NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS
Plaintiff Theresa Lynne Murphy appeals, by permission of this court, from an order, filed on July 8, 2014, declaring her to be a vexatious litigant (Code Civ. Proc., § 391, subd. (b)
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Murphy is the fee simple title owner of an apartment unit in No. 11 High Street condominium. On February 10, 2014, she filed a first amended complaint against named defendants No. 11 High Street Condominium Association and members of its board of directors, including defendant Ryan Raley.
On March 14, 2014, Raley filed a motion for an order declaring Murphy to be a vexatious litigant pursuant to section 391, asking the court to require her to furnish security in the sum of $10,000 for reasonable costs, and prohibiting her from filing any new litigation in propria persona, or otherwise filing and serving any papers that may contain private information, without prior leave of the Presiding Judge of the superior court. Murphy opposed the motion. The court granted the motion, stating in its written order: "IT IS ORDERED THAT: [¶] Defendant Ryan Raley's motion be granted. Theresa Murphy is deemed a vexatious litigant for purpose of Code of Civil Procedure section 391(b). All future civil actions by Theresa Murphy will require an undertaking be posted in the amount of $10,000.00." This appeal ensued.
I. Law Regarding Vexatious Litigant
"The vexatious litigant statutes (§§ 391-391.7) are designed to curb misuse of the court system by those persistent and obsessive litigants who, repeatedly litigating the same issues through groundless actions, waste the time and resources of the court system and other litigants. [Citation.]" (Shalant v. Girardi (2011) 51 Cal.4th 1164, 1169 (Shalant).) The vexatious litigant statutes provide, in pertinent part, that "`[l]igitation' means any civil action or proceeding, commenced, maintained or pending in any state or federal court;" and "`[v]exatious litigant' means a person who . . . [i]n the immediately preceding seven-year period has commenced, prosecuted, or maintained in propria persona at least five litigations other than in a small claims court that have been . . . finally determined adversely to the person." (§ 391, subds. (a),(b)(1).) "Section 391.1 provides that in any litigation pending in a California court, the defendant may move for an order requiring the plaintiff to furnish security on the ground the plaintiff is a vexatious litigant and has no reasonable probability of prevailing against the moving defendant. The action is stayed pending determination of the motion. (§ 391.6.) If, after a hearing, the court finds for the defendant on these points, it must order the plaintiff to furnish security `in such amount and within such time as the court shall fix.' (§ 391.3.) The plaintiff's failure to furnish that security is grounds for dismissal. (§ 391.4.)" (Shalant, supra, at pp. 1169-1170.)
II. Standard of Review
We note at the outset, Murphy asks us to "look at [the] issues from the beginning as if the [s]uperior [c]ourt had never ruled on" the motion, and, exercise our independent judgment based on a review of the evidence in the record. We decline to do so as we are bound to decide the appeal applying the governing standards provided under case law. Thus, on appeal of an order that a plaintiff is a vexatious litigant, we must presume the order is correct and imply findings necessary to support it. (Bravo v Ismaj (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 211, 219.) Additionally, "we will affirm [an order] correct on any legal basis, even if that basis was not invoked by the [superior] court. [Citation.] There can be no prejudicial error from erroneous logic or reasoning if the decision itself is correct. [Citation.]" (Shaw v. County of Santa Cruz (2008) 170 Cal.App.4th 229, 269.)
Here, the record shows that within the seven years preceding the vexatious litigant motion filed in 2014, Murphy commenced at least five litigations other than litigation in a small claims court that were finally determined adversely to her.
We find no merit to Murphy's overarching argument that for the purpose of invoking the vexatious litigant statute the five described litigations were not finally determined adversely to her because they were dismissed without prejudice. Within the context of making a vexatious litigant determination, a lawsuit commenced by plaintiff and later dismissed with or without prejudice is prima facie proof that the litigation has been finally determined adversely to plaintiff. (See Tokerud v. Capitolbank Sacramento (1995) 38 Cal.App.4th 775, 779, 780, fn. 3 (Tokerud).) As explained by the Tokerud court, "Plaintiff's contention a voluntarily dismissed action cannot be counted for purposes of the vexatious litigant statute is contrary to the underlying intent of that legislation. `The vexatious litigant statutes were enacted to require a person found a vexatious litigant to put up security for the reasonable expenses of a defendant who becomes the target of one of these obsessive and persistent litigants whose conduct can cause serious financial results to the unfortunate object of his attack.' [Citation.] . . . [Also,] [b]y clogging court calendars, [the constant suer] causes real detriment to those who have legitimate controversies to be determined and to the taxpayers who must provide the courts.' [Citation.] [¶] An action which is ultimately dismissed by the plaintiff, with or without prejudice, is nevertheless a burden on the target of the litigation and the judicial system, albeit less of a burden than if the matter had proceeded to trial. A party who repeatedly files baseless actions only to dismiss them is no less vexatious than the party who follows the action through to completion. The difference is one of degree, not kind." (Id. at p. 779.)
