This and the next blog will be a two-fold discussion about the statement of decision post bench trial. Part one below will be an introduction into the statements of decision and their purpose. Party two discusses the timing of the request.
California Code of Civil Procedure Section 632 provides that a statement of decision explains the factual and legal basis for the court’s decision as to each of the principal controverted issues at trial.
The information within the statements of decision serves several purposes. For the losing party, a statement of decision renders the foundation for a motion for a new trial. If the motion is unsuccessful, the statement of decision also paves the road for the losing party to have a potential successful appeal. The statement of decision provides the appellate court with the ability to determine if the trial court incorrectly applied the facts. (Whittington v. McKinney (1991) 234 CA3d 123, 127.) Without a statement of decission on record, the losing party would have issues with the substantial evidence rule. (Gordon v. Wolfe (1986) 179 CA3d 162, 168.) That is, the lower court’s reasoning for its decision will be unavailable to the reviewing court. (Id.) Indeed, without a statement of decision, appellate review is limited to only questions of law. (Fladeboe v. American Isuzu Motors Inc. (2007) 150 CA4th 42, 61.) Moreover, based on the “doctrine of implied findings,” the appellate court will automatically presume that the trial judge “made every factual finding necessary to support its decision.” (Id. at 58.)
A statement of decision does not only benefit the losing party. There are tactical reasons for the prevailing party to request one as well. For example, it could possibly discourage the losing party from taking an appeal. A record of the court’s correct application of the law and facts is an opportunity to educate the losing party of the futility of bringing an appeal.
Furthermore, if the prevailing party is every bit concerned that the losing party will attempt to relitigate the action, then a statement of decision would set the scope for the prevailing party to dismiss a subsequent action on res judicata and collateral estoppel grounds. It is possible that the judge would be irritated that the request for a statement of decision came from the prevailing party. Thus, whether the prevailing party should make the request is a strategy discussion with counsel.
Our real estate attorneys at Schorr Law have a great deal of experience with real estate matters, disputes, trial and statements of decisions. To see if you qualify for a free 30-minute consultation, contact us today!