Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

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studebaker07
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Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby studebaker07 » Wed May 04, 2011 12:54 pm

What does it mean when a trial court "abuses its discretion"? Does it mean that the trial judge simply made a bad decision pertaining to the factual evidence by allowing something in that was clearly erroneous (i.e. a study finding that the earth is flat). Or can an abuse of discretion be a failure by the trial court judge to admit an appropriate amount of evidence given a particular issue (i.e. ruling that the right of beer companies to use billboards to advertise (free speech) can be restricted based on the testimony of a single expert that liquor advertising on billboards leads to an increase in drunk driving)?

random5483
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby random5483 » Wed May 04, 2011 1:19 pm

studebaker07 wrote:What does it mean when a trial court "abuses its discretion"? Does it mean that the trial judge simply made a bad decision pertaining to the factual evidence by allowing something in that was clearly erroneous (i.e. a study finding that the earth is flat). Or can an abuse of discretion be a failure by the trial court judge to admit an appropriate amount of evidence given a particular issue (i.e. ruling that the right of beer companies to use billboards to advertise (free speech) can be restricted based on the testimony of a single expert that liquor advertising on billboards leads to an increase in drunk driving)?


Generally, an appeals court will not reverse a trial court decision on a matter of fact unless the trial court abused its discretion. on the other hand, an appeals court can rule on a matter of law de novo. Basically, the key difference is that when it comes to legal questions the appeals court can decide what the standard is, but when it comes to factual matters the appeals court is too far removed to make a decision unless there is an abuse of discretion.

An abuse of discretion standard allows an appellate court to reverse a trial court decision when the trial court lacks substantial evidence to make its decision. The standard is not one of more likely than not. The appeals court looks to see if there is a rational basis for the trial courts decision. If there is any possibility that a reasonable fact finder would rule the way the trial court did, the decision cannot be reversed.

I can't answer your question related to evidence since I have not taken evidence yet.

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studebaker07
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby studebaker07 » Wed May 04, 2011 3:37 pm

Ok; that makes sense. Thanks!

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leobowski
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby leobowski » Wed May 04, 2011 4:16 pm

studebaker07 wrote:Or can an abuse of discretion be a failure by the trial court judge to admit an appropriate amount of evidence given a particular issue (i.e. ruling that the right of beer companies to use billboards to advertise (free speech) can be restricted based on the testimony of a single expert that liquor advertising on billboards leads to an increase in drunk driving)?


If the opponent objects during trial it's AOD. If not, they have to overcome the (much more difficult) plain error standard. At least that's how I understand it.

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98234872348
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby 98234872348 » Wed May 04, 2011 4:21 pm

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Last edited by 98234872348 on Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:27 am, edited 1 time in total.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed May 04, 2011 4:35 pm

Not sure about "unreasonable".

CanadianWolf
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed May 04, 2011 5:17 pm

"Abuse of discretion" standard allows appellate courts a great amount of leeway when reviewing lower court rulings.

A clear cut example of "abuse of discretion" would be if the trial court refused to allow the purported murder victim to testify at the trial.


P.S. The victim's testimony might consist of the phrase "I'm not dead yet" which could very well impact the outcome of the murder trial.

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MrKappus
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby MrKappus » Wed May 04, 2011 5:19 pm

random5483 wrote:
studebaker07 wrote:What does it mean when a trial court "abuses its discretion"? Does it mean that the trial judge simply made a bad decision pertaining to the factual evidence by allowing something in that was clearly erroneous (i.e. a study finding that the earth is flat). Or can an abuse of discretion be a failure by the trial court judge to admit an appropriate amount of evidence given a particular issue (i.e. ruling that the right of beer companies to use billboards to advertise (free speech) can be restricted based on the testimony of a single expert that liquor advertising on billboards leads to an increase in drunk driving)?


Generally, an appeals court will not reverse a trial court decision on a matter of fact unless the trial court abused its discretion. on the other hand, an appeals court can rule on a matter of law de novo. Basically, the key difference is that when it comes to legal questions the appeals court can decide what the standard is, but when it comes to factual matters the appeals court is too far removed to make a decision unless there is an abuse of discretion.

An abuse of discretion standard allows an appellate court to reverse a trial court decision when the trial court lacks substantial evidence to make its decision. The standard is not one of more likely than not. The appeals court looks to see if there is a rational basis for the trial courts decision. If there is any possibility that a reasonable fact finder would rule the way the trial court did, the decision cannot be reversed.

I can't answer your question related to evidence since I have not taken evidence yet.


"Clearly erroneous" is the standard of review for matters of fact.

Edit: to elaborate, appeals courts review facts found under CE standard, matters of law de novo, and then judges decisions for abuse of discretion, best defined as "failure to take account of the relevant facts and law," or "arbitrary."

E.g., appeals court reviews trial court's denial of an MSJ for being 3 days late:
- Was it three days late like trial court said? (Matter of fact, reviewed as clearly erroneous.)
- Is three-days late considered "late" under the law? (Matter of law, reviewed de novo.)
- Did trial court properly deny motion? (Matter of discretion, reviewed for abuse.)

CanadianWolf
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed May 04, 2011 5:48 pm

Do you think that "abuse of discretion" is a difficult hurdle ? Doesn't it usually require an analysis as to whether or not it affected the outcome of the trial ?

P.S. I realize that this will vary by jurisdiction.

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MrKappus
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby MrKappus » Wed May 04, 2011 6:12 pm

^ I'll answer, though I'm sure some future-litigators out there can do much better. Yeah, abuse is a high bar to get over, mainly because the Rules are replete with instances where X is prohibited, unless "not X" X is alright according to the trial court's discretion. And you're right that outcome-determinativeness is necessary for a ruling to be an error [FRE 103(a)].

Edit: logic fail.

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Verity
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby Verity » Wed May 04, 2011 6:26 pm

Webster's Legal Dictionary says:

Abuse of discretion is an unsound or illogical ruling by a court or administrative body on a matter within its discretion. A discretionary ruling will not be reversed simply because the reviewing court would have decided the matter differently, but only if the decision is found to be so unreasonable as to constitute an "abuse of discretion." The phrase does not imply wrongdoing; it simply indicates that the tribunal committed an error. This is also called "improvident exercise of discretion."

CanadianWolf
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Re: Abuse of discretion by trial court judges

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed May 04, 2011 7:53 pm

Do you agree that "abuse of discretion" standards of review can vary by jurisdiction in state courts ?




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