Byrd v. Mahaffey, 02-261.

Citation78 P.3d 671,2003 WY 137
Decision Date29 October 2003
Docket NumberNo. 02-261.,02-261.
PartiesRonald Howard BYRD, Appellant (Defendant), v. Linda Lee MAHAFFEY, f/k/a Linda Lee Byrd, Appellee (Plaintiff).
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming

Representing Appellant: Mike Cornia, Evanston, WY.

Representing Appellee: Stan Decker Cannon of Greenhalgh, Beckwith, Lemich, Stith & Cannon, P.C., Rock Springs, WY.

Before HILL, C.J., and GOLDEN, LEHMAN, KITE, and VOIGT, JJ.

LEHMAN, Justice.

[¶ 1] Ronald Howard Byrd appeals the district court's decision allowing his counsel of record to withdraw from representing him prior to trial. Byrd also contests the district court's subsequent refusal to grant him a continuance of the trial date. Upon review, we affirm.

ISSUES

[¶ 2] Byrd sets forth the following issues on appeal:

I. Did the trial court commit reversible error when it allowed appellant's counsel to withdraw eight (8) business days before trial?
II. Did the trial court's denial of appellant's motion for continuance to obtain new counsel after the court had allowed counsel to withdraw shortly before trial require reversal?

Appellee Linda Lee Mahaffey, formerly known as Linda Lee Byrd, phrases the issues as:

1. Whether Appellant is estopped from raising issues on appeal that were not preserved in the district court by proper objection or exception.
2. Whether the district court committed reversible error in granting the motion for Appellant's counsel to withdraw.
3. Whether the district court committed reversible error in denying Appellant's motion for a continuance.
4. Whether Appellee's substitute Statement of the Evidence, which was adopted by the district court, was timely filed.
FACTS1

[¶ 3] A Complaint for Divorce was filed by Mahaffey on May 2, 2001, with Byrd answering the complaint on June 4, 2001. On June 25, 2001, the district court scheduled trial for November 27, 2001. This date was vacated by order of the district court based on a joint motion filed by the parties due to the death of Byrd's father. On January 7, 2002, the district court rescheduled the trial date for May 16, 2002.

[¶ 4] On April 26, 2002, counsel for Byrd filed a motion to withdraw. A hearing on this motion was scheduled for May 3, 2002. Byrd, however, did not appear. Ultimately, the district court granted the motion to withdraw. On May 14, 2002, Byrd filed a motion to continue trial. The motion was denied, and trial commenced on May 16, 2002, culminating with the district court granting the divorce and dividing the subject marital property. This appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 5] In Honan v. Honan, 809 P.2d 783, 786-87 (Wyo.1991), we recognized:

The district court has the authority to control the course of a litigation. That power includes the discretion to grant continuances, either upon its own motion or upon a motion by one of the parties, and to grant an attorney's request to withdraw. Bromley v. Haberman, 583 P.2d 703 (Wyo. 1978); Wyo.Stat. § 1-9-102 (1988); Rules 102 and 201 of the Uniform Rules for the District Courts of the State of Wyoming. The district court must exercise its discretion in a way which promotes justice. See Bromley, 583 P.2d 703.

(Emphasis added.) We have further indicated that issues concerning the withdrawal of counsel and continuances are matters that are left to the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be upset on appeal absent a demonstrated abuse of discretion. Bacon v. Carey Co., 669 P.2d 533, 534 (Wyo.1983). An abuse of discretion is found only when a court acts in a manner which exceeds the bounds of reason under the circumstances. The ultimate issue is whether the trial court could reasonably conclude as it did. The decision of the trial court will not be reversed absent proof of such abuse. Jensen v. Fremont Motors Cody, Inc., 2002 WY 173, ¶¶ 13-14, 58 P.3d 322, ¶¶ 13-14 (Wyo.2002).

