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Steven Hintz, Judge Ventura Superior Court, Dept. 32

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  • Steven Hintz, Judge Ventura Superior Court, Dept. 32

    Steven Hintz, Judge - Ventura Superior Court, Dept. 32

    Do not appear before this judge. He appears very cold and narrow minded. Judge Hintz refused to continue a trial date after the plaintiff's attorney died. Simply amazing that this Judge acted so cold, pro-defense, and unsympathetic to counsel or the plaintiff. My guess is this Judge was a complete asshole both before being appointed as well as on the bench.

    You must read this published opinion on the writ taken by the new plaintiff's counsel in the case of Hernandez vs. Neal 2d Civil No. B171030, Superior Court Case ACIV214837.
    or go to here

    Here is my abbreviated version of the case, see the above links for the whole opinion:

    Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 6, California.
    HERNANDEZ, Pe***ioner,v.The SUPERIOR COURT of California for the County of Ventura, Respondent;David Neal, Real Party in Interest.2d Civil No. B171030.Feb. 23, 2004.As Modified Feb. 24, 2004.

    Background: Personal injury plaintiff moved trial court for continuance of trial date and permission to reopen discovery to supplement expert witness list, after his attorney died of pancreatic cancer. The Superior Court, Ventura County, No. CIV214837, Steven Hintz, J., continued trial date only one month, and denied plaintiff's other requests. Plaintiff filed pe***ion for writ of mandate.

    Holding: The Court of Appeal, Yegan, Acting P.J., held that plaintiff was en***led to continuance of trial date, and supplementation and extension of discovery.

    Pe***ion granted.

    Jacobs, Jacobs & Rosenberg; George M. Rosenberg and Anthony C. Ferguson, for Pe***ioner.
    No appearance for Respondent.
    Law Offices of Robert J. Brantner; Harveen S. Simpkins and Robert J. Brantner, for Real Party in Interest.

    YEGAN, Acting P.J.
    1 If plaintiff's counsel's serious physical illness and its debilitating effects culminating in death during the final stages of litigation are not good cause for continuing a trial and reopening of discovery, there is no such thing as good cause. A plaintiff in a personal injury action is not chargeable with the continued good health of his or her attorney. Forcing such a plaintiff to trial without counsel or adequately prepared counsel is not likely to ensure fairness, the overall policy of the law. (Gardiner v. Suppaloy (1991) 232 Cal.App.3d 1537, 1543, 284 Cal.Rptr. 206.)
    [1] The Court of Appeal does not and should not micromanage law and motion rulings. Absent extraordinary circumstances, most writ applications seeking review of discretionary rulings are easily denied because of traditional appellate rules. (E.g., Estate of Gilkision (1997) 65 Cal.App.4th 1443, 77 Cal.Rptr.2d 463 [see infra at p. 4, 77 Cal.Rptr.2d 463].) However, some writ applications are more "writ worthy" than others. As we shall explain, absent our intervention here, pe***ioner would face the probability of trial without counsel or adequately prepared counsel in a serious personal injury trial.
    Facts and Procedural HistoryPe***ioner was seriously injured in an automobile collision with real party in interest David Neal. He retained Attorney Stewart to represent him. Stewart filed the personal injury complaint in October 2002, represented pe***ioner at his deposition, took real party's deposition in May 2003, attended a settlement conference in June 2003, and participated at an arbitration hearing on July 8, 2003. The arbitrator awarded pe***ioner $850,000. On July 14, 2003, Stewart served real party with a statutory offer to compromise for $392,000. On July 28, 2003, he designated expert witnesses on the subject of damages. He did not do so on liability issues. Stewart missed the August 18, 2003, deadline to supplement his expert witness list even though real party had designated an expert on liability issues and Stewart had not. In early September, pe***ioner learned of Stewart's illness. On September 12, 2003, three days before the initial trial date, the trial court heard Stewart's ex parte application for a continuance due to his illness. It continued the trial date to December 15, 2003, but Stewart died on September 20, 2003.
    Pe***ioner learned of Stewart's death nine days later. That day he called a friend for an attorney referral. The next day, he contacted a new lawyer, Rosenberg. On October 2, 2003, pe***ioner met with Rosenberg who advised him that his own trial schedule prevented him from taking the case unless the December 15, 2003, trial date could be continued. He also advised pe***ioner to seek a continuance and permission to reopen discovery and supplement his expert witness list.
    Pe***ioner's ex parte application for that relief was heard on October 17, 2003. Real party opposed the continuance, arguing the trial date had already been continued once to accommodate Stewart's illness. Real party asserted he would be "at a disadvantage" if pe***ioner designated additional experts because costs would increase. He also claimed pe***ioner had unreasonably delayed finding new counsel. Real party concluded by asserting: "[i]t is obvious that plaintiff would not be injuriously affected by denial of the continuance. The time of the court should not be wasted by failure of plaintiff and counsel to be prepared and for plaintiff to shop around for attorneys."
    *2 At the hearing, the trial court noted that it continued the first trial date for three months due to Stewart's illness and said: "And now a month after he dies, you come in and ask for more time. That could have been done better." Pe***ioner explained that he learned of Stewart's death on September 29, 2003, and that he started looking for a new lawyer that day. He denied real party's claims he had "known for months" that Stewart was terminally ill. Real party contended pe***ioner should not be permitted to supplement his expert witness list because the terminally ill Stewart had missed the deadline to do so: "That was his decision as attorney. You can't change that after you die. That will prejudice my client." Without requiring real party to provide any additional explanation of the potential prejudice, the trial court continued the trial date to January 26, 2004, and denied the request to reopen discovery. The trial court apparently did not consider that Rosenberg was unable to start trial on that date, or that pe***ioner was scheduled for spinal surgery December of 2003.

    Abuse of Discretion as a Matter of LawPe***ioner contends the continuance granted was too brief because it conflicts with his prospective attorney's trial schedule and his own need for surgery. He also contends the trial court's refusal to reopen discovery was an abuse of discretion because Stewart was too ill to prepare the case properly. We agree with each of these contentions. Pe***ioner has demonstrated an abuse of discretion as a matter of law.
    Last edited by Avocat; 02-27-2004, 02:58 PM.