In this edition of Litigator’s Edge, our Courtroom5 Tip is on how to get a continuance for a hearing or trial. In Legal Strategy, we discuss the importance of having matters heard in the right order at a hearing. Join us for Sunday afternoon Workshops. Stay up to date in Latest from the Blog and In the Community.
Getting a Continuance
When you haven’t had enough time to prepare for a hearing or trial, you should move for a continuance. A continuance postpones a court date.
The easiest way to get a continuance is to first contact your opponent or opposing counsel and ask them to agree to a change in the hearing or trial date. If they do, file a motion for continuance stating that the parties agree to a delay. Under these circumstances, the court is very likely to grant a continuance.
If your opponent does not agree, file the motion for continuance with a statement that your opponent objects to a change of date, and then schedule an emergency hearing on your motion. In some jurisdictions, the rules of procedure or local rules require that you contact the other party before moving for a continuance, so you’ll need to certify that you’ve done so.
In your motion for continuance, explain why you need a delay and offer a good reason for being unable to attend or prepare for the hearing or begin trial on the scheduled date.
Good reasons for a continuance include:
- You were not served the requisite number of days before the hearing. If you were served even one day shorter than the statute requires, this excuse should work.
- You’re pro se and need more time to prepare or time to find a lawyer.
- You have a physical or learning disability.
- English is not your first language, and you need time to understand the papers or time to find someone to translate them for you.
- You won’t have the evidence you need in time for trial.
Be sure to double-check the rules for getting a continuance in your jurisdiction.
Handling Hearing Matters in the Right Order
One decision can be the difference between winning and losing in court. As pro se litigants, we don’t always know our options, or how to choose them for an advantage. One thing lawyers know that self-represented litigants learn the hard way is the importance of handling issues at a hearing in the right order. It looks something like this:
Markita, a pro se plaintiff, conducted depositions of two employees of a defendant company. When asked about the date a specific payment was received, the company’s owner gave one answer. Her employee gave a different answer to the same question. The answer was relevant because the date of payment determined whether a debt existed, a key element of the case.
Both employees were represented by the same attorney. The day after the depositions, Markita moved to disqualify the attorney because representing clients with contradicting accounts of the facts was a breach of his ethics. That’s because one of his clients had committed perjury, and the other had provided evidence of that perjury.
Meanwhile, a hearing on a motion to dismiss Markita’s case had been scheduled. At the hearing, the defendant’s attorney insisted the judge hear the motion to dismiss first. Markita had a strong case and thought the motion to dismiss was very weak. She wasn’t worried. However, in short order the judge dismissed her case with prejudice. Markita never had a chance to argue her motion to disqualify, which would’ve prevented the dismissal motion from being heard that day.
How might things have been different for Markita?
Things might have turned out better had Markita insisted the judge hear her motion to disqualify before hearing the motion to dismiss. The attorney couldn’t argue for dismissal if he’d been disqualified. Markita had a strong case for disqualification and her motion would’ve been heard first if she’d asserted herself.
When a notice of hearing includes multiple issues, always think through the order you’d prefer them to be heard. And be prepared to persuade the judge to do things your way.
Join us each Sunday for a live workshop with Q&A. Here’s the May schedule:
- May 5–Not Judge Judy’s Court. Learn to focus on the key factors needed to advance your case and make effective use of both your time and your Courtroom5 tools. Register here.
- May 12–Finding Legal Authorities. Learn to find statutes and appellate cases your judge finds compelling. Register here.
- May 19–Case Killing Motions. Learn about the major motions that can end your case, including the motion for default judgment, the motion to dismiss, the motion for summary judgment, and the motion for judgment as a matter of law (JNOV). Register here.
- May 26–Proving Your Case. Learn about collecting evidence through discovery, responding to discovery requests, authentication and admissibility, presenting evidence, and smart use of the Courtroom5 tools in discovery. Register here.
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- Attorney At Law Magazine Features Courtroom5 As Legal Innovator–Check out this feature story about Courtroom5 in Attorney At Law Magazine.
- Crafting A Legal Argument Step-by-Step–Instructions for crafting a legal argument that persuades a judge to rule in your favor.
- How To Use Elements To Prove Your Case Or Defend Yourself–Learn about elements, things that must be proven in order to state a cause of action or defense.
- Tips For Writing Effective Pleadings–These writing tips will help you state your legal points more effectively.
- What To Expect At Your First Court Hearing–Expect your first court hearing to be the beginning of a lengthy process involving multiple hearings and heaps of paperwork.
- Correcting Your Case With Amendments And Supplements–Though you can’t go through a clerk’s files and pull documents to edit them, you can correct the record by using amendments and supplements.
In the Community
Here are some recent topics in Courtroom5’s question & answer forum. Join the party and add your thoughts.
- Domestic violence & child abuse
- Denial of leave to amend answer
- Deposition “I cant remember”
- Proposing a settlement
- ‘Dismissed on a technicality’
- Plaintiff is 4 weeks late on answering Interrogatories
Thanks for your membership. Good luck on your case.