Monday, October 5, 2015

The mother of all continuance requests

In mid-August, a Pennsylvania defense counsel requested a continuance of his client's preliminary hearing, so counsel's wife wouldn't kill him for not being with her for the birth of their baby.

His reason was entirely too believable, even tho not technically a valid legal reason for a continuance.  Fortunately, his request was granted and he remains alive today.

The most common reasons for continuances in my area of practice [eviction law] is that a party or counsel is too sick to appear in court.  Evictions have priority over all other civil cases, because by definition the Plaintiff is alleging the Defendant remains in the property without permission [non-payment of rent being the most common, followed by prior owners losing the home to foreclosure].  Every day the Defendant remains in the property equals lost money for the Plaintiff, so every day the Plaintiff's money damages increase.  Therefore, Defense requests for continuance are generally denied unless there is a really good reason.  Here are some of the reasons I've heard, given by Defendants, most of which haven't worked:

1.  I'm too sick to be here [this works only if accompanied by Defendant passing out while making the request, which did actually happen once]

2.  Defendant passed away [request obviously made by a third party, usually attorney or family member.  Sometimes, trial proceeds anyway, depending on the nature of the case.]

3.  I want time to find an attorney [most of the time, Defendants have had at least a month to find an attorney]

4.  I want more time to gather documents [see above]

5.  Plaintiff's lawyer isn't being nice to me [this accusation usually results from the lawyer telling the Defendant s/he can't live there for free]

6.  I'm having an anxiety attack [not too long ago, a Defendant had a major attack and was removed to a hospital by paramedics who had to strap her to a stretcher so she wouldn't hurt herself on the way out of court.  That Defendant DID obtain a continuance.]

7.  I broke my shoe [yes, this really was requested once.  And denied.]

8.  I have to pick up my kids from school [you didn't arrange for that in advance?]

9.  I didn't know I couldn't wear shorts [bailiff didn't allow Defendant in the courtroom.  Defendant traded pants with a family member, who waited in the hallway wearing the shorts until the case was concluded.]

When I was in law school, I always thought of court as an intimidating place where everyone wore suits and shiny shoes, and was on their formal behavior.  In eviction court, we're lucky when the parties show up in unripped jeans and shirts which cover their mid-sections, and keep the curse words to a minimum.

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