What To Do When Judgment Is Entered Against You

STAY ENFORCEMENT OF THE JUDGMENT. After the jury renders its verdict, there are still many lines of defense available, including post-trial motions and appeal. First and foremost, the defendant must protect itself from immediate execution of the judgment, which, in many jurisdictions is enforceable immediately or within a very short time. A stay may be available by stipulation, court order or, as a last resort, filing an appeal bond. Don't delay. Time is short and the clock is ticking.

OBTAIN AN INVESTIGATOR. To help evaluate what issues to raise in a new trial motion, jurors should be interviewed as soon as possible. Defendant typically has a short period of time to identify possible new trial issues - such as juror misconduct - and obtain the supporting juror declarations. Thus, the investigator should be lined up and ready to proceed at the earliest possible time. Trial or appellate counsel should supervise the investigation closely, directing the activities, and personally draft any declarations needed. All declarations must be in proper evidentiary form and follow the state's particular requirements concerning what evidence qualifies to impeach a verdict. (See, e.g., Cal. Evid. Code, §1150; see also Krouse v. Graham (1977) 19 Cal.3d 59.)

DECIDE AND MOVE QUICKLY ON MOTIONS. The deadlines for filing new trial and JNOV/JMOL motions are short, critical and complicated. That means the decision whether to proceed - and what issues to raise - must be made as soon as possible. Sometimes, to preserve an issue for appeal, a new trial or other motion MUST be made.

FIELDING PRESS CALLS. Anyone involved on behalf of the losing party should be briefed on the proper handling of press inquiries, including the potential legal significance of responses. Ideally, all questions should be referred to defendant’s public relations office or the attorney handling the post-trial motion. They should work together and communicate frequently. Exercise caution in answering questions, issuing statements and granting interviews. Remarks should be cleared with counsel first, especially while post-trial motions are pending or contemplated. Keep in mind that the trial judge still has the power to grant significant relief.

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