The topic of this article is the filing of a motion for a continuance of the trial date in the State of California. The issues discussed herein apply to any civil cases in California, whether standard civil cases, dissolution (divorce) or other family law cases, as well as probate cases.
As there are many separate grounds for requesting a continuance of trial in California this post will give a general outline only.
California Rule of Court 3.1332, formerly Rule 375, governs requests for a continuance of trial and states in pertinent part that, “Trial dates are firm. To ensure the prompt disposition of civil cases, the dates assigned for a trial are firm. All parties and their counsel must regard the date set for trial as certain.”
However Rule 3.1332 also allows a motion for a continuance of trial to be filed, either by ex-parte application, or by a noticed motion. It cannot be stressed enough that a motion for a continuance should be filed, along with all supporting declarations containing competent evidence, as soon as the need for a continuance becomes apparent. Many judges take a dim view of attorneys or litigants who wait an unreasonable period of time before requesting a continuance. And the general rule in California is that the judge has great discretion in denying or granting a request for a continuance.
However, while the trial court has great discretion in ruling on a motion for continuance, if a continuance is denied and the result is a denial of a fair hearing, at least two decisions of the California Courts of Appeal have stated that the discretion of the trial court is abused.
And another California Court of Appeal stated that the strong public policy favoring disposition of cases on the merits outweighs other policies such as the Trial Court Delay Reduction Act, and that “when the two policies collide head-on, the strong public policy favoring disposition on the merits outweighs the competing policy favoring judicial efficiency.”
And in construing Rule 3.1332 another California Court of Appeal stated that unavailability of trial counsel because of death, illness, or other excusable circumstances under normal circumstances should qualify as “good cause”.
Click below to view the full text of Rule 3.1332
Any party contemplating requesting a continuance of a trial date should review the annotated versions of all the relevant statutes and rules such as California Rule of Court 3.1332 and legal treatises such as The Rutter Group, Civil Procedure Before Trial and others so that their request has the best chance of being accepted.
As mentioned earlier, failing to do so, and in particular, waiting too long to request a continuance will likely result in the request for a continuance being denied.
The author sincerely hopes you have enjoyed this article.