August 25, 2021

Attending (or not attending) a Court Hearing

A fundamental rule of court proceedings is to attend the court hearing, whether in-person, virtually or by phone. The consequences of missing a court hearing without a justifiable reason include the court dismissing your case.

A recent unpublished appellate opinion centered on a litigant who missed multiple court hearings and then had his case dismissed, then appealed the dismissal.

"Steven Hennion appeals from an order denying his motion to set aside a judgment in a trust and estate action. He argues the ruling was an abuse of discretion because his failure to attend court hearings was excusable neglect—he relied on a superior court clerk's representation regarding the status of the case and believed the cases were dismissed. He also argues the judgment is void because he did not have any notice of the proceedings even though the trial court dispensed with notice and further determined he was evading service."

I found the excerpt about evading service "interesting" to put it mildly.

"The trial court further determined Steven's neglect was not excusable because he evaded service—he made himself "unlocatable" despite the pending disputes regarding his parents' estate in which he was accused of wrongdoing."

"Steven faults Erik for attempting to serve him at places that he no longer occupied. However, Steven expressly stated in his Notice of Change of Address that he did not have any address to provide the court. He also did not include any telephone number or email address in his notice of change of address in violation of the California Rules of Court. (See Cal. Rules of Court, rules 2.111, subd. (1), 2.200.) Steven fails to explain how the other parties could contact him when he essentially notified the court that he was unreachable."

"On seven separate occasions at different times of the day, licensed process servers attempted to personally serve Steven with the Removal Petition at Steven's Napa address. No one ever answered the door, the lights were not on, and there were no vehicles in the driveway. On three different dates, the process server noted that packages and an envelope bearing Steven's name and address had been delivered to Steven's house but were removed from the front porch between service attempts."

Estate of Hennion, Napa County Superior Court, case # 17PR000251.