When to Request a Statement of Decision

When to Request a Statement of Decision

This is the second part of the two-part series on the statement of decision.  See our earlier blog The Purpose of a Statement of Decision for an introduction into the statement of decision and its purpose.  A statement of decision must be timely requested.  Otherwise, as explained below, the court need not prepare one.  In this blog we go over the applicable deadlines depending on the length of trial and provide a timeframe of when judgment will be entered following a timely request.

To determine if a request for a statement of decision is timely depends on the length of trial.  (CCP § 632; Jones v. Adams Fin’l Services (1999) 71 CA4th 831, 840.)  The question being, did trial last eight hours or more.  If trial was no more than a day (i.e., lasting less than eight hours), then the request for statement of decision must be made before the matter is submitted for decision. (CCP § 632; Marriage of Gray (2002) 103 CA4th 974, 977.)  A matter is submitted for decision when “[t]he date the court orders the matter submitted”; or “[t]he date the final paper is required to be filed or the date argument is heard, whichever is later.”  (CRC 2.900(a)(1), (2); Marriage of Gray (2002) 103 CA4th 974, 977.)  On the other hand, for trials that last more than a day (i.e., more than eight hours) the request for a statement of decision must be made within 10 days after the court announces or serves the tentative decision, whichever is later.  (CCP § 632, CRC 3.1590(d).)  The judge may announce its tentative decision “orally in open court in the presence of all parties; or “by a written statement filed with the clerk.” (CRC 3.1590(a); see Horning v. Shilberg (2005) 130 CA4th 197, 203, 29 CR3d 717, 722.)

Law conflicts on whether the request for statement of decision must be made in writing. The court in Whittington v. McKinney held that an oral request is permissible.  (Whittington v. McKinney (1991) 234 CA3d 123, 126.)  But dictum in Martinez v. County of Tulare was directly opposite.  The “request must be in writing unless otherwise agreed.”  (Martinez v. County of Tulare (1987) 190 CA3d 1430, 1434.)  If in doubt, eliminate the uncertainty with a written request.

A timely request per the foregoing mandates the trial court to issue a statement of decision.  A belated request falls within the court’s discretion to issue one or not.  (See In re Steinberg (1977) 66 CA3d 815, 822.)

In the event that either party submits a request for a statement of decision, judgment will typically be entered after any objections are heard or after the time to make any objections expires.

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