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NPG, Inc. v. De La Rosa

COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION TWO
Jul 11, 2017
E065578 (Cal. Ct. App. Jul. 11, 2017)

Opinion

E065578

07-11-2017

NPG, INC., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. MANUEL DE LA ROSA et al., Defendants and Appellants.

Werner Law Firm, Lee G. Werner; Law Office of Nada L. Edwards and Nada L. Edwards for Defendants and Appellants. Best Best & Krieger and Gregory G. Snarr for Plaintiff and Respondent.


NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115. (Super.Ct.No. RIC1500512) OPINION APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. John D. Molloy, Judge. Affirmed. Werner Law Firm, Lee G. Werner; Law Office of Nada L. Edwards and Nada L. Edwards for Defendants and Appellants. Best Best & Krieger and Gregory G. Snarr for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Manuel De La Rosa (Manuel) and Jill De La Rosa (Jill) moved the trial court for an order reflecting the judgment against them had been satisfied. (Code Civ. Proc., § 724.010, subd. (a).) The trial court denied the motion. Manuel and Jill (collectively, defendants) contend the trial court erred. We affirm the judgment.

We use first names for the sake of clarity. No disrespect is intended. --------

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Jill was employed by NPG, Inc. (NPG). NPG was owned by Jeffrey S. Nelson (Jeffrey) and Sharon J. Nelson (Sharon). Manuel is Jill's husband. Jill embezzled from NPG. Jeff confronted Jill about her embezzlement. In 2006, defendants and NPG entered into an agreement (the Agreement). In the Agreement, defendants promised to give NPG $151,400, and NPG promised to release defendants "from any and all claims, demands, liens, actions, suits, causes of action, obligations, controversies, debts, costs, expenses, damages, judgments, orders, and liabilities of whatever kind or nature in law, equity, or otherwise, whether now known or unknown, suspected or unsuspected, and whether or not concealed or hidden, which have existed or may have existed, or which do exist or which hereafter can, shall or may exist, based on any facts, events or omissions occurring from the beginning of existence."

Defendants gave NPG $151,400. Defendants were prosecuted by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office. In August 2007, Manuel pled guilty to grand theft. (Pen. Code, § 487, subd. (a).) Also in August 2007, Jill pled guilty to embezzlement. (Pen. Code, § 503.) The amount of victim restitution was left for the criminal court to determine. In January 2009, the criminal court ordered Jill to pay $430,000 in victim restitution, which included attorney's fees, accountant's fees, and interest. Also in January 2009, the criminal court ordered Manuel to pay $104,000 in victim restitution. The criminal court granted Jill five years of probation. The criminal court granted Manuel three years of probation.

Manuel made monthly restitution payments of $500. Jill also made monthly restitution payments of $500. The criminal case reports for Jill and Manuel's criminal case include entries of their $500 monthly payments. When Jill and Manuel failed to make timely payments, warrants for failing to pay were requested.

In December 2014, NPG applied for a civil case number to be assigned to the criminal restitution orders that were issued in defendants' criminal case. NPG asserted Manuel still owed approximately $90,000 and Jill still owed approximately $311,000. NPG further requested the civil court (the court) issue orders for judgment debtor examinations and writs of execution for the judgment debtors. The court assigned a civil case number and calendared judgment debtor examinations.

Defendants moved the court for (1) an order compelling NPG to acknowledge satisfaction of the judgment in fact; (2) an order entering satisfaction of the judgment without NPG's acknowledgment; or (3) equitable relief restraining NPG from attempting to collect money from defendants. Defendants asserted that, in the Agreement, NPG released defendants from any judgments, orders, or liabilities in exchange for $151,400, and therefore, the criminal restitution order had been satisfied in full. Defendants reasoned that there was a single judgment creditor—NPG—and NPG released its right to enforce any judgments or orders, so the judgment was effectively satisfied.

