Johnson’s request for trial is untimely. Accordingly, although the Arbitration Award was not initially binding, because a challenge was not timely initiated, it became binding thirty days after service of the award, i.e., on June 1, 2019. (See Loeb v. Record (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 431, 443 [finding that an arbitration award becomes binding if not challenged by initiating a trial after arbitration within 30 days after mailing of the notice of the award].)

The Court next considers the effect of the binding Arbitration Award on Johnson’s present action. Business and Professions Code section 6204 provides that the award and determinations of the arbitrators are not admissible nor operate as collateral estoppel or res judicata in any action or proceeding. (Bus. & Prof. Code, section 6204, subd. (e).) However, a binding arbitration award is not meaningless; once an award is binding, “neither party may seek to undo the award by instituting legal proceedings challenging the amount of fees to which the attorneys are entitled.” (Liska v. The Arms Law Firm (2004) 117 Cal.App.4th 275, 287.)

As noted above, the Arbitration Award became binding after Johnson and Law Offices failed to initiate a timely challenge. Under Johnson’s first cause of action, which he labels “common count/quantum meruit,” he alleges that he “is entitled to retain the $6,000 [sic] paid to him and the Law Office of Julius Johnson.” (FAC, ¶ 18.) (Italics added.) This language indicates Johnson is not seeking to recover money for services provided, but rather is seeking to keep what has already been paid to him by Defendants. This is impermissible, as Johnson is creatively and indirectly attempting to circumvent the Arbitration Award’s determination that Johnson and Law Offices are entitled to $0.00 for services rendered.

Similarly, Johnson’s second cause of action seeks a “judicial determination of his rights and duties, and a declaration as to the amount [D]efendants owe [P]lantiff for legal services.” (FAC, ¶ 22.) Again, Johnson is attempting to sidestep the amount of fees which an Arbitrator has already decided Johnson is entitled to.

Thus, as Johnson’s FAC seeks to disturb the binding Arbitration Award’s determination that Johnson and Law Offices are entitled to $0.00 for legal services provided to Defendants, the Court finds that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over this action.

Having found that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the matter, the Court does not analyze Defendants’ remaining arguments for lack of standing and failure to state a cause of action.

Thus, Defendants’ Demurrer is SUSTAINED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND.

V. Conclusion & Order

For the foregoing reasons, Defendants Melissa English and Lunona Burton’s Demurrer to Plaintiff’s First Amended Complaint is SUSTAINED WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

Case Number: 19STLC05546    Hearing Date: December 02, 2019    Dept: 94

Johnson v. English, et al.

DEMURRER

(CCP § 430.10 et seq.)

TENTATIVE RULING:

Defendants Melissa English and Lunona Burton’s Joint Demurrer to the Complaint is PLACED OFF CALENDAR AS MOOT.

ANALYSIS:

On June 10, 2019, Plaintiff Julius Johnson (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint for breach of contract and common counts against Defendants Melissa English and Lunona Burton (“Defendants”). On July 25, 2019, Defendants filed the instant Demurrers to the Complaint. On September 26, 2019, Plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint. Accordingly, the hearing on the Demurrer to the same is PLACED OFF CALENDAR AS MOOT.

Court clerk to give notice.