Courts may deny permissive intervention if there are already multiple parties in the case and the intervenor’s interests will be adequately represented by other parties. South Coast Air Quality Management District v. City of Los Angeles, No. B310783 (2d Dist., Nov. 4, 2021).

The South Coast Air Quality Management District filed a petition for a writ of mandate against four city entities and four shipping companies for failure to implement mitigation measures prescribed in a 2008 environmental impact report for operations at the Port of Los Angeles. The California Attorney General, California Air Resources Board, and a local union filed motions to intervene in the action. The trial court denied the union’s motion for permissive intervention, but granted limited mandatory intervention to CARB and allowed the Attorney General to intervene based on its statutory right.

Trial courts have discretion to permit nonparties to intervene in a lawsuit if the following four factors are met: (1) the nonparty followed proper procedures; (2) the nonparty has a direct and immediate interest in the action; (3) intervention will not enlarge the issues; and (4) the reasons for intervention outweigh any opposition by the existing parties.

The court of appeal agreed with the trial court’s decision to deny permissive intervention to the union because of the large number of parties involved in the case and the fact that the Air District’s interest in litigating the case without the union outweighed the union’s reasons for intervening. The union argued that it had a direct and immediate interest in avoiding the loss of union jobs that could result from rescission of the relevant permits and approvals. However, the court reasoned that other parties, such as the city, had a strong interest in defending the approval of the project and the continued operation of the terminal. There was no claim that the city or other parties might seek to carve out union jobs as unimportant while fighting to maintain operations at the terminal. It was therefore reasonable for the trial court to conclude that union participation would be largely cumulative and would unduly complicate the case.

The court noted that a union declaration underscored the risk of undue complexity by citing the 3,000+ union jobs that depended on operations at the Terminal and the 80,000 indirect jobs in the Los Angeles region related to terminal operations. The trial court “reasonably could conclude that permitting Union intervention in the lawsuit would spur representatives of the other tens of thousands of jobs connected to the Terminal to enter the fray . . . and [the] result would be unmanageable.”