Monday, July 28, 2008

Not Something You See Every Day

Appellate courts tend to give trial courts a lot of leeway when it comes to controlling their dockets. The only way a trial court will be reversed in this context is if the judge abuses his or her discretion. And appellate courts, especially the First Circuit, are very reluctant to find that a federal trial judge has abused that discretion. When they do make such a finding, they usually explain themselves in quite a bit of forceful detail.

So Beetz v. Ambrosi, First Circuit No. 07-2449, is just weird. The essence of it is that the trial judge allowed a motion to withdraw that also sought a 30-day extension of the time in which to file an amended complaint, then dismissed the case 23 days later. The First Circuit didn't call the trial judge onto the carpet, however. It just sent the case back.

Two other odd aspects of this case:

1. The plaintiff claimed that he'd filed an amended complaint in a timely fashion, the First Circuit believed him, but there was no electronic record of the filing. As most folks who practice in federal court will tell you, that doesn't happy very often. If ever.

2. The defendant claimed that since the trial judge had not explicitly allowed the original attorney to withdraw and stated that the time for filing the amended complaint was extended, that the order should only be interpreted as allowing the withdrawal. Some would call this argument "creative." Others would call it "stupid."

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