Pro pers and young attorneys are often surprised to learn that there are no California Judicial Council forms available to request a continuance for a trial or hearing. The reasoning behind this stems in part from a statutory admonishment to discourage continuances in the Trial Court Delay Reduction Act (Gov. Code, § 68600, et seq.). Pursuant to Government Code section 68607, subdivision (g), judges are required to “[a]dopt and utilize a firm, consistent policy against continuances, to the maximum extent possible and reasonable, in all stages of the litigation.” Accordingly, a party seeking a continuance will have to draft a motion on pleading paper and comply with the rules promulgated by the California Supreme Court and Judicial Council under California Rules of Court, rule 3.1332.
California Rules of Court, rule 3.1332(d)(9) lists among the factors the courts consider in granting such a motion is if all parties have stipulated to the continuance. Given the adversarial nature of judicial proceedings and acrimony that frequently arises, there might be a temptation to spite one’s opponent by refusing to consent to his or her request for a continuance. Consider the following example from the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Here attorney for the defense, Bryan Erman, requested a continuance because he was expecting his first child shortly before the commencement of the trial. Despite the plaintiff’s counsel’s “lengthy and spirited” opposition to the motion, the judge granted the continuance. In doing so, Judge Eric Melgren congratulated the expectant father and offered this admonishment to the attorneys:
Certainly this judge is convinced of the importance of federal court, but he has always tried not to confuse what he does with who he is, nor to distort the priorities of his day job with his life’s role. Counsel are encouraged to order their priorities similarly.
Another federal judge, William S. Duffey, Jr., suggests that being civil toward one’s opponent can be rewarding in itself: “The incivility and hostility of litigation today not only makes this work more unpleasant, less satisfying, and less fulfilling, but it also serves as a barrier to what we are charged to do—to represent clients in the resolution of disputes by seeking just results.” (On Encouraging Civility in A Life in the Law: Advice for young Lawyers (Duffey & Schneider, edits 2009) p. 59) So before you go to the mattresses over your opponent’s request for a continuance, you might want to consider whether it’s really worth the effort—and make sure that you or your client will not need to request any favors from the other side.
For Alameda County Law Library patrons who are seeking continuances, the library has a number of practice guides that may be useful for pro pers and attorneys. For example, chapter 42 of CEB’s California Civil Procedure Before Trial, 4th ed., discusses the requirements and procedures and includes a sample notice and declaration. And for newer attorneys, the library also has a display of titles offering practical advice for those beginning their careers.