NPG opposed the motion. NPG asserted the Agreement did not cause the criminal restitution order to be satisfied. NPG asserted victims cannot waive the People's right to have restitution ordered. Also, NPG argued the court lacked jurisdiction. NPG contended a civil court could not grant relief in a criminal matter.

Defendants replied to NPG's opposition. Defendants asserted the civil court had jurisdiction over the matter because NPG sought a civil case number and judgment debtor examinations in civil court. Defendants requested the court, at the very least, exercise its equitable power to restrain NPG from enforcing the criminal restitution order. Defendants asserted under such an injunction the restitution orders would remain in place, but NPG would be barred from enforcing them.

The court held a hearing on defendants' motion. The court gave a tentative ruling. The court said, "This is an interesting, interesting motion. It is essentially an end-run around the orders of the criminal court. This was an order for restitution by the criminal court. This court is not going to upset that decision. You must go back to the criminal court."

Defendants argued the motion was not an "end-run around the restitution order." Defendants asserted NPG waived its right to restitution in exchange for $151,400. Defendants requested the court bar NPG from enforcing the restitution order. The court denied defendants' motion.

DISCUSSION

A. JURISDICTION

Defendants contend the court erred when it concluded it lacked jurisdiction. We note the court denied the motion, it did not dismiss the motion, which implies the court concluded it had jurisdiction. (See Singletary v. Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 34, 41 [lack of jurisdiction results in a dismissal].) Nevertheless, we will address the jurisdiction issue.

Issues of subject matter jurisdiction are reviewed de novo when the evidence is not in dispute. (Saffer v. JP Morgan Chase Bank (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th 1239, 1248.) There is no disputed evidence related to subject matter jurisdiction, so we will apply the de novo standard.

"Subject matter jurisdiction is a fundamental requirement for judicial consideration of claims. 'The California Supreme Court has defined subject matter jurisdiction thusly: "Subject matter jurisdiction . . . is the power of the court over a cause of action or to act in a particular way."'" (Saffer v. JP Morgan Chase Bank, supra, 225 Cal.App.4th at p. 1248.)

Once a defendant is discharged from probation, the criminal court no longer has jurisdiction over the matter. (People v. Lewis (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1949, 1955-1956; see also People v. Freidt (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 16, 22.) "Any portion of a restitution order that remains unsatisfied after a defendant is no longer on probation . . . is enforceable by the victim" as a civil judgment. (Pen. Code, §§ 1214, subd. (b).) The civil court has jurisdiction over civil issues. (Code Civ. Proc., §§ 30-32.5 & 88.)

Defendants were discharged from probation. The criminal court no longer had jurisdiction. NPG received a civil case number and the civil court calendared judgment debtor examinations of defendants. Defendants' motion for the court to find the judgment/debt satisfied pertained to NPG's civil case. Therefore, the civil court had jurisdiction.

A criminal court retains jurisdiction for the sake of imposing or modifying restitution. (Pen. Code, § 1202.46.) Defendants were not seeking a modification of restitution. They were seeking an order reflecting NPG accepted a lesser amount in satisfaction of the court ordered restitution. In other words, the amount of restitution ordered by the criminal court would not be modified, it would remain $430,000 from Jill and $104,000 from Manuel. The issue was whether NPG agreed to accept less than the court ordered amount. Accordingly, the criminal court lacked jurisdiction over the matter because it was not a modification.

B. SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT

Defendants contend the trial court erred by not issuing an order reflecting the judgment was satisfied.

The facts relevant to this issue are undisputed. Therefore, we apply the de novo standard of review. (Shirey v. Los Angeles County Civil Service Commission (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 1, 7.)

"A money judgment may be satisfied . . . by acceptance by the judgment creditor of a lesser sum in full satisfaction of the judgment." (Code Civ. Proc., § 724.010, subd. (a).) "Any portion of a restitution fine or restitution fee that remains unsatisfied after a defendant is no longer on probation . . . is enforceable by the California Victim Compensation Board . . . . A local collection program may continue to collect restitution fines and restitution orders once a defendant is no longer on probation . . . ." (Pen. Code, § 1214, subd. (a).)

