Thursday, October 10, 2019

People v. Financial Casualty & Surety Co. (Sup. Ct. App. Div. - Oct. 10, 2019)

Judge Ricciardulli gets an A+ for this opinion published today.

If one of my students wrote this in response to a final examination hypothetical, I'd find it to be absolutely perfect.  Exactly what I would be looking for.

First, it's the lock solid right answer.  When a statute says that a judge must enter an order "within 90 days after the date upon which it may first be entered" -- "it" referring a prior court order that itself had to be entered within 180 days of a specified event -- then the 90 days begins running on the next court day that was available for the prior order to be.  Which in turn means that if, as here, the prior 180-day period expired on a Saturday, a date the court was closed, then the 90-day period starts from the following Monday (assuming that Monday isn't a holiday, in which case on Tuesday).

Second, Judge Ricciardulli's opinion sets forth every single one of the relevant statutes and principles that establish that this is the right result; e.g., Section 12 of the CCP, which extends dates that end on holidays; Sections 134 and 135 that establish that courts are closed on holidays and that Saturday is a court holiday, etc.  It shows perfectly why this the right answer.

And, finally, Judge Ricciardulli does so extremely concisely and yet with the perfect amount of explanation.  No flourish.  But definite articulation of the reasons why the result is what it is.  You can do that in six (double-spaced) pages of text.  And Judge Ricciardulli does.

I wish that all my students wrote so cleanly and concisely (and accurately).  Ditto for lawyers.

So great job by the Appellate Division, particularly Judge Ricciardulli.

I was also going to say that I was impressed, albeit for very different reasons, with the counsel for the losing party (Bail Hotline Bail Bonds), John Rorabaugh.  Not because Mr. Rorabaugh won a difficult case (he lost) or wrote an outstanding brief (since I've never read it, so I don't know one way or the other).  Rather, I was impressed that Mr. Rorabaugh could apparently effectively prosecute an appeal over a forfeited bail bond in the whopping amount of . . . $5,000.  There's only $5000 at stake.  How can a lawyer write a brief in both the trial court and in the appellate division, plus oral argument, plus all the other stuff, in a manner that makes it cost effective for the client to prosecute an appeal over such an incredibly small amount (in the scheme of things)?!  For most lawyers, the cost of the briefs alone would easily be over $5,000.  So why throw more good money down the drain (even if you're right) when the bad money you might possibly recover -- and, remember, you're not even assured of prevailing on appeal anyway -- is less than the money you're spending to get it back?

If Mr. Rorabaugh's found a way to prosecute trial and appellate proceedings on a given matter for a total costs and attorney's fees of, say, $2,000, thereby arguably making the dispute (and appeal) worth it, more power to him.  Personally, no way I could write such briefs for only $2,000.  More power to him if Mr. Rorabaugh's somehow able to pound out appellate briefs (that result in published opinions, no less) for only a grand or two.  Well done, I guess.

 (It's probably more accurate to say that I, and others, could write briefs in $5,000 appeals for a grand or two, but we pretty much uniformly refuse to do so.  At least when we're looking to make money.  There are plenty of appellate briefs that I've written for the whopping charge of $0.  But those aren't in cases I'm looking to make money or recoup (in any material way) the value of my time; they're pro bono and other matters where I'm looking to correct injustice or serve a social good.  The case at issue here doesn't seem like one someone would take on pro bono, as I doubt anyone other than the parties really cares whether the $5,000 bond here gets forfeited or goes back to Bail Hotline Bail Bonds.  So, yeah,  Mr. Rorabaugh could easily do the case for a reasonable and efficient fee to the client -- $0 -- but I bet that's not what actually went down.)