Impairment of the Proper to Counsel in Group Affiliation Disputes


Prior to 2013, there was uncertainty as to irrespective of whether a community affiliation could exclude a house owner’s counsel from attending a conference of the board of directors, a committee meeting (these types of as an architectural committee, high-quality committee, or policies committee), or from taking part in an internal dispute resolution on behalf of the operator pursuant to Civil Code sections 5900-5920.

Some associations took the situation that, because associations were being personal companies, participation was limited to entrepreneurs, precluding the owner’s legal professional from attending these situations. Other associations acknowledged cases this sort of as Damon v. Ocean Hills Journalism Club, 85 Cal. App. 4th 468, 475 (2000) and Cabrera v. Alam, 197 Cal. App. 4th 1077, 1087 (2011), which hold that an association is, in result, a “quasi authorities entity paralleling in practically just about every case the powers, obligations, and tasks of a municipal governing administration,” and therefore an owner’s counsel may possibly attend affiliation meetings.

Continue to other associations took a center floor, making it possible for the owner’s legal professional to go to some but not all of these conferences. For illustration, an affiliation may well let an owner’s lawyer to show up at a board conference, but not a committee meeting. An additional association could enable an owner’s lawyer to go to a board meeting or a committee conference, but not take part in interior dispute resolution. In 2013, the position quo altered with the choice of SB Liberty, LLC v. Isla Verde Ass’n, Inc., 217 Cal. App. 4th 272 (2013).

The SB Liberty Circumstance

In SB Liberty, a home-owner grew to become involved in a dispute with the association over the association’s disapproval of the owner’s architectural plans for renovating the owner’s home. The operator provided its legal professional with a exclusive energy of legal professional, which gave the attorney the ideal to show up at and participate in the board’s meetings on its behalf as completely and to all intents and reasons as principals could possibly do if personally present. SB Liberty, 217 Cal. App. 4th at 277. The special electricity of lawyer was signed by the owner, recorded with the County Recorder, and delivered to the association. The owner’s legal professional then notified the affiliation of intent to attend the next board meeting. The affiliation refused to allow for the owner’s lawyer to attend the meeting.

The owner filed a complaint against the association seeking, amongst other matters, a necessary injunction to permit the owner’s lawyer to go to board meetings. The trial courtroom denied the motion for preliminary injunction, and the courtroom of enchantment affirmed. Id. at 274-75. The court docket of appeal held that only users of the association were being entitled to go to the board of administrators conferences. Id. at 281. Considering the fact that the owner’s attorney was not a member of the affiliation, the owner’s attorney was not entitled to show up at or take part in the board of directors conferences. Id. As to the distinctive electric power of lawyer, the court of attraction held that an owner is not permitted to transfer membership rights to another individual, which includes the appropriate to go to or take part in conferences of the board of directors. Id. at 283-84. The court of charm also held that a board of directors has the authority to identify how to perform its conferences, and is authorized to protect against a non-member from attending and participating in those people meetings. Id. at 284. Lastly, the court docket of appeal held that the association’s refusal to let the owner’s attorney to go to the meeting did not induce the proprietor any great or irreparable harm simply because there was no exhibiting that these exclusion interfered with the owner’s First Amendment or membership legal rights. Id.

Now, based mostly on SB Liberty, associations have the authority to protect against an owner’s lawyer from attending or taking part in matters prior to the affiliation. This would include things like board of directors meetings, committee conferences, and internal dispute resolution meetings.

Strategies for Reform

The California legislature must enact laws to overrule SB Liberty by a new statute specifically stating that an operator in an affiliation might designate an lawyer to show up at and take part in meetings prior to the board of administrators or committees of the affiliation, or internal dispute resolution proceedings.

Absent legislative reform, the only other alternate may possibly be a further courtroom case that presents distinct details or lawful arguments than those people in SB Liberty. This could be a circumstance where the owner is not physically, intellectually, or emotionally equipped to present his or her circumstance to the board of administrators. A distinct authorized argument may possibly be primarily based on the association’s impairment of the owner’s right to counsel in civil disputes.

Finally, footnote 11 in SB Liberty may well provide some aid to a property owner who wants to have counsel symbolize him or her in affiliation conferences. In SB Liberty, the plaintiff was a restricted liability company (“LLC”) and its supervisor was one particular of the house homeowners. Footnote 11 implies that there could be a various final result if a manager of the LLC was the owner’s attorney:

We categorical no view concerning the concern-which is not presented listed here-of whether or not an legal professional appointed by an LLC member of the Affiliation as the LLC’s manager would have the suitable to look at the open up classes of the Board’s meetings on behalf of the LLC as its agent. It is undisputed that lawyer Lepiscopo was not a member or supervisor of SB Liberty.

Id. at 285 n.11.


It is properly recognized that even in civil disputes, a person has a “basic” and “important” correct to counsel of one’s choice. Taheri Law Group v. Evans, 160 Cal. App. 4th 482, 491 (2008). In SB Liberty, the court’s determination seems to impair this correct. SB Liberty really should not continue on to be the regulation in California.

Copyrighted and printed with the permission of Orange County Law firm

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