Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, December 3, 2019


Page 3


Appellate Division:

Commissioner Erred in Denying Jury Trial Because Pro Per Breached Court Policy


By a MetNews Staff Writer


A woman who was a tenant in an unlawful detainer action was wrongfully deprived of her right to a trial by jury on the theory that she had waived that entitlement by failing to prepare proposed jury instructions or to meet and confer with the plaintiff, the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court has held.

Its opinion was filed Nov. 14 and publicly posted on Wednesday. Judge Alex Ricciardulli authored it.

Ricciardulli pointed to Art. I, §16 of the state Constitution which provides that in civil cases, “[t]rial by jury is an inviolate right and shall be secured to all....” That right, he noted, expressly applies to unlawful detainer actions under Code of Civil Procedure §1171.

The jurist said that Code of Civil Procedure section 631(f) “is the exclusive authority governing civil jury waivers,” and failing to propose jury instructions or to meet and confer are not among the enumerated bases for a waiver being construed.

Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner William D. Dodson denied a jury trial to defendant Jane Lin based on her failures having constituted violations of a “standing order” of the Superior Court. Ricciardulli declared:

“Notably, the Standing Order does not provide failing to prepare for trial per its requirements can result in a jury waiver.

“But, more to the point, even if the Standing Order had provided that failing to comply with its provisions could result in a jury waiver, it would be unenforceable.”

The case is Chen v. Lin, 2019 S.O.S. 4006.

Pasadena attorney Steven W. Kerekes represented plaintiff/respondent Guo Zhang Chen. Lin was in pro per.

Ricciardulli said that Lin’s brief does not comply with the rules, but wrote:

 “Despite not complying with the appellate court rules, defendant’s assertion that she was denied her right to a jury trial is explicit. Opposing counsel’s briefing of the argument in his respondent’s brief signifies defendant’s demand was sufficiently identifiable to be understood as an issue on appeal. We exercise our discretion and disregard defendant’s noncompliance with the court rules pertaining to the contents of briefs.”


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