Harle v. Williams (CA1 3/14/19)

Holding that an agreement preventing execution of a judgment tolls the expiration of the judgment’s effective period. This is not news but doesn’t come up all the time even though the fact situation here was routine, which may be why the court published it.

A lawsuit settlement agreement included a stipulated judgment plus a covenant not to execute as long as settlement payments were made. Judgment was entered in 2011; Defendant stopped making payments in 2014, Plaintiff recorded the judgment and began collection proceedings in 2016. At the time, 12-1551 limited the execution period to five years (its now ten) so Defendant filed a motion (presumably for dismissal, though the court does not tell us). The trial court denied it.

The Court of Appeals affirms. It is established law that the enforcement period does not begin to run as long as the judgment is not enforceable. Defendant’s argument was that this does not apply to a private agreement but North Star held otherwise over twenty years ago. The period for enforcement and for renewal did not begin to run until Defendant breached the agreement.

The opinion does not go into great detail; its function is to point out the precedent.

(Opinion: Harle v. Williams)

A Note to our Readers

A few things:

1. Some wondered why we didn’t blog anything for a couple of months. No reason other than that there are so few reported civil opinions nowadays that random distribution can open large gaps between noteworthy ones. (We mean “civil” in a traditional sense; there are opinions galore if you want to read about battling spouses, refractory juveniles, and those with various sociopolitical discontents, which courts sometimes and for certain bureaucratic purposes class as civil disputes.) Its interesting that when two cases worth blogging did finally come along (Gibson and Brittner) they came neither from a trial result nor even, in their origins, from the civil bench. That is the way of the future; the judges’ long efforts to drive civil trials from the courtroom have largely succeeded and their recent efforts to claw back some of the business largely won’t.

2. Some will want to be aware of Ansley v. Banner Health. We didn’t blog it because it is just another battle in the long and tiresome (but lucrative) balance-billing war between the plaintiffs’ bar and the hospitals. Spoiler: the hospitals lose.

3. Some citations in our blogs, both new and old, will begin to include links to cases and statutes. The Casetext legal-research platform has been reaching out to law bloggers to arrange this. We agreed to it as a service for readers, not as a plug for Casetext, though it seems a reasonable alternative to the complexities — and cost — of the Big Two if you need straightforward case-and-statute stuff.

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Brittner v. Lanzilotta (CA1 3/12/19)

Another judicial immunity case, issued the same day as Gibson. Gibson involved appointees who provided services to a party, distinguishing cases involving appointees who provided services to the court. This case involves an appointee who served both.

The case arises out of a custody dispute. The family court appointed Defendant as a therapeutic interventionist. (Predictably, if you’ve read Gibson or our blog of it, the court refers to this as a TI. Since there is no traditional shorthand for this, and since we can’t claim complete familiarity with what such a thing is, we will, pace Gibson, use the court’s form.) The court used the TI’s recommendations in its decree. Plaintiff then sued the TI for intentional infliction, breach of fiduciary duty, and other things. Defendant moved to dismiss, citing judicial immunity. The trial court granted the motion.

The Court of Appeals affirms. Defendant was appointed both to advise the court and to provide services to the parties. The court says that the services were incidental to the advice and that it is “neither practical nor possible” to separate them. Defendant therefore “performed functions integral to the judicial process.” It distinguishes the case Plaintiff relied on, in which the appointed therapist was just a therapist and did not report to the court.

The court doesn’t say much about the facts and perhaps the record doesn’t, either, being the appeal of dismissal of a Complaint filed by a pro se. If “neither practical nor possible” is a comment on the facts then this case could be consistent with Gibson. But the comment seems to be one of principle: “We do not parcel out therapeutic service from evaluation and reporting to the court. . .” So can an appointed therapist who commits malpractice while providing therapy escape liability because she also advises the judge? Does it make a difference whether the judge accepts or rejects the advice (the court here emphasizes that the family court accepted Defendant’s recommendations)? These thoughts might have given the Gibson court pause. And the court goes on to say “nor do we limit immunity only for services related to the judicial process.” which doesn’t sound like Gibson.

(Opinion: Brittner v. Lanzilotta)