DENIAL OF A PARTY’S RIGHT TO DEPOSE A MATERIAL WITNESS IS SUBJECT TO CERTIORARI REVIEW, AND DENIAL OF A CONTINUANCE WHEN PLAINTIFF CANNOT BE AT TRIAL ALSO DEPARTED FROM THE ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS OF LAW.
Solonina v. Artglass International, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D2298 (Fla. 3rd DCA October 10, 2018):
The trial was set for a date in September that plaintiff’s trial counsel had informed the trial court that he had a prepaid vacation where he would be out of the country. He then informed the court that the plaintiff and her husband, and their three children would then be on a prepaid trip around the world from August until May of the next year. The trial court acknowledged the trial attorney’s vacation time, but reset the trial for when he knew the plaintiff would not be available. As such, the court departed from the essential requirements of law.
Generally orders denying discovery are not reviewable by certiorari, but there is an exception when a discovery order departs from the essential requirements of law causing material injury to the petitioner throughout the remainder of the proceedings and leaving no adequate remedy on appeal. A trial court’s denial of a party’s right to depose a material witness has been found to constitute irreparable harm subject to certiorari review.
Similarly, due process requires that a party be given the opportunity to be heard and to testify and call witnesses on a party’s behalf and the denial of this right is fundamental error. While the trial court possesses broad discretion in granting or denying a continuance, there are instances in which a trial court’s denial of a motion for continuance may be an abuse of discretion. While courts have broad authority to control their dockets, trial judges must use the authority to manage their courtrooms so people have their business conducted fairly, efficiently and expeditiously, but this must be balanced against a party’s right to have his or her day in court.
In this case, the trial court departed from the essential requirements of law by granting the plaintiff’s motion for continuance but then rescheduling the trial for a date that the trial court knew she would not be available and when plaintiff’s counsel would not be able to take depositions of material witnesses (because the plaintiff was a material witness).