Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Affirmed With Harsh Words

In a case that had previously been remanded based on a finding that counsel had violated the "no contact" provision of Rule 4.2, the Rhode Island Supreme Court held that the trial court properly had vacated a default: "It would be an understatement to describe the life and travel of this case as tortuous."

As to the Rule 4.2 issue:

We said in Pleasant Management I, 870 A.2d at 446, that “confusion reigned in the wake of the violation of the anti-contact rule.” Unfortunately, the hearing below only further clouds the landscape of this case, and we are disappointed that the lower court did not follow our direction and determine whether Murray’s violation of the anti-contact rule occasioned excusable neglect by defendants to an extent sufficient to vacate the default.

The court held that the trial court had ignored its ruling and conducted a hearing that led to a finding contrary to the court's legal determination: "the opinions of this Court speak forthrightly and not by suggestion or innuendo...Nor is it the role of the trial justice to attempt to 'read between the lines' of our decisions." Nonetheless, the decision came out correctly as to the default and was affirmed.  (Mike Frisch)

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