Murphy also argues the superior court should have accepted her reasons for dismissing the three described state court actions without prejudice. However, the court was not required to accept Murphy's explanations for the dismissals. (Golin v. Allenby (2010) 190 Cal.App.4th 616, 635 ["[w]hen considering a motion to declare a litigant vexatious under section 391.1," the court "does not assume" the truth of a [purported vexatious] litigant's factual allegations"]; Sprague v. Equifax, Inc. (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 1012, 1028 [trier of fact "is not required to believe the testimony of any witness, even if uncontradicted"].) In all events, as an appellate court, we must accept as true all of the evidence in favor of the court's order and discard any unfavorable evidence. (Giles v. Horn (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 206, 220.) Accordingly, we conclude the superior court could rely on the three described state court actions to find Murphy a vexatious litigant.
As to the two described federal court actions that were dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Murphy additionally contends those litigations were not finally determined adversely to her because "[i]t is impossible for a court without jurisdiction to render a final determination." We disagree. Generally, a trial court that lacks subject matter jurisdiction "`has no power "to hear or determine [the] case."' [Citations.]" (Barry v. State Bar of California (2017) 2 Cal.5th 318, 324.) "But a court that lacks the power to answer one type of question in a case may nonetheless have the power to answer another type of question. [Thus,] [i]t is, for example, a truism that `[a] court has jurisdiction to determine its own jurisdiction, for a basic issue in any case before a tribunal is its power to act, and it must have authority to decide that question in the first instance.' [Citations.]" (Id. at p. 326; see Lane v. United States (1st Cir. 1984) 727 F.2d 18, 21 ["every federal court has the inherent power to determine as a preliminary matter its own subject matter jurisdiction"].) Accordingly, the federal court had the inherent authority and obligation to address whether it had subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in Case No. 13-cv-02424-JST and Case No. 13-cv-02752-JST. More significantly, the two federal court actions that were involuntarily dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction placed no less a "burden" on the target to the litigation and the judicial system than the three state court actions that were voluntarily dismissed. (Tokerud, supra, 38 Cal.App.4th at p. 779.) By commencing two lawsuits, which the federal court was required to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Murphy "`essentially . . . waste[d] [the] time and resources'" of the named defendants and the federal court. (Navarro Sav. Assn. v. Lee (1980) 446 U.S. 458, 464, fn. 13, quoting from Currie, The Federal Courts and the American Law Institute, Part I, 36 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1 (1968).) Accordingly, we conclude the superior court could rely on the two described federal court actions to find Murphy a vexatious litigant.
Murphy also contends that any reliance on the federal court action in Case No. 13-cv-02424-JST is misplaced because prior to dismissal of that action the court issued a temporary restraining order in her favor on May 31, 2013. However, "[t]he [United States] Supreme Court has long instructed that judgments in excess of subject-matter jurisdiction `are not voidable, but simply void.' [Citations] Under this traditional rule, `[w]hen a federal court reaches beyond its statutory grant of subject-matter jurisdiction, its judgment is void.' [Citation.]" (Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc. v. Islamic Republic of Iran (D.C. Cir. 2013) 734 F.3d 1175, 1180.) Thus, even if there "existed an `arguable basis' for jurisdiction" at the time the federal court issued the temporary restraining order, its later decision that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction rendered the order void, and required the court to vacate the order and dismiss the action. (Id. at p. 1181.) Accordingly, we conclude the superior court did not err when it relied on Case No. 13-cv-02424-JST to find Murphy a vexatious litigant as that litigation was finally determined adversely to her. (See Garcia v. Lacey (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 402, 406-407, citing to Tokerud, supra, 38 Cal.App.4th at p. 779; In re Whitaker (1992) 6 Cal.App.4th 54, 56.)
Lastly, we reject Murphy's contentions that reversal or modification of the superior court's order is otherwise warranted based on arguments concerning the probability of her prevailing on her current litigation against Raley, the amount of security to be posted by her, and the conduct of Raley's counsel in the superior court. Initially we note these arguments are not supported by citations to relevant portions of the record on appeal. (See Yield Dynamics, Inc. v. TEA Systems Corp. (2007) 154 Cal.App.4th 547, 557; see also Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(1)(C) [each brief must "[s]upport any reference to a matter in the record by a citation to the volume and page number of the record where the matter appears"].)
The order filed on July 8, 2014, is affirmed. Each party shall bear their own costs on appeal.
McGuiness, P. J. and Siggins, J., concurs.
We recognize that "`notwithstanding the exclusive-remedy provision of . . . section 170.3 [disqualification of judge], "a [party] may assert on appeal a claim of denial of the due process right to an impartial judge." [Citation.]' [Citation.] `The Due Process Clause entitles a person to an impartial and disinterested tribunal in both civil and criminal cases.' [Citation.]" (Brown v. American Bicycle Group, LLC (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 665, 673.) Murphy contends the oral proceedings in the superior court demonstrate that the superior court judge and opposing counsel engaged in an "unlawful ex-parte communication," and the superior court otherwise violated her right to due process. However, we cannot evaluate her contentions because she elected to perfect her appeal without a record of the oral proceedings in the superior court. In designating the record, Murphy explicitly acknowledged that she understood we would "not be able to consider what was said during those proceedings in determining whether an error was made in the superior court proceedings."