Requesting a statement of decision in California is the topic of this blog post. A request for a statement of decision is authorized by Code of Civil Procedure section 632 and is only used in non-jury or bench trials.
A statement of decision is where the trial Court states the legal reasoning for its decision on certain specified controverted issues. A statement of decision can be requested in a civil, family law or probate case in California. Failure to request a statement of decision on all of the controverted issues in a case can prove fatal to any possible appeal of the case as any reviewing court is required to presume that every fact essential to the judgment was proven and found by the trial court if no statement of decision has been requested.
Any party appearing at a trial may request a statement of decision. If the trial is concluded within one calendar day, or in less than eight hours spread out over more than one day, the request must be made before the matter is submitted for decision. If the trial is longer than that, the request must be made within 10 days after the court announces a tentative decision. See Code of Civil Procedure § 632.
A trial shall be deemed to actually commence at the beginning of the opening statement or argument of any party or his or her counsel, or if there is no opening statement, then at the time of the administering of the oath or affirmation to the first witness, or the introduction of any evidence. See Code of Civil Procedure § 581(a)(6).
A California Court of Appeal stated in a recent case that judicial time off the bench does not count in determining how long a trial lasts. See Gorman v. Tassajara Development Corporation (2009) 178 Cal. App. 4th 44, 61-63.
The date that the clerk mails the copy of the minute order or decision is when the 10-day period for making the request commences. See Hutchins v. Glanda (1990) 216 Cal. App. 3d 1529, 1531.
If any party or their attorney makes a timely request for a statement of decision, the trial court’s failure to prepare the statement is reversible error. See Social Service Union, Local 535 v. County of Monterey (1989) 208 Cal. App. 3d 676, 681.
The request for a statement of decision must specify the controverted issues for which a statement of decision is requested. The trial judge is not required to sift through a host of improper specifications in search of a few arguably proper ones. Although a party cannot be prevented from using the request as a way of arguing with the court rather than clarifying the grounds of its decision, a party who makes that choice is not entitled to rely on the resulting document to insulate the judgment from the presumption of correctness. See Yield Dynamics, Inc. v. TEA Systems Corp. (2007) 154 Cal. App. 4th 547, 558-559.
When there has been a request for a statement of decision, the statement of decision may be limited to only those issues specified in the request if less than all material issues are specified See Harvard Investment Co. v. Gap Stores, Inc. (1984) 156 Cal. App. 3d 704, 709 n.3.
If an issue was not brought up at the trial, the reviewing court is under no obligation to address it. See Colony Ins. Co. v. Crusader Ins. Co. (2010) 188 Cal. App. 4th 743, 750-751.
A party waives any objection on appeal based on the trial court’s failure to file a written statement of decision when trial lasts less than one day and that party fails to make an oral request, and when language in that party’s points and authorities that were alleged to be a written request was not specific, but merely asked court to find in her favor. See Martinez v. County of Tulare (1987) 190 Cal. App. 3d 1430, 1434-1435.
If no statement of decision has been requested, the reviewing court is required to presume that every fact essential to the judgment was proved and found by the trial court. Review in these circumstances is limited to a determination as to whether there is any evidence, contradicted or uncontradicted, to support the judgment. See Agri-Systems, Inc. v. Foster Poultry Farms (2008) 168 Cal. App. 4th 1128, 1134-1135.
Requesting a statement of decision is an excellent way for a party to require that the Court give a detailed explanation of the basis and reasoning behind its decision. This useful tool should be utilized in every case whenever possible.
Attorneys or parties who would like to view a portion of a sample request for statement of decision for California sold by the author can see below.
The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is an entrepreneur and freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has created over 255 sample legal documents for California and Federal litigation. If you are in need of assistance with any California or Federal litigation matters, Mr. Burman is available on a freelance basis. Mr. Burman may be contacted by e-mail at DivParalgl@yahoo.com for more information. He accepts payments through PayPal which means that you can pay using most credit or debit cards.
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