"In addition to compensating the victim, a restitution order is intended to rehabilitate the defendant and to deter the defendant and others from future crimes." (People v. Vasquez (2010) 190 Cal.App.4th 1126, 1133.) "'A restitution order pursuant to a defendant's plea is an agreement between the defendant and the state. [Citation.] The victim is not party to the agreement, and a release by the victim cannot act to release a defendant from his [or her] financial debt . . . .'" (Ibid.)

In 2006, NPG released defendants from "damages, judgments, orders, and liabilities of whatever kind or nature in law, equity, or otherwise." Thus, NPG waived its right to seek enforcement of the criminal restitution order in exchange for $151,400. However, this release does not mean the restitution order is satisfied because a local collection program can properly seek to enforce the restitution order. (Pen. Code, § 1214, subd. (a).) NPG released its personal right to enforce the restitution order, but that did not waive the rights of local collection entities. Accordingly, the trial court did not err.

Defendants assert there is a single judgment creditor in this case—NPG—and the release by NPG effects satisfaction of the judgment. Contrary to defendants' position, the People of the State of California were parties to the restitution order (People v. Vasquez, supra,190 Cal.App.4th at p. 1133), and can collect restitution money after probation is terminated. (Pen. Code, § 1214, subd. (a).) The 2006 agreement released defendants from enforcement by NPG—it did not, and could not, release defendants from enforcement by local collection programs. (Pen. Code, § 1214, subd. (a).) Because the restitution order is subject to enforcement by entities other than NPG, we find defendants' argument to be unpersuasive.

C. EQUITABLE RELIEF

Defendants contend the trial court erred by not issuing a covenant not to execute. A covenant not to execute is not a release or satisfaction of a debt. (Ivy v. Pacific Auto. Ins. Co. (1958) 156 Cal.App.2d 652, 662.) Thus, it would operate as an injunction—restraining defendants from enforcing the restitution order.

We apply the abuse of discretion standard when reviewing the denial of a request for an injunction. (Service Employees Internat. Union v. City of Santa Barbara (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 654, 657.) We apply the de novo standard when interpreting a contract. (People ex rel. Lockyer v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (2003) 107 Cal.App.4th 516, 520.)

An injunction cannot be granted "[t]o prevent the breach of a contract the performance of which would not be specifically enforced." (Code Civ. Proc., § 526, subd. (b)(5).) "Specific performance of a contract will not be compelled when an adequate remedy exists at law, and if monetary damages afford adequate relief and are not extremely difficult to ascertain . . . ." (Thayer Plymouth Center, Inc. v. Chrysler Motors Corp. (1967) 255 Cal.App.2d 300, 306.)

Defendants gave NPG $151,400 in exchange for NPG releasing defendants from "judgments, orders, and liabilities of whatever kind or nature in law, equity, or otherwise . . . ." If NPG seeks to enforce the criminal restitution order, that would presumably be a breach of the Agreement. Defendants' remedy is to sue for breach of contract. There is nothing indicating damages would be difficult to ascertain for such a breach. Specific enforcement of the contract is not a necessary remedy. As a result, the trial court correctly denied defendants' request for equitable relief.

DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed. The parties are to bear their own costs on appeal.

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS

MILLER

Acting P. J. We concur: SLOUGH

J. FIELDS

J.


Summaries of

NPG, Inc. v. De La Rosa

COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION TWO
Jul 11, 2017
E065578 (Cal. Ct. App. Jul. 11, 2017)
Case details for

NPG, Inc. v. De La Rosa

Case Details

Full title:NPG, INC., Plaintiff and Respondent, v. MANUEL DE LA ROSA et al.…

Court:COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT DIVISION TWO

Date published: Jul 11, 2017

Citations

E065578 (Cal. Ct. App. Jul. 11, 2017)