Chaganti v. Superior CourtAnnotate this Case
Chaganti sought a writ of error. While his appeal of a civil judgment was pending, he discovered evidence, which was not in existence at the time of the judgment, that the superior court judge who had summarily adjudicated his claims owned stock worth between $10,000 and $100,000 in AT&T. The defendants in Chaganti’s civil action, Cricket and New Cingular, are wholly owned subsidiaries of AT&T. Chaganti argued that the judge was disqualified under Code of Civil Procedure 170.1, which provides: “A judge shall be disqualified if any one or more of the following are true: ... The judge has a financial interest in the subject matter in a proceeding or in a party to the proceeding.” Financial interest means ownership of more than a one percent legal or equitable interest in a party, or a legal or equitable interest in a party of a fair market value in excess of $1,500.
The action concerned a commercial lease; the named lessee was “AT&T Wireless PCS.” Rent was paid by checks from “AT&T.” The defendants were represented by “an Assistant Vice President and Senior Legal Counsel employed in the AT&T Legal Dept.” The court of appeal ordered the superior court to vacate the judgment, rejecting AT&T’s arguments that it was not a “party” to the proceeding and that Chaganti was precluded from obtaining a writ of error because he did not exercise due diligence in discovering the judge’s AT&T stock ownership.