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Supreme Court upholds denial of continuance

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The majority of justices on the Indiana Supreme Court agreed that the trial court didn't abuse its discretion in denying a married couple's pro se motion to continue after their attorney withdrew six weeks before trial. The dissenting justice argued because of the complexities of the case, the trial court should have granted the couple's motion.

In Rudrappa and Jayashree Gunashekar v. Kay Grose d/b/a/ America's Affordable Housing, J&K Manufacturing, No. 02S03-0812-CV-762, the Supreme Court affirmed 4-1 the denial of the Gunashekars' motion to continue and the convictions of breach of contract, conversion, and deception. The Gunashekars hired Kay Grose's company to repair fire damage to property they leased and had insured. Grose claimed after she completed the work that Rudrappa refused to pay from his insurance proceeds, forged her name on the back of the insurance check, and wrote her a check that was returned unpaid.

The Gunashekars originally were represented by an attorney, but he withdrew six weeks prior to trial. The trial court made clear in its pretrial order that no removals or continuances of any settings or deadlines were permitted. The Gunashekars didn't obtain a new attorney and filed a pro se motion for a continuance, which the trial court denied. They appeared pro se at the trial, in which the trial court entered judgment for Grose finding the couple was jointly and severally liable for $147,000 and Rudrappa was liable for an additional $296,000 for treble damages and attorney fees.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the denial of motion to continue and didn't rule on any other issues.

But the Supreme Court found the trial court didn't abuse its discretion in denying the motion because the Gunashekars didn't indicate to the court they were diligent in trying to find a new attorney or whether they did anything after their original counsel withdrew, wrote Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

"If any inference can be drawn from the unexplained passage of six weeks from the time their attorney withdrew, it is that they were not forced to proceed without an attorney," he wrote.

Justice Robert Rucker dissented, writing that although it may be correct to say the trial court didn't abuse its discretion in denying the pro se motion, the denial is grounds for reversal. The case presented a level of complexity involving insurance proceeds, joint and several liability, contract compliance, and other issues that few, if any, pro se litigants would be able to successfully navigate, he wrote.

"With a potential exposure, and indeed an ultimate adverse judgment, of nearly a half million dollars the Gunashekars needed the assistance of trained legal counsel," Justice Rucker continued. "Fairness and equity required the trial court to afford the Gunashekars a reasonable delay to accomplish this end."

The majority also affirmed the judgment against both defendants, Rudrappa's forgery constituted conversion, Rudrappa committed conversion, and the award of attorney fees.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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