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Quote of the Day - People who complain about the way the ball bounces are usually the ones who dropped it. - Unknown
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Complain? Who Complained? Not Me, But Hear My Case Anyway.

In the military, it's known as the chain of command.  If you're a Seaman who's got a beef with a Petty Officer, then before you talk about it to your Warrant Officer (or heaven help you an Ensign), you first talk to the Petty Officer.  You'll have to forgive me for not using Private, Corporal, Sergeant, Lieutenant.  I was in the Coast Guard, not the Army like my Dad.

There's a somewhat similar doctrine in the law.  It's called the exhaustion of administrative remedies.  Take, for example a zoning problem.  First you have to go to the Planning Commission, then the City Council or County Board of Supervisors (here in California - in Massachusetts they call the second level "selectmen") with your complaints about the zoning problem.  If you don't like the decisions from those two bodies, then you can go to court by filing what's known as a writ of mandate. 

A what?

You remember your high school civics class?  That's the whole purpose behind the checks and balances and the separation of powers.  One "co-equal" branch of government is not supposed to be able to tell the other what to do.  When the judiciary gets involved with either of the other two branches, however, the courts want to make sure you've first followed the chain of command and made your complaints to the Planning Commission and City Council.  By filing a writ of mandate, you empower the court (judicial branch) to evaluate the City's (legislative branch) decision and perhaps overturn it.  The court can't tell the City what to do, it can just overturn the City Council's decision and force reconsideration of the original decision, perhaps now considering your complaints. 

If you haven't first complained to the legislative branch, then you're likely to get tossed out of court on your ear. 

But what if you've filed a writ of mandate with the court complaining about a City decision based on complaints made to the City by someone else (not you)?  Do you automatically get tossed out on your ear because you didn't appeal the Planning Commission decision to the City Council (the party appealing to the court was not the same party who appealed the original decision from the Planning Commission to the City Council)? 

Not in California, apparently.  You can ride someone else's coattails.  According to the Third District Court of Appeal in beautiful San Joaquin, you can appeal a City Council decision based on someone else's appeal of the Planning Commission decision.   All that matters is whether you appeared and complained in the original hearing before the Planning Commission, according to the case of Citizens for Open Government v. City of Lodi.

What will they think of next? 

Pretty soon you won't even have to complain at all, as long as someone else did.  Then we can appeal just about everything.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, November 10, 2006 at 21:53 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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