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Awhile back I had to hire an attorney when the state of California was erroneously notified from another state that I had been convicted of a DUI...resulting in a suspension of my California Driver's License. In California, one is only entitled to a DMV hearing for an administrative suspension. To contest a suspension resulting from a criminal conviction, one has to file a petition for a writ of mandate against the department ordering the suspension be set aside. My attorney notified me in this instance that he had heard that, on occasion, the department will effectively assert its equality with the court and refuse to remove the suspension...in which case one then has to move to the federal arena and get it ordered by a district court.

I'm curious as to whether this is actually true. That is, can a state agency simply assert that it is equal to a state court and ignore a bona fide order from that court? In case this is "too broad", answers restricted to the laws of the State of California would suffice.

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This would be very uncommon, and an ACLU suit from 2016 addressing similar issues suggests that it is incorrect.

It would depend on California specific cases governing the jurisdiction of the regular courts. The California agency could not ignore the lawsuit, but they might defend by arguing that the court in question doesn't have jurisdiction to rule. Usually, this would only occur if California law had provided other recourse to regular courts, perhaps via an appeal as opposed to a mandamus action. I'm not familiar enough with California's civil procedure rules to cite chapter and verse on the relevant California law, however.

This state law doctrine should also not be confused with the constitutional "equal footing" principal which is that every U.S. state should have the same legal rights under the constitution as every other state in the absence of a history of past misconduct related to the differential treatment.

  • I had actually used the term "equal footing" in the regular sense---didn't even know said principle existed. The statute itself is a last resort statute, allowing the court to intervene when "there is no other adequate remedy at law." It was settled out of court in my favor, but I know he has similarly used that statute in several other cases successfully, and the 90 day deadline the statute establishes coincides with the 90 day deadline I was notified I had to contest it "in court" in the suspension notice. – David Reed Jan 8 at 19:15

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