[¶ 6] We have also stated:

In criminal cases, the withdrawal of counsel, particularly on the eve of trial, may implicate due-process considerations and defendant's right to effective assistance of counsel. Epperson v. State, Wyo., 637 P.2d 671 (1981); Adger v. State, Wyo., 584 P.2d 1056 (1978). However, in civil cases, withdrawal of counsel does not always provide grounds for the granting of a continuance. Annot., 48 A.L.R.2d 1155, 1157.

"`The withdrawal, on the eve of trial, of the attorney for one of the parties to an action, leaving such party unprepared for trial, is not ipso facto a ground for continuance....'" Benson v. Benson, 66 Nev. 94, 204 P.2d 316, 318 (1949).

Particularly relevant to the matters with which we are concerned in this appeal is this court's holding
"... that the trial court may deny a continuance if the problem which gives rise to the request for a continuance is the fault of the party moving for the continuance." Craver v. Craver, supra, 601 P.2d at 1000.

Bacon, 669 P.2d at 535.

[¶ 7] This court has further clarified:

The trial court has broad discretion in granting or denying of a motion for continuance; and, absent a manifest abuse of discretion, the reviewing court will not disturb such ruling. Craver v. Craver, Wyo., 601 P.2d 999 (1979); Holly Sugar Corp. v. Perez, Wyo., 508 P.2d 595 (1973). To find an abuse of discretion, the refusal must be so arbitrary as to deny appellant due process, and the burden rests upon appellant to prove actual prejudice and a violation of his rights. Bacon v. Carey Co., Wyo., 669 P.2d 533; State v. Spurlock, 161 Mont. 388, 506 P.2d 842 (1973).
On review we look at the peculiar circumstances of the case and the reasons presented to the trial judge at the time of the request. Ungar v. Sarafite, 376 U.S. 575, 84 S.Ct. 841, 11 L.Ed.2d 921, reh. denied 377 U.S. 925, 84 S.Ct. 1218, 12 L.Ed.2d 217 (1964).

Cates v. Eddy, 669 P.2d 912, 915-16 (Wyo. 1983).

[¶ 8] Finally, this court has declared:

Withdrawal of an attorney or his discharge in a civil case does not give a party an absolute right to a continuance. Grunewald v. Missouri Pacific Railroad Co., 331 F.2d 983 (8th Cir.1964). Even though the denial of the continuance may have seriously inconvenienced appellant, the situation was due to his own making and that is a factor to be considered.
Many jurisdictions weigh the appellant's right to counsel against the prompt administration of justice. Annot., 73 A.L.R.3d 725. The trial court is better able to judge the matter, is more conversant with local conditions, status of the docket, and the capacity and disposition of counsel. It is more familiar with the background and general setting of the situation, which is frequently not embalmed in the formal record. Absent a clear abuse of judicial discretion, this court will not interfere. State v. Hathaway, 224 Iowa 478, 276 N.W. 207 (1937); see, Randolph v. Hays, Wyo., 665 P.2d 500 (1983).

Id. at 916.

DISCUSSION
Appealable Issues

[¶ 9] Initially, Mahaffey contests that Byrd failed to raise to the district court the issues now presented because Byrd did not object to the district court's rulings. Thus, Mahaffey contends that Byrd is precluded from bringing these issues up on appeal.

[¶ 10] We have often expressed that issues raised for the first time on appeal generally will not be considered by this court unless they are jurisdictional or issues of such a fundamental nature that they must be considered. Joyner v. State, 2002 WY 174, ¶ 13, 58 P.3d 331, ¶ 13 (Wyo.2002); Robinson v. Pacificorp, 10 P.3d 1133, 1136 (Wyo.2000); WW Enterprises, Inc. v. City of Cheyenne, 956 P.2d 353, 356 (Wyo.1998). We have also made it clear that it is appropriate for us to address issues that are bound to emerge again if left unresolved. Joyner, at ¶ 13; Rocky Mountain Oil & Gas Ass'n v. State, 645 P.2d 1163, 1167 (Wyo.1982); McGuire v. McGuire, 608 P.2d 1278, 1286 (Wyo.1980).

