Want the Court to Retain Jurisdiction to Enforce Your Settlement? Then Make a Specific Request

Environmental/Land Use Alert (May 2019)

On March 29, 2019, the Court of Appeal of California, Second Appellate District, published its decision in Mesa RHF Partners, L.P. v. City of Los Angeles (2019) 33 Cal.App.5th 913, affirming the trial court’s refusal to exercise jurisdiction to enforce a settlement agreement because the parties did not strictly comply with the requirements of California Code of Civil Procedure section 664.6. The decision outlines the process parties must follow to ensure that a trial court retains jurisdiction after a case is dismissed.

Relevant Procedural Background

The decision arose out of two separate petitions for peremptory writ of mandate filed against the City of Los Angeles and other entities, challenging City ordinances establishing two Business Improvement Districts. The parties in each case resolved the matters by entering into separate settlement agreements and filing requests for dismissal on Judicial Council form CIV-110.

The parties desired the trial court to retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement agreements. The agreements themselves stated, “The Court shall retain jurisdiction pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 664.6 to enforce the terms of the Settlement Agreement.” Counsel for the petitioners in each matter filed requests for dismissal that stated substantially similar language referencing section 664.6.

When a dispute over the settlement agreements occurred, however, and the parties approached the trial court regarding enforcement of the agreements, the trial court declined to act.

Section 664.6 provides, in part, “If requested by the parties, the court may retain jurisdiction over the parties to enforce the settlement until performance in full of the terms of the settlement.” The trial court explained that voluntary dismissal of an action terminates the court’s jurisdiction, and section 664.6 states that a trial court retains jurisdiction to enforce a settlement only “[i]f requested by the parties.” In this case, the settlement agreements were never provided to the trial court, and the requests for dismissal were made by counsel—not the parties themselves. Therefore, because there was no specific request from the parties, the trial court did not retain jurisdiction post-dismissal.

The Court of Appeal affirmed.

Complying with Section 664.6

The Court of Appeal clarified the necessary procedure to retain the trial court’s jurisdiction:
  • A request to retain jurisdiction must be made (1) during the pendency of the case, not after the case has been dismissed in its entirety; (2) by the parties themselves (not solely through counsel); and (3) either in a writing signed by the parties or orally before the court.
  • The Court of Appeal suggested that this request can be made by filing a stipulation and proposed order signed by the parties and requesting the trial court to retain jurisdiction under section 664.6. The stipulation and proposed order must either attach a copy of the settlement agreement or “note” the settlement agreement.
In short, in the context of settlement of any California civil action, if parties want the trial court to retain jurisdiction to enforce a settlement pursuant to section 664.6, the parties must strictly comply with the required procedure by expressly making a request to the court.

[This case alert does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created by viewing or responding to this alert.  Legal counsel should be sought for answers to specific legal questions.]