In this case, we address a conflict in the Courts of Appeal on a recurring issue of substantial fiscal significance to California public entities: does interest on a judgment against a local public entity accrue at the postjudgment interest rate of 10 percent per annum prescribed by section 685.010, subdivision (a), of title 9 of part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure, or at the rate of 7 percent per annum, pursuant to article XV, section 1, of the California Constitution?
We conclude that section 970.1, subdivision (b), of division 3.6 of title 1 of the Government Code, which provides that "[a] judgment ... is not enforceable under Title 9," exempts local public entities from title 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Division 3.6 does not, however, itself set a rate of postjudgment interest for claims against the state or local public entities.
In August 1983 California Federal Savings and Loan Association (California Federal) sought a refund from the City of Los Angeles (the City) of business license taxes and interest, alleging that Revenue and Taxation Code section 23182, as amended, nullified the City's power to levy the business license tax against it.
The trial court ruled that California Federal should recover business taxes paid for the years 1982, 1983, and 1984. It also ordered the City to pay postjudgment interest "as allowed by law until paid," but did not specify the rate of that interest. The City appealed and we ultimately affirmed the judgment. (California Fed. Savings & Loan Assn. v. City of Los Angeles (1991) 54 Cal.3d 1 [283 Cal.Rptr. 569, 812 P.2d 916].)
Thereafter, the trial court heard a motion regarding the applicable rate of interest. Following San Francisco Unified School Dist. v. San Francisco Classroom Teachers Assn. (1990) 222 Cal.App.3d 146 [272 Cal.Rptr. 38], it ruled that the judgment against the City would accrue interest at a rate of 7 percent per annum.
The Court of Appeal disagreed, reasoning that although "[u]pon reading Government Code section 970.1, subdivision (b), it might appear that its meaning is clear," the provision is nonetheless "not reasonably free from ambiguity and uncertainty." It concluded that the Government Code refers to and makes inapplicable only the portion of title 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure that contains the "mechanics of enforcing ... judgment[s]" — i.e., division 2, of which section 695.050, providing for enforcement of money judgments is a part — and not the other divisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, including division 1, of which section 685.010 is a part. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal modified the order awarding postjudgment interest to provide that the judgment shall bear interest at a rate of 10 percent per annum. We granted review.
This case requires us to determine the interaction among Government Code section 970.1, subdivision (b), Code of Civil Procedure section
In 1963, the Legislature added division 3.6 (commencing with section 810) to title 1 of the Government Code. (Stats. 1963, chs. 1681, p. 3266 & 1715, p. 3372.) Known as the Tort Claims Act, it enacted a comprehensive scheme for claims and actions against public entities and public employees.
In 1976, former article XX of the California Constitution, which provided for a 7 percent per annum interest rate on a judgment rendered in any court of the state, was reenacted as part of article XV, section 1, of the Constitution. In 1978, the latter provision was amended to provide: "The rate of interest upon a judgment rendered in any court of this State shall be set by the Legislature at not more than 10 percent per annum. Such rate may be variable and based upon interest rates charged by federal agencies or economic indicators, or both. [¶] In the absence of the setting of such rate by the Legislature, the rate of interest on any judgment rendered in any court of the state shall be 7 percent per annum." (Cal. Const., art. XV, § 1.)
In 1980, section 970.1, subdivision (b) was added to division 3.6 of the Government Code. It provided: "A judgment is not enforceable under Title 9 (commencing with Section 681) of Part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure but is enforceable under this article." (Stats. 1980, ch. 215, § 19, p. 453.)
In 1982, section 685.010 was added to division 1 of title 9 (commencing with section 681) of the Code of Civil Procedure. It provided in relevant part that "(a) Interest accrues at the rate of 10 percent per annum on the amount of a judgment remaining unsatisfied." (Stats. 1982, ch. 150, § 3, p. 495.) In the same year, the Legislature repealed title 9 (commencing with section 681) and added title 9 (commencing with section 680.010) of part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
We agree. Government Code section 970.1, subdivision (b), provides that a judgment against a local public entity is "not enforceable under Title 9 (commencing with Section 680.010) of Part 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure." Given their ordinary meaning, the words of the enactment are neither ambiguous nor uncertain.
The provision plainly and expressly exempts local public entities from the application of title 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure as a whole, including therefore section 685.010. Whenever the Legislature refers in a statute to a title (or article, chapter, part, or division), without further specifying a particular section therein, it plainly intends to refer to it in its entirety. In addition, the word "enforce" is defined as to "give effect to"; "enforceable" is defined as "capable of being enforced," i.e., capable of being given effect to. (Webster's New Internat. Dict. (3d ed. 1961) p. 751.) We accordingly understand the phrase "not enforceable under Title 9" to mean that a judgment against a local public entity cannot be given effect under the provisions of title 9.
In rejecting the Court of Appeal's conclusion that the language of the statute is ambiguous, we approve a number of recent decisions by other Courts of Appeal that have construed the Government Code as exempting public entities from the 10 percent postjudgment interest rate set by the Code of Civil Procedure. (San Francisco Unified School Dist. v. San Francisco Classroom Teachers Assn., supra, 222 Cal.App.3d 146, 151 ["plain language" of Government Code section 970.1, subdivision (b), exempts local public entities from 10 percent interest rate of the Code of Civil Procedure];
Although the Government Code exempts local public entities from the requirements of the Code of Civil Procedure, it does not itself set a postjudgment interest rate for money judgments against local public entities. "The most logical inference from the fact that the Tort Claims Act as adopted in 1963 made no reference to the liability of either state or local governments for interest on judgments is that the Legislature assumed such liability to be constitutionally imposed." (Harland v. State of California (1979) 99 Cal.App.3d 839, 847 [160 Cal.Rptr. 613].) Accordingly, article XV, section 1, of the California Constitution mandates that such interest be calculated at the rate of 7 percent per annum. (Ibid.; San Francisco Unified School Dist. v. San Francisco Classroom Teachers Assn., supra, 222 Cal.App.3d 146, 151.)
Plaintiffs raise a series of constitutional and textual arguments to the effect that the interest provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure must govern judgments against local public entities. None is persuasive.
In effect, plaintiffs would have us rewrite Government Code section 970.1, subdivision (b), to provide that judgments are "not enforceable under Division 2 of Title 9 of Part 2 (commencing with Section 695.010) of the Code of Civil Procedure." We decline to do so.
Had the Legislature intended to exempt local public entities only from the provisions under Code of Civil Procedure, part 2, title 9, division 2, it could readily have done so.
"We must assume that the Legislature knew how to create an exception if it wished to do so...." (City of Ontario v. Superior Court (1993) 12 Cal.App.4th 894, 902 [16 Cal.Rptr.2d 32].) Indeed, as the City points out, in amending and adding various provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure in 1982, the Legislature included specific references to particular divisions, chapters, and articles of title 9. For example, Code of Civil Procedure section 514.050 referred to "Division 4 (commencing with Section 720.010) of Title 9," and Code of Civil Procedure section 1166a, subdivision (e), was amended to refer to "Division 3 (commencing with Section 712.010) of Title 9 of Part 2." Although it amended Government Code section 970.1 in other respects, the Legislature did not amend that section to refer to specific divisions or chapters of title 9.
The argument begs the question. Plaintiffs' sole authority for the proposition that judgments against the state and its agencies accumulate postjudgment interest at a rate of 10 percent per annum is an opinion by the Attorney General and it is unpersuasive. (66 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 217 (1983).) In concluding that the 10 percent postjudgment interest rate under Code of Civil Procedure section 685.010 applies to judgments against the state, the Attorney General did not even purport to address the effect of the language of Government Code section 965.5 now relied on by plaintiffs. Moreover, the opinion was rendered long before, and therefore without the benefit of, the above cited decisions of the Court of Appeal directly in point. (San Francisco Unified School Dist. v. San Francisco Classroom Teachers Assn., supra, 222 Cal.App.3d 146, 151; Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. State Bd. of Equalization, supra, 231 Cal.App.3d 983, 1007; Scott v. County of Los Angeles, supra, 27 Cal.App.4th 125, 155; cf. Barkley v. City of Blue Lake, supra, 18 Cal.App.4th 1745, 1750.)
In short, plaintiffs have it exactly backwards. If the argument that Government Code sections 965.5 and 970.1 are in pari materia is to be considered at all, it would lead to the conclusion that the plain language of these provisions exempts the state as well as local public entities from the enforcement of title 9, including the interest provision of Code of Civil Procedure section 685.010.
In conclusion, we find the intention of the Legislature to exclude public entities from the application of title 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure — including the 10 percent per annum postjudgment interest rate of Code of Civil Procedure section 685.010, subdivision (a) — sufficiently clear from the plain language of Government Code section 970.1, subdivision (b). In the
For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Court of Appeal is reversed insofar as it prescribes postjudgment interest at the rate of 10 percent per annum, and that court is directed to affirm the order of the trial court prescribing such interest at the rate of 7 percent per annum.
Lucas, C.J., Kennard, J., Arabian, J., Baxter, J., George, J., and Werdegar, J., concurred.