[¶ 11] We find that it is important for this court to address the issues raised by Byrd on appeal 1) because they are fundamental in nature inasmuch as they concern specific due process questions, and 2) they are issues that continue to arise following the modification of Uniform Rules for District Courts of the State of Wyoming (U.R.D.C.), Rule 102(c) in 1993. Therefore, recognizing that special circumstances exist, we choose to attend to the issues brought before this court on appeal, as most recently dictated in Joyner, at ¶ 13.

Withdrawal of Counsel

[¶ 12] In his first issue on appeal, Byrd complains that the district court committed reversible error when it allowed his counsel to withdraw eight business days before trial. Specifically, Byrd argues that the district court erred because no "extraordinary circumstances" existed to allow withdrawal of counsel pursuant to U.R.D.C. 102(c). In addition, Byrd asserts that the case of Carlson v. Carlson, 836 P.2d 297, 302 (Wyo.1992) discloses this court's directive that the "better practice" is to require that counsel not be allowed to withdraw unless other counsel has made a written entry of appearance except in extraordinary circumstances.

[¶ 13] Uniform Rule for District Courts 102, in pertinent part, provides the following:

(a)(1) An attorney appears in a case:
(A) By attending any proceeding as counsel for any party;
(B) By permitting the attorney's name to appear on any pleadings or motions, except that an attorney who assisted in the preparation of a pleading and whose name appears on the pleading as having done so shall not be deemed to have entered an appearance in the matter; or
(C) By a written appearance. Except in a criminal case, a written entry of appearance may be limited, by its terms, to a particular proceeding or matter.
(2) Except as otherwise limited by a written entry of appearance, an appearing attorney shall be considered as representing the party or parties for whom the attorney appears for all purposes.
...
(c) Counsel will not be permitted to withdraw from a case except upon court order. Except in the case of extraordinary circumstances, the court shall condition withdrawal of counsel upon the
...

To continue reading

Request your trial
32 cases
  • Hardison v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 6, 2022
    ...court unless they are jurisdictional or issues of such a fundamental nature that they must be considered." (quoting Byrd v. Mahaffey , 2003 WY 137, ¶ 10, 78 P.3d 671, 674 (Wyo. 2003) )).4 At oral argument, Mr. Hardison raised the substantive due process element of the Fourteenth Amendment a......
  • Hardison v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 6, 2022
    ...this court unless they are jurisdictional or issues of such a fundamental nature that they must be considered." (quoting Byrd v. Mahaffey, 2003 WY 137, ¶ 10, 78 P.3d 671, 674 (Wyo. 2003))). [4] At oral argument, Mr. Hardison raised the substantive due process element of the Fourteenth Amend......
  • McDill v. McDill (In re The Phyllis V. McDill Revocable Trust)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 22, 2022
    ...nature that they must be considered.'" Gjertsen v. Haar, 2015 WY 56, ¶ 15, 347 P.3d 1117, 1123 (Wyo. 2015) (quoting Byrd v. Mahaffey, 2003 WY 137, ¶ 10, 78 P.3d 671, 674 (Wyo. 2003)). Thomas's argument is neither jurisdictional nor fundamental. Second, his argument lacks merit. [¶23] "No-co......
  • McDill v. McDill (In re Phyllis V. McDill Revocable Trust)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 22, 2022
    ...nature that they must be considered.’ " Gjertsen v. Haar , 2015 WY 56, ¶ 15, 347 P.3d 1117, 1123 (Wyo. 2015) (quoting Byrd v. Mahaffey , 2003 WY 137, ¶ 10, 78 P.3d 671, 674 (Wyo. 2003) ). Thomas's argument is neither jurisdictional nor fundamental. Second, his argument lacks merit. [¶23] "N......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT