In Dhillon v. John Muir Health, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 3649, the Supreme Court of California shed some light on the resolution of the long-standing conflict concerning the appealability of a trial court’s order on a petition for writ of administrative mandamus remanding for further proceedings before the administrative body.

Previously, a line of decisions held that a trial court’s order on administrative mandamus remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings is not an appealable final judgment.  (Gillis v. Dental Bd. of California (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 311, 318; Village Trailer Park, Inc. v. Santa Monica Rent Control Bd. (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 1133, 1139–1140; Bolsa Chica Land Trust v. Superior Court (1999) 71 Cal.App.4th 493, 501–502; Board of Dental Examiners v. Superior Court (1998) 66 Cal.App.4th 1424, 1430.)  However, in each of these cases, the Court of Appeal elected to treat the appeal as a petition for extraordinary writ and considered the matter on the merits, so the determination of whether there was an appealable final judgment did not affect the result of the cases.

On the other hand, another line of decisions held that a trial court’s order on administrative mandamus remanding the matter for further administrative proceedings is appealable.  (Quintanar v. County of Riverside (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 1226, 1232; Carson Gardens, L.L.C. v. City of Carson Mobilehome Park Rental Review Bd. (2006) 135 Cal.App.4th 856, 866; City of Carmel-by-the-Sea v. Board of Supervisors (1982) 137 Cal. App. 3d 964, 970; Carroll v. Civil Service Commission (1970) 11 Cal. App. 3d 727, 733.)

In Dhillon, Dr. Dhillon brought action against a hospital operator, John Muir Health, for writ of administrative mandate challenging the suspension of his clinical privileges.  The Superior Court granted the writ petition in part and ordered John Muir Health to conduct a hearing.  John Muir Health filed a notice of appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, holding that “[t]he superior court’s order remanding the matter to John Muir Health is not a final, appealable order.”  John Muir Health petitioned for review, and the Supreme Court granted review.

Instead of answering “the broad question whether remands to administrative agencies are always immediately appealable,” the Dhillon court focused on the nature of the particular remand, and concluded that the superior court’s order partially granting Dr. Dhillon’s writ petition was an appealable final judgment.  Citing to two other Supreme Court cases, the Dhillon court held that “where no issue is left for future consideration except the fact of compliance or noncompliance with the terms of the first decree, that decree is final, but where anything further in the nature of judicial action on the part of the court is essential to a final determination of the rights of the parties, the decree is interlocutory.”  The Dhillon court reasoned that the trial court’s order either granted or denied each of Dr. Dhillon’s claims and thus did not reserve jurisdiction to consider any issues. The Dhillon court reversed the dismissal of John Muir Health’s appeal and remanded the matter to the Court of Appeal with directions to reinstate the appeal because the trial court’s order was a final judgment.

While the Dhillon court did not hold that all remands to administrative agencies are immediately appealable, the Dhillon holding creates a case-by-case analysis rule such that it is up to the parties to argue that the trial court did not reserve jurisdiction to consider any issues, and hence the trial court’s remand to the administrative agencies was a final judgment and was appealable.