Legal News and Appellate Tips

Each week, TVA appellate attorney Tim Kowal reviews several recent decisions out of the appellate courts in California, and elsewhere, and reports about the ones that might help you get an edge in your cases and appeals.

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Tag: Mistrials

Judge’s Death After Deciding Case But Before Issuing a Statement of Decision Results in Mistrial

What happens when a judge dies or becomes unavailable before the entry of a judgment? A mistrial resulted, and was affirmed, in *Marriage of Stone* (D2d2 Jan. 24, 2022 no. B297778) 2022 WL 202815 (nonpub. opn.).

The trial judge presided over the first phase of a dissolution proceeding. After the trial, the judge issued a tentative decision, held a hearing on the parties’ respective proposed statements of decision, and indicated he would consider modifying certain language. But the judge passed away before entering a final statement of decision or entering a judgment. So the presiding judge declared a mistrial.

On appeal, the appellant-wife argued the mistrial was error and the presiding judge should have entered a judgment on the trial judge’s findings in the intended decision. She had a great case on point, holding that under Code of Civil Procedure section 635, the presiding judge may enter a judgment on an unavailable trial judge’s intended decision. But ultimately the court held it was not close enough, and affirmed.

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