Following a confirmed arbitration award in favor of a Brown Wegner McNamara client, the opposing side appealed the judgment. The firm filed a successful motion to dismiss the appeal, citing the disentitlement doctrine. The California appellate court agreed to dismiss the appeal, and awarded Brown Wegner McNamara costs on appeal.
What is the Disentitlement Doctrine?
The disentitlement doctrine is an infrequently-used method to dismiss an appeal prior to the appellate court’s consideration of the merits of the case. The doctrine allows an appellate court to use its “inherent power” to dismiss an appeal, in situations where the appellant has refused to comply with a lower court order. Stoltenberg v. Ampton Investments, Inc. (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 1225, 1229. This doctrine is founded in fundamental principles of equity. As noted by the California Supreme Court, a “party to an action cannot, with right or reason, ask the aid and assistance of a court in hearing his demands while he stands in an attitude of contempt to legal orders and processes of the courts of this state.” MacPherson v. MacPherson (1939) 13 Cal.2d 271, 277. Thus, if a party is found in contempt by a lower court, or has continuously engaged in willful disobedience or obstructive tactics, then the appellate court will not consider that party’s appeal.