The New Motor Vehicle Board
The organization of the Board is defined in Vehicle Code sections 3000 to 3016. The Board is composed of nine members. The composition of the Board is as follows:
Four licensed new motor vehicle dealers, who must have been licensed as a new motor vehicle dealer for not less than five years. Each of these Board Members is appointed by the Governor.
Five members from the general public, one of whom must be an attorney who has been a member of the California Bar for at least ten years. Of these Board Members, three are appointed by the Governor, one by the Senate Rules Committee, and one by the Speaker of the Assembly. Dealer members of the Board are prohibited from hearing, commenting, advising public members upon, or deciding any matter involving an Article 4 Protest (cars, motorcycles, ATVs, heavy-duty trucks) unless all parties stipulate otherwise ( Veh. Code § 3066(d)). Dealer members may participate in Article 5 RV Protests. Dealer members may participate in matters which do not involve a dispute between a franchisee and a franchisor, such as a petition filed by a member of the public or an appeal from a Department decision.
JURISDICTION OF THE BOARD
The Board's statutory jurisdiction under Vehicle Code section 3050(c) extends to any person applying for or holding a license as a new motor vehicle dealer, manufacturer, manufacturer branch, distributor, distributor branch, or representative.
In the past, the courts have construed this jurisdiction as primary and exclusive. An aggrieved licensee was required to bring any dispute arising out of the franchise relationship before the Board prior to seeking judicial relief (Yamaha Motor Company v. Superior Court (PDF) (1986) 185 Cal. App. 3d 1232, 230 Cal. Rptr. 382; Yamaha Motor Company v. Superior Court (1987) 195 Cal. App. 3d 652, 240 Cal. Rptr. 806; Ray Fladeboe Lincoln Mercury, Inc. v. New Motor Vehicle Board (PDF) (1992) 10 Cal. App. 4th 51, 12 Cal Rptr. 2d 598; Mathew Zaheri Corp. v. Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America, Inc. (PDF) (1993) 17 Cal. App. 4th 288, 21 Cal. Rptr. 2d 325.)
Recent court decisions and legislation have held otherwise Miller v. Superior Court (PDF) (1996) 50 Cal. App. 4th 1665, 58 Cal. Rptr. 2d 583; Hardin Oldsmobile v. Superior Court (PDF) (1997) 52 Cal. App 4th 585, 60 Cal. Rptr. 2d 583; Tovas v. American Honda Motor Company, Inc. (PDF) (1997) 57 Cal. App. 4th 506, 67 Cal. Rptr. 2d 145; Kemp v. Nissan Motor Corporation in U.S.A (PDF). (1997) 57 Cal. App. 4th 1527, 67 Cal. Rptr. 2d 794.) Vehicle Code section 3050 (e), added in 1997 and effective in 1998, provides that "...the courts have jurisdiction over all common law and statutory claims originally cognizable in the courts. For those claims, a party may initiate an action directly in any court of competent jurisdiction."
In 2003, the Board's petition jurisdiction under Vehicle Code section 3050, subdivision (c) was narrowed by the decision in Mazda Motor of America, Inc. v. California New Motor Vehicle Board; David J. Phillips Buick-Pontiac, Inc., Real Party in Interest (PDF) (2003) 110 Cal. App. 4th 1451; 2 Cal.Rptr.3d 866. The Board's jurisdiction for licensee versus licensee petitions was limited to those in which the petitioner seeks relief under Vehicle Code section 3050, subdivision (c)(1) or (3). Subdivision (c)(1) allows the Board to direct the Department to conduct an investigation of matters that the Board deems reasonable. Subdivision (c)(3) permits the Board to order the Department to "exercise any and all authority or power that the department may have with respect to the issuance, renewal, refusal to renew, suspension, or revocation" of the occupational license of a dealer, manufacturer, or distributor. The Board's jurisdiction under Vehicle Code section 3050, subdivision (c)(2) which provides that the Board may "undertake to mediate, arbitrate, or otherwise resolve any honest difference of opinion or viewpoint [i.e., hold a hearing] existing between any member of the public and any new motor vehicle dealer, manufacturer, manufacturer branch, distributor branch, or representative" was limited to petitions brought by members of the public, and does not include licensees as petitioners.
Effective January 1, 2004, the Vehicle Code was amended to bring new recreational vehicles as defined in Health and Safety Code section 18010(a) under the jurisdiction of the Board for purposes of dispute resolution and fee collection (Veh. Code §§ 3069.1 - 3079). The Vehicle Code was also amended to add all terrain vehicles as defined in Vehicle Code section 111 to the list of licensees within the Board's jurisdiction.
Powers & Duties
The powers and duties of the Board are defined in Vehicle Code sections 3050 and 3051. Vehicle Code section 3050 empowers the Board to take action in three specific circumstances - protest, petitions, and appeals.
As a quasi-judicial body, the Board is empowered by Vehicle Code section 3050.1(a) to administer oaths, take depositions, certify to official acts, and issue subpoenas to compel the attendance of witnesses or the production of documents. These powers are capable of being enforced by the superior courts upon application by the Board (Vehicle Code § 3050.2(a)).
Further, in any protest, petition, or appeal, the Board, its Executive Director, or an Administrative Law Judge designated by the Board or its Executive Director may order a mandatory settlement conference. The failure of a party to appear, to be prepared, or to have the authority to settle the matter at such a conference, may result in the Board taking action adverse to that party including, but not limited to suspension of all of the proceedings before the Board, dismissal of all or part of the proceedings before the Board, require payment of all the Board's cost by the party at fault, deeming that the party at fault has abandoned the matter. (Veh. Code § 3050.4).
Enforcement of Board Orders
The Vehicle Code provides for sanctions, injunctions, and penalties for violating orders of the Board or the requirements of those sections of the Vehicle Code within the Board's authority. Vehicle Code section 11726 provides for enforcement of Board orders by permitting any licensee to recover damages, attorney fees, and injunctive relief for a willful failure to comply with a Board order. These enforcement actions may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction.
Action on decisions of the Board are undertaken at scheduled, noticed Board meetings. In order for the Board to take action, a quorum of members must be present. Quorum requirements for Board action are listed below:
A quorum consists of three of the five Public Members of the Board for Article 4 protests. A quorum consists of five of the nine members of the Board for Article 5 protests.
Where the parties are a franchisee and a franchisor, a quorum consists of three of the five Public Members of the Board. Where the parties are a member of the public and an applicant/licensee, a quorum consists of five of the nine Members of the Board.
A quorum consists of five of the nine Members of the Board.
The Board is required by statute to meet at least twice during each calendar year, with supplemental meetings scheduled as necessary. All Board meetings are open to the public (Gov. Code §§ 11120 et seq.) with the exception of executive sessions during which the Board deliberates on pending matters, i.e., a Proposed Decision, Proposed Order, or Proposed Ruling. Meeting agendas are mailed to all affected parties and to the public mailing list at least 10 days prior to the scheduled meetings.
For additional information about the Board, or to be placed on the Board's public mailing list, please call our office at (916) 445-1888, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BOARD EXECUTIVE STAFF
WILLIAM G. BRENNAN, Executive Director
BOARD LEGAL STAFF
ROBIN P. PARKER, Esq., Senior Staff Counsel
DANIELLE R. VARE, Esq. Staff Counsel
BOARD ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGES
DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES
Administrative support for the Board's activities is provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Information concerning the operations and services of the Department is available on the Internet at www.dmv.ca.gov
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