June 27, 2024

Complying with a Filing Deadline

It is axiomatic that a party is best served to observe filing deadlines. A judge does not impose filing deadlines for no reason. Rather filing deadlines are imposed to ensure the orderly administration of a case. A party who does not comply with a filing deadline does so at their own peril. This point was recently illustrated in an unpublished appellate opinion.

"On March 28, 2022—five days after the probate court's deadline to file objections to Liane's petition, three days after the court's deadline to file short briefs before the continued hearing, and just two days before the continued hearing itself—Tony filed and served objections to Liane's petition and an opposition brief."

"The probate court began by remarking that although the matter was set for an evidentiary hearing, "I don't think we're going to have one based on what I read." The court explained it had ordered any objections to the petition to be filed seven days in advance of the hearing and had received none. The court also observed it ordered the parties to walk their pre-hearing briefs into the courtroom five days before the hearing but had received only Liane's and Jett's briefs.

Tony's attorney, who was retained to represent Tony solely for purposes of appearing at the continued hearing (and the initial, uncompleted hearing earlier in March), explained that his client had difficulty filing his objections and brief through the electronic filing system. The court said Tony should have walked his filings into the courtroom and explained that as a "pro per litigant" Tony had "the luxury of walking in the door with [his] paperwork to the clerk's office and handing it to the clerk and saying `file it.' That is a luxury only pro pers have."

The probate court stated it would only "consider[ ] the briefs that were given to the court in a timely fashion." When Tony's attorney attempted to argue points raised in Tony's opposition and objections, the court rejected those arguments because Tony failed to timely file those documents: in the probate court's words, "[Tony] doesn't have a chance to have this fight because he did not do what he was required to do." When Tony's counsel asked for a short continuance so that the court could read what his client had filed, the court explained it gave Tony ample to time to file his responses to the petition and reiterated, "I'm not going to hear from him, because he did not do what he was ordered to do." When Tony himself attempted to interject, the court stated, "Mr. Bral, . . . I specifically put forth a briefing schedule and you did not comply with it. Therefore, we are not having this evidentiary hearing based on the fact that there is no need for it."

Tony personally interjected to inform the probate court that he had witnesses that would "respond to every item, every allegation." The probate court then invited both sides to make an offer of proof about what their witnesses would say if called to testify. Liane and Jett provided an extensive offer of proof; Tony did not.

"[B]ased on the briefs that were received," the offers of proof presented by Liane and Jett, and the fact that "no objection [was] lodged to th[e] petition," the probate court granted the petition and immediately suspended and removed Tony as co-trustee."

Estate of Ramin Bral, Los Angeles County Superior Court case #B323383