Few things irk appellate justices more than poorly prepared court briefs — as attorneys for an Oakland company found out last week.
In an 11-page unpublished ruling on Friday, San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal threw out Alton Management Corp.’s appeal in a receivership case because of “substantial noncompliance” with the mandatory rules of appellate procedure. The court found that the company had waived any right to appeal because its briefs were so “poorly drafted.”
“Appellant’s briefs are in dramatic noncompliance with relevant rules of appellate procedure,” Justice Joanne Parrilli wrote. “In fact, this court could not determine the basis for appeal from reviewing appellants’ opening brief alone. Only after reviewing the record and respondent’s brief, and to a lesser extent appellants’ reply brief, could we begin to understand appellants’ contentions.”
Justices William McGuiness and Peter Siggins concurred.
Berkeley solo practitioner Gregory Harper, who represented Alton Management in the case, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Alton was appealing an Alameda County judge’s 2005 order awarding the company far less money and attorneys fees than it had requested for its role as the court-appointed receiver for a rundown rental property.
Specifically, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stephen Brick ordered payments of $50,406 to the receiver, $13,062 to the receiver’s attorney, $8,805 to a local plumber and nothing to an area construction company. The receiver had sought $76,000 for the receiver, $20,000 for the attorney, $8,805 for the plumber and $51,000 for the construction company.
In tossing the appeal, Parrilli chastised the company for filing briefs that failed to adequately identify the order from which the appeal was taken, didn’t provide a fair description of the order and provided an insufficient summary of the significant facts.
“To the extent appellants’ briefs can be said to include any summary of significant facts,” Parrilli wrote, “that summary is one-sided and largely without citation to the record.”
She also took the company to task for arguing that Rogers had waged “a campaign of untimely and unwarranted objections” to the adequacy of any work done by the receiver.
“Our independent review of the record,” Parrilli wrote, “reveals less a campaign of untimely and unwarranted objections by Rogers and more a history of inadequate accounting by the receiver. Appellants wholly ignore that evidence.”
The court’s ruling made it sound as if the city of Oakland also was involved in the preparation of the briefs. But Deputy City Attorney Kandis Westmore said the court was wrong.
“The city of Oakland did not participate in this appeal in any respect,” she said Tuesday. “We didn’t write one word of any brief, we submitted no documentation whatsoever in relation to this appeal. And I intend to write a letter to the court explaining just that and asking that they file a corrected brief.”
The ruling is City of Oakland v. Rogers, A110454.
— Mike McKee