Personal Beneficial In Citizens Action

The matter of a citizen's action is a long-established exception to the requirement of a personal beneficial interest. The exception applies where the question is one of public right and the object of the action is to enforce a public duty--in which case it is sufficient that the plaintiff be interested as a citizen in having the laws executed and the public duty enforced. (Bd. of Soc. Welfare v. County of L.A. (1945) 27 Cal. 2d 98, 100-101 162 P.2d 627; see Common Cause v. Board of Supervisors, supra, 49 Cal. 3d at p. 439; Green v. Obledo, supra, 29 Cal. 3d at p. 144.) This exception promotes a policy of guaranteeing citizens an opportunity to ensure that the purpose of legislation establishing a public right is not impaired or defeated by a governmental agency. (Green v. Obledo, supra, 29 Cal. 3d at p. 144.) Judicial recognition of citizen standing is an exception to, rather than repudiation of, the usual requirement of a beneficial interest. The policy underlying the exception may be outweighed by competing considerations of a more urgent nature. ( Green v. Obledo, supra, 29 Cal. 3d at p. 145; see also Nowlin v. Department of Motor Vehicles (1997) 53 Cal. App. 4th 1529, 1538 62 Cal. Rptr. 2d 409.) As this court explained in McDonald v. Stockton Met. Transit Dist. (1973) 36 Cal. App. 3d 436 111 Cal. Rptr. 637, the propriety of a citizen's suit requires a judicial balancing of interests, and the interest of a citizen may be considered sufficient when the public duty is sharp and the public need weighty. (Id. at p. 440.) Thus, the court rejected a citizen's suit because the action would have intruded upon the remedial discretion of a public agency that was quite able to protect its own interests. (Id. at p. 443.) Carsten v. Psychology Examining Com. (1980) at pages 797-802, held that a member of an administrative board could not pursue a citizen's action against the board upon which she sits. (See also Braude v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 226 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 89-91.) Among other things, the court noted "her interest in the subject matter was piqued by service on the board, not by virtue of the neutrality of citizenship." (Carsten, supra, 27 Cal. 3d at p. 799; see also Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc. Local Assessment Com. v. County of Kern (1996) 44 Cal. App. 4th 346, 354 51 Cal. Rptr. 2d 666.)