Second District Holds that Failure to Lodge Administrative Record Barred Post-Trial Relief

In The Urban Wildlands Group, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (2017) ___Cal App.5th___ (Case No. B271350), the Second District Court of Appeal held that the mandatory relief provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (b), do not apply where counsel fails to lodge the administrative record in a CEQA proceeding and receives a judgment denying the petition for writ of mandate.

Despite agreeing by stipulation, counsel for the petitioner did not lodge the record with the court prior to trial. After a hearing on the merits of the matter, the trial court ruled that because the petitioner had failed to lodge the administrative record, it could not support its arguments. Subsequently, the petitioner filed a motion for discretionary and mandatory relief pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (b). The trial court denied petitioner’s counsel’s motion for discretionary relief, ruling that counsel’s failure to lodge the administrative record did not rise to the level of excusable neglect. Nevertheless, the lower court granted petitioner mandatory relief, finding that counsel’s error had deprived the petitioner of its day in court.

The appellate court disagreed. The court held that Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (b), does not apply where, as here, there has been a trial on the merits. Thus, the court found, counsel’s error had not served to deny the petitioner its day in court. Rather, the error resulted in a failure to present sufficient evidence and therefore the mandatory relief provisions were inapplicable. The Court of Appeal reinstated the lower court’s original judgment denying the petition and complaint, and allowed the City of Los Angeles recovery of appellate costs from the petitioner.