Wednesday, March 27, 2019
Court of Appeal:
Action Properly Dismissed Where Pro Pers Left Court to Scout for Substitute Judge
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Div. Two of the Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed the dismissal of an action under the bizarre circumstances of the plaintiffs strutting out of a Long Beach courtroom, after the trial commenced, for the announced purpose of locating a judge in the City of Los Angeles to take over the case.
Pro per plaintiffs Natalia S. Rocha and Filemon R. Lopez—dissatisfied with in limine rulings by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patrick T. Madden and frustrated in their effort to disqualify him with a peremptory challenge which he struck as untimely—left the courtroom on Dec. 4, 2017 notwithstanding that a panel of 30 prospective jurors had been sworn.
Madden recited in an order granting dismissal of the plaintiffs’ personal injury action based on abandonment:
“Plaintiffs…stated that they wanted the case transferred to Los Angeles for another judge to try the case. It was explained that this was not possible. The case would be tried in Department S28 by Judge Madden. Plaintiffs then stated they were leaving the courtroom and would go to Los Angeles to obtain another judge for the trial of the case. The court advised plaintiffs that no other judge would try the case and if they left the courtroom, the case would be dismissed. Thereafter, plaintiffs left the courtroom.”
Presiding Justice Elwood Lui said, in an unpublished opinion:
“Appellants chose to disregard the trial court's warning that their case would be dismissed if they did not proceed with the trial. As the trial court correctly noted, trial began when the jury panel was sworn….Moreover, Appellants’ statements (as reflected in the trial court's order) show an affirmative intention to abandon the case by looking for another judge, which they had no legal right to do.
“Appellants have not identified any error in the trial court’s in limine rulings. In any event, if Appellants believed that the trial court committed error in ruling on the admission of evidence prior to trial, their remedy was not to abandon the case in search of a different judge, but to proceed with trial and raise their issues of evidentiary error on appeal from the final judgment.”
The case is Rocha v. Sealey, B287227.
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company