|County of Lake v. Superior Court , 67
[Civ. No. 40268. Court of Appeals of California, First Appellate District, Division
Two. March 4, 1977.]
COUNTY OF LAKE et al., Petitioners, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LAKE COUNTY, Respondent;
LAKE COUNTY EMPLOYEES' ASSOCIATION, INC., Real Party in Interest
(Opinion by Kane, J., with Taylor, P. J., and Rouse, J., concurring.) [67 Cal.App.3d
Charles D. Haughton, County Counsel, Downey, Brand, Seymour & Rohwer, John
F. Downey and Stephen F. Boutin for Petitioners.
No appearance for Respondent.
Pano Stephens and Bill Bernard for Real Party in Interest. [67 Cal.App.3d 817]
Petitioners, County of Lake, individual members of the Board of Supervisors,
and the county Administrative Officer of the County of Lake, seek review of orders
of contempt issued by respondent superior court on November 15 and 18, 1976, finding
them in contempt of court for willful violations of orders issued by the court
on July 9 and 30, 1976, and committing them to the county jail until such time
as they perform acts specified by the court. We stayed enforcement of the orders
pending final determination of the merits of this petition.
This proceeding arises out of the failure of petitioners to conduct a survey
and conform the salary schedule as required by Lake County Ordinance, section
14-3 (3.1), and to meet and confer in good faith with representatives of real
party in interest Lake County Employees' Association as required by Government
Code, section 3505, as ordered by the court.  We need not consider the validity
of the temporary restraining order issued by the court on July 9, 1976, nor of
the injunction issued by the court on July 30, 1976, disobedience of which forms
the basis of the contempt orders, for we have concluded that the orders of contempt
and the warrants of commitment based thereon are void.
It is apparent that the court elected to proceed under the provisions of section
1219 of the Code of Civil Procedure fn. 1 in order to compel petitioners to perform
the specified acts. Unlike a commitment under section 1218, which authorizes imprisonment
for a definite term, a commitment under section 1219 is provisional. Under section
1219, a contemner may be imprisoned until he has performed an act "which
is yet in the power of the person to perform."
Although the order of November 15, 1976, finds that petitioners had the ability
to comply with the restraining order and the order issued on July 30, 1976, it
does not include a finding that the act to be performed is presently within the
power of the contemners to perform. A contempt judgment issued under the provisions
of section 1219 "must not only specify the act to be performed; it must also
include a finding that such act is within the power of the contemner to perform.
Otherwise, it is void." (In re Wells (1946) 29 Cal.2d 200, 202 [173 P.2d
811]; In re Liu (1969) 273 Cal.App.2d 135, 146 [78 Cal.Rptr. 85]; In re Moulton
(1950) [67 Cal.App.3d 818] 100 Cal.App.2d 559, 563 [224 P.2d 76].) Since here,
as in Wells, the order of November 15, 1976, is void for failure to conform to
the above-stated requirements, other contentions of petitioners relating to the
validity of that order need not be discussed.
The orders of November 18, 1976, directed to each individual petitioner, are
likewise void. Although these orders correct the deficiencies in the order of
November 15, 1976, judgments and orders of a court or judge made in cases of contempt
are final and conclusive (§ 1222), and the court or judge retains no jurisdiction
to alter a completed judicial act. When the court rendered its judgment on November
15, 1976, it lost jurisdiction of the parties and the subject matter, and it had
no authority to enter another and different judgment on November 18, 1976 (Barry
v. Superior Court (1891) 91 Cal. 486, 488 [27 P. 763]; Martin v. Superior Court
(1962) 199 Cal.App.2d 730, 739 [18 Cal.Rptr. 773]; Blake v. Municipal Court (1956)
144 Cal.App.2d 131, 133-135 [300 P.2d 755]; McLaughlin v. Superior Court (1954)
128 Cal.App.2d 62, 66 [274 P.2d 745]).
The finding of guilt of contempt in particulars specified and the formal imposition
of sentence therefor constituted judicial action complete and final, and it was
no longer open to the court to make any further or different order therein (Blake
v. Municipal Court, supra, p. 134). In Martin v. Superior Court, supra, the court
annulled an amended commitment and order for contempt which attempted to correct
an earlier defective order by supplying new findings, noting that "If an
order, which by statute is final and conclusive, can be amended and reamended
to supply vital deficiencies therein, the feet of the litigant would be standing
on quicksand, without any idea when he could take effective proceedings to annul
the order." (P. 739.)
We hold that the deficiencies in the order of November 15, 1976, were clearly
the result of judicial error, and that the court retained no jurisdiction to enter
new and different judgments on November 18, 1976.
 Nor do we accept real party's argument that the order of November 15, 1976,
could be corrected because it had not been entered in the minutes. Judgments and
orders made in cases of contempt may not be analogized to sentences pronounced
in criminal cases. Section 1222 specifically provides that "The judgment
and orders of the court or judge, made in cases of contempt, are final and conclusive."
(Italics [67 Cal.App.3d 819] added.) Here, the written order issued and signed
by the judge on November 15, 1976, found petitioners in contempt, ordered that
they be confined to jail until such time as they performed acts specified by the
court, and directed the sheriff to take each of them into custody forthwith. There
is nothing in the order to indicate that this was anything but the final order
of the court. Petitioners were subject to immediate apprehension, and it was only
because they sought and obtained an order staying execution of the order that
they were not immediately confined.
For the foregoing reasons, we cannot agree that a contempt judgment reduced
to writing and signed by the judge, and made final by the provisions of section
1222, should remain open to correction of judicial errors by reason of the failure
of the clerk to perform his duty to enter the judgment in the docket of the court,
as required by the provisions of section 1218.
The contempt orders under review, being void, must be and hereby are annulled.
Taylor, P. J., and Rouse, J., concurred.
FN 1. Unless otherwise indicated, all references will be to the Code of