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Bisnar Chase Files Lawsuit Against State Supreme Court

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Yesterday, we filed a lawsuit against the California Supreme Court and one of its appellate districts. Our suit contends that the courts violated our client’s constitutional rights of due process and equal protection rights.

We filed this lawsuit in connection with a recent Appellate Court decision that went against our client Joshua Hild, a young teenager, who was blinded in his right eye. The injury occurred when a Southern California Edison employee on duty, on Edison property fired a paintball gun at him. She played a very cruel and irresponsible trick on an unsuspecting child.

We contended that the employee was acting in her capacity as an Edison employee when she fired paintballs at Joshua and maintained that Edison was liable for Joshua’s serious injury. He was permanently blinded in the right eye as a result of that injury. A Los Angeles County jury ruled Edison is indeed liable and awarded Joshua $704,633.

But Edison appealed and on June 25, 2007, the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, issued its unpublished opinion, rejecting the jury’s verdict. Our problem is primarily with the court’s “unpublished verdict.” Why? Let me explain.

When an appellate court issues a decision like that, it used to be a traditional expectation to express that in a written opinion, elaborating the reasoning behind that decision. Unfortunately, most recent rules imposed by the State Supreme Court have changed that expectation. Now, only opinions that “make law” are published.

There are many problems when the courts do not publish a decision. First, an unpublished opinions lack “precedential value,” which means they cannot be cited as a precedent. The publication of decisions holds judges accountable for their opinions, thereby encouraging well thought-out and reasoned decisions as well as consistency in their decisions. There is no way that litigants or their attorneys can know whether the judges gave careful consideration to the facts of their case without published opinions! There is no transparency or accountability without published opinions.

Another important point is when a court issues an unpublished opinion, it drastically reduces the possibility of additional review. So essentially the buck stops at the Court of Appeals and in the case of our young client, Joshua and his family, they have no other recourse, but to stoically accept this decision and wonder for the rest of their lives why the appellate court did what it did.

The negative effects of these unpublished opinions don’t affect corporations and government entities as they do the common man. The people who really lose out on their constitutional rights are civil rights litigants, people who make claims on social security and others like Joshua, who may not have the political clout that a large corporation like Edison may have. This is a classic case of the judicial system shortchanging the little guy.

Our hope is that this lawsuit changes the inequitable manner in which our judicial system works. Our hope is that our client and thousands others like him in the state of California who trust their disputes to the California courts, get justice in the form of well reasoned, published opinions.

Click here to read the original case documents.

 

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  • Shenna Moqeet

    It is about time someone has the courage to finally challenge a truly unfair rule. Allowing Courts to have unpublished cases that cannot then be cited is an affront to the entire system of ‘justice.’ Who does the Appellate Court answer to if not itself. As the Legislature ruled in the 80’s that the CA Supreme Court could only accept and review a tiny percentage of all civil cases (because the CA Supreme Court has to devote the majority of its time reviewing all death penalty cases instead), now the Appellate Court often answers to no one. The Appellate Courts don’t even necessarily accept each others rulings (they often stated this in such ‘unpublished’ cases). What this allows is poorly exercised, “throw away rulings.” In uncitable cases, a Court can easily bury unfair, bad rulings without fear of review or repercussion. If all cases were citable, one would have to believe that Appellate Courts would give more careful thought to it’s rulings, particularly in the application of the laws equally for all; and justice would be more fairly meted out. Special interest groups would no longer be able to influence Courts to the extent they do now. If every case were citable, a Court’s ruling would necessarily have to follow another, or a good argument based on real law would have to be made as to why the prior ruling was wrong or invalid in said case. As you have stated, it is the ‘common man’ whose life is being hurt by the current and ridulous idea that only certain cases, and thus certain rulings are, in essence, valid. Perhaps the Courts need to be reminded that the California Constitution states ” a citizen or class of citizens may not be granted privileges or immunities not granted on the same terms to all citizens.” Allowing certain cases to be unpublished and thus be “uncitable” means the citizens in those cases have been granted lesser rights to be heard than those citizens in citable cases.

  • Clifford Johnson

    I’m in the process of drafting a federal complaint to likewise file in NDCal, attacking the state’s publication rules on generally the same as-applied grounds. In my case, the suit will cite a series of garbage appellate decisions that issued re three unrelated litigations in the past 20 years, in which I represented myself. If appellate courts can get away with such nonsense as you allege in dismissing the appeals of counsel, just imagine the liberties taken in dismissing pro pers appeals.

  • Wow, talk about an uphill battle.

  • Greetings,

  • Will you post a copy of the federal complaint online?

  • The complaint against the California Supreme Court is now posted on line. See the link at the end of the original October 5, 2007 article.

  • NAPSL

    I would like to stand up and applaud this law firm. You just gave me a glimmer of hope that there are good lawyers out there.

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