March 30, 2011

State building sale case is over . . . for now

A lawsuit to stop a real estate deal that would have turned the Supreme Court and others into tenants with a private landlord appears to be over, because the deal itself is (probably) over. We noted that new Governor Brown had scuttled the State buildings sale which former Governor Schwarzenegger had approved and that the end of the deal could moot the lawsuit. Today, the Sixth District Court of Appeal dismissed as moot a writ petition filed by opponents of the sale. Over the opponents’ objections, the court concluded in a published opinion that mootness was adequately proved and that the court would not decide the case despite the mootness as one “pos[ing] an issue of broad public interest that is likely to recur.”

This isn’t the end of the story, however. As the opinion notes, the jilted buyer has sued the State in Los Angeles Superior Court to either compel the sale or to recover damages. Also, the Sixth District left open the possibility that even the litigation before it could be revived. The Court of Appeal refused to issue an opinion under the “public interest” exception to the mootness doctrine because the buyer was not a party to the underlying lawsuit or to the writ petition. The court did say, however, that “[i]t presumably remains open to plaintiffs to attempt to join [the buyer] as a defendant in the court below.”

Further, the opponents can of course ask the Supreme Court to review today’s dismissal of their writ petition. If they go that route, the entire Supreme Court (aka “putative tenant”) will likely recuse itself, as it did when this case first was before that court, and the court will be made up of seven temporarily assigned justices from the Courts of Appeal, possibly the same seven who acted on the case at the end of last year.

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