Court Can’t Rule On Motion Without Giving Reason
A trial court consists of one judge. Some civil (non-criminal) cases are tried before a judge. He or she alone renders the decision. Other cases are tried before a jury. The judge decides what evidence the jury hears. But the ultimate decision belongs to the jury.
Either way, there are many rulings that must be made before any trial takes place. The judge makes these decisions. For example, one party may file a motion seeking to dismiss the other party’s claim as frivolous. Or, if the party being sued does not respond to the suit papers, the suing party may file a motion seeking a default judgment. Incidentally, a default judgment means that the party being sued has lost the case, and must pay damages.
The latter scenario recently occurred in a New Jersey case. A man being sued did not respond to the suit papers. The party suing moved for a default judgment. The judge granted the judgment.
Later, the man being sued moved to void the default judgment. He claimed that he had never been properly served with the suit papers. However, the judge denied the motion. The default judgment stood.
Appeals Court Strikes Down Trial Ruling
The man appealed. The appeals panel, consisting of two judges, reversed the trial judge. Indeed, the appellate judges voided the default judgment. The party sued will have his day in court.
The main reason the appeals court voided the judgment was simple. In making the ruling, the trial judge failed to state “findings of fact and conclusions of law.” In other words, the trial court failed to give a reason for its ruling.
Most noteworthy, the appeals court stated that the court rules require a judge to give a rationale for his or her rulings. Otherwise, it cannot be determined whether or not a ruling is correct.
Strike up a small victory for fairness.