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Noncompliance of a Party or Court Clerk With Statutory Notice Requirements Does Not Render a Judgment Void

The parties entered into a settlement agreement. The Orange County court then granted Defendant’s motion to enforce the settlement agreement and later for attorney fees as well. The Orange County trial court then entered the judgment for Defendant on April 30, 2007 unbeknownst to Plaintiff. The file however contained an earlier version of the notice, which was actually served on Plaintiff, with subsequent handwritten corrections and revisions. Neither the revisions including the judgment, nor the entry of judgement was served on Plaintiff. In November 2007 Plaintiff’s Orange County attorney learned that a judgment was entered in the case and that the court’s file had no proof of service. Plaintiff’s Orange County attorney promptly filed a motion in the Orange County Superior Court to vacate the judgment. The basis for the motion was failure to comply with statutory notice requirements. Then, in December 2007 the Orange County trial court cancelled the April 30, 2007 order due to lack of notice and deemed the judgment actually filed on December 11, 2017. Plaintiff’s Orange County attorney appealed.

On appeal Plaintiff’s Orange County attorney made two arguments for finding the judgment void. First, that failure to comply with statutory requirements for notice of entry of judgment rendered the judgment void. Second, that extrinsic fraud rendered the judgment void. The Court quickly rejected Plaintiff’s Orange County attorney’s second argument based on fraud because there was no finding in the Orange County trial court record of extrinsic fraud, nor had Plaintiff raised the issue in a specific pleading, nor in its motion to vacate at the trial court.

The pertinent issue is whether a trial court exceeds its jurisdiction by vacating an earlier judgement that did not comply with statutory notice requirements, and then reinstates that judgment at a later date. The statutory notice requirements are clear. Code of Civil Procedure section 664.5 provides two requirements for notice of entry of judgment: (1) a party must serve notice on all parties who have appeared in the action along with proof of said service, and (2) the court clerk must “promptly” mail notice of entry of judgment to all parties after judgment is entered. California Rules of Court, rule 8.25 additionally requires that a party must serve the attorney of each party separately represented in the action before filing any document.

However, a party’s failure or a court clerk’s failure to comply with the section 664.5 requirements, or with rule 8.25, does not render a judgment void. Instead, the Orange County Court of Appeal explained that the consequence is an appellant then has 180 days, opposed to 60 days, from the entry of judgment to file an appeal. Less clear is why no other case law appeared to arrive at this conclusion until now. The Court suggested that it is perhaps due to other Court’s considering such a conclusion too obvious to state. Thus the earlier judgement in the Orange County trial court was not void, and the Orange County trial court did exceed its jurisdiction by vacating a valid judgment and attempting to reenter it effective at a later date.

Kimball Avenue v. Franco (2003) 76 Cal.Rptr.3d 628, 162 Cal. App. 4th 1224