Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pelton-Shepherd Industries v. Delta Packaging Products (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 19, 2008)

Here's a wonderful review of what can go wrong in discovery. Especially if you leave it until right before trial. As well as a fairly comprehensive review of the relevant provisions and deadlines for motions to compel.

You'll also view some fairly strong language by Justice Robie regarding the conduct of Judge Saiers (in San Joaquin County) as well as counsel for the parties below. (Kenneth Ruttenberg, a Loyola Law graduate, and Richard Archbold, a Hastings graduate, represented one side, and Charles Hastings, a Humphrey's College of Law graduate, represented the other, on appeal.) Here's the first line about Judge Saiers: "We conclude the trial court [Justice Robie then mentions Judge Saiers by name in a footnote] botched its responsibilities under the Civil Discovery Act and prejudicially abused its discretion in granting Pelton-Shepherd’s motion to compel after the discovery motion cutoff date . . . ." Strong words. You don't see "botched" used much to describe trial courts, do you?

And here's the money quote from Part B of the opinion: "[T]he discovery in this case is a classic example of how not to conduct discovery (on the part of the lawyers) or to manage discovery (on the part of the court)." So pretty much everyone gets savaged.

P.S. - This is far from the first time that the Third Appellate District has savaged Judge Saiers, with whom the justices appear far from fond. Though, in truth, the feeling is probably mutual as well.

With some justification, as I'm sure the counsel involved would admitm at least on their best days. The only defense of what transpired here is probably that it wasn't an especially high-value case -- the real amount in controversy was barely above the jurisdictional minimum for an unlimited case -- and hence counsel may not have done their absolute best. Still, the errors that were made are pretty obvious ones; e.g., missing deadlines and not making the correct motions.

As Justice Robie makes fairly clear, it was not an impressive performance by anyone involved.