Archive for January, 2016

20
Jan

The law of evictions – titled as “unlawful detainer” in California – is a technical area. The law has statutory roots as far back as the Forcible Entry Act of 1381, which prohibited the use of self-help to retake possession of real property.

That remains an important concept in an action based on the unlawful detainer statutes.  The principal objective in an action for unlawful detainer is a judicial determination whether the plaintiff or defendant is entitled, at that time, to possession of the property.  Unlawful detainer does not focus on ownership, and case law holds that the issue of plaintiff’s title to the property cannot be litigated in an unlawful detainer proceeding.

So, the objective is up to obtain a judgment for unlawful detainer, coupled with issuance of a writ of possession.  By law, the writ of possession is delivered to the sheriff, who has the responsibility to serve and enforce the writ of possession, ultimately using the sheriff’s office to restore possession to the plaintiff.

Remember – no self-help.  The court issues a judgment for possession, together with a writ of possession.  The sheriff enforces the writ of possession and restores possession to the plaintiff.

Fresno real estate lawyer

Now mix in issues arising under bankruptcy law.  In In re Perl, __ F.3d __ (Jan. 8, 2016), the plaintiff in an unlawful detainer action obtained judgment and the court issued a writ of possession.  The writ was delivered to the sheriff.  Then, before the sheriff effected service, the tenant filed for bankruptcy.  Does the Sheriff’s actions in enforcing the writ of possession violate the automatic stay created under bankruptcy law?

“The question in this case is whether Perl had any remaining legal or equitable possessory interest in the property after … the state court fully adjudicated in the unlawful detainer proceedings.”  According to the 9th Circuit, the answer is No.

More specifically, “We conclude that under California law, entry of judgment and a writ of possession following unlawful detainer proceedings extinguishes all other legal and equitable possessory interests in the real property at issue.”

In so doing, the court overruled the decisions in In re Di Giorgio, 200 B.R. 664 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 1996) and In re Butler, 271 B.R. 867 (Bankr. C.D. Cal. 2002).

It gets more interesting when the court reviewed the statutory scheme.  The court found that “Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 415.46, no occupant of the premises retains any possessory interest of any kind following service of the writ of possession.”

Comment – Look up CCP § 415.46 for yourself.  It deals with the prejudgment claim to possession that can be asserted by third parties in possession of the property.  The court’s analysis is not supported by statute.

Thus, the court concluded that “The unlawful detainer judgment and writ of possession entered pursuant to California Code Civil Procedure § 415.46 bestowed legal title and all rights of possession upon Eden Place.  Thus, at the time of the filing of the bankruptcy petition, Perl had been completely divested of all legal and equitable possessory rights that would otherwise be protected by the automatic stay.  Consequently, the Sheriff’s lockout did not violate the automatic stay because no legal or equitable interests in the property remained to become part of the bankruptcy estate.”

Comment – I can’t agree.  Possession could be restored only by the sheriff acting pursuant to the writ of possession issued by the court.  As possession was restored by enforcement of a court order, I believe the act of restoring possession necessarily impacted the bankruptcy stay.

Category : Case law | Developments | Real Property | Blog
8
Jan

Strange how an idea that was once old can become new again.  Roscoe Pound, Dean of the Harvard Law School, was a prolific legal writer in the 1920s and 1930s.  From my perspective, his best work concerned the development of the American legal system from 1850 through 1900, as America reached the end of its Western expansion.

Writing in 1938, Dean Pound discussed why legislation was not effective to address rapidly-changing areas of the law.  Here is Dean Pound’s analysis:

“It would seem that while legislation has proved an effective agency of ridding the law of particular institutions and precepts which have come down from the past and have not been adapted or were not adaptable to the needs of the time, it has not been able, in our legal system, except in rare instances, to do much of the constructive work of change in eras of growth.  So far as everyday relations and conflicts of interests are concerned, it has not been able to anticipate new demands nor to move fast enough when they made themselves felt through litigation.”  Roscoe Pound, The Formative Era of American Law (Little, Brown and Company 1938), pp. 44-45.

Fresno real estate lawyer

At the same time, I was reading a new law review article by Professor Mark Burge, discussing the future of the law of payment systems.  Once upon a time, the law of payment systems dealt principally with bank drafts, checks, and bills of exchange.  These days, the law of payment systems also encompasses credit cards, debit cards, ETF’s, Apple Pay, and Bitcoin.

As is apparent, payment systems is a rapidly developing area of the law.  In his article, Prof. Burge discusses why efforts at codification via the Uniform Commercial Code have failed, in large part because opponents of consumer protection provisions have “spiked the cannon” (my words, not his).  Note Professor Burge’s analysis of legislative action in this area:

“Public law should presumptively not be the governing device for payments, although the presumption is a rebuttable one … Experience provides three interrelated reasons to err on the side of private governance.

“First, private law is more capable of adapting to technological change in a meaningful timeframe … Public legislative or regulatory process is not nimble enough to keep up with the times. That fact is not a design flaw in deliberative democracy; it is an intentional feature where the intention dates at least as far back as the United States Constitution …

“Second, after bright-line public law protections of system users are in place, the remaining incentives will be for system operators to conduct themselves in a manner that produces the most social benefit.

“Finally, the parties operating a payment system are in the best position to determine allocation of risks unaccounted for by limited public law, and also to handle a limited collection of risks that public law should impose.”

Although separated by 80 years, Prof. Burge’s analysis is not far off the mark from Dean Pound.  Reminding us that everything old is new again.

Mark Edwin Burge, Apple Pay, Bitcoin, and Consumers: the ABCs of Future Public Payments Law, forthcoming in 67 Hastings L.J. (2016)

Category : Developments | Law Reviews | Legal history | Blog