The expected hearing to certify a class-action suit over the legality of the 2012 State Responsibility Area Fire Fee was canceled before it started.
On Thursday, Aug. 6, Judge Shelleyanne Chang of the Sacramento Superior Court issued a tentative ruling, both affirming and denying the request for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association to certify the class.
Regarding HJTA’s first request, the judge agreed with Cal Fire that a class certification “would not offer a superior method for seeking purely declaratory relief.”
The opinion asserted that this argument is essentially a factual evaluation of the legality of the law enacting the fee. “Any finding by the court as to the facial legality or illegality of AB 29 [the law enacting the fee] will either prevent its continued enforcement in the State of California, or affirm its propriety as to all affected property owners, even in the absence of class certification.”
So if found illegal, the decision would negate the fee throughout the state and for all residents subject to it.
But in the second request to establish a class for all who have filed for redetermination, the Judge concurred with HJTA, who seeks refunds for all individuals who file timely petitions for redetermination. And Cal Fire agrees those forms are on record.
Consequently, the judge determined that such a class of those who filed petitions for redetermination exists and certified the class “shall consist of all individuals who have filed a Petition for Redetermination by the date the court enters the order certifying the class.”
However, the judge added that individuals would not be precluded from later seeking certification of a class of property owners who filed the petition after the order certifying the class. “So that all affected property owners are either covered by this litigation or have the opportunity to opt out,” concluded the judge.