Courtroom Confusion as ‘Hearing' Becomes Trial Overnight Perplexing Widow

by George Waldon  on Monday, Sep. 2, 2013 12:00 am  

Mary Louise Rieger Bullock outside of Rieger Farms, a property in Stuttgart that is now the center of a lawsuit. (Photo by Jason Burt)

Carruth also is the attorney in a high-profile lawsuit against the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission regarding duck hunting rights and practices in three northeast Arkansas wildlife management areas: Big Lake, St. Francis Sunken Lands and Dave Donaldson Black River.

‘Plenty of Time’

Arkansas County Circuit Judge David G. Henry sent out notice of the trial on Jan. 8: “This case is set for one-half day hearing.” Carruth said he interpreted the notice, in which the word “trial” doesn’t appear, as a notice for a hearing on March 26.

Theresa Beiner, professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said the wording of the notice seemed unusual because the word “trial” is noticeably absent.

However, the phrasing might be considered normal for that local court, she said.

“It seems weird that the lawyer didn’t call [earlier] to see what this [notice] was about,” said Beiner, who teaches civil procedure, among other topics. “You should be checking to see what’s going on. That’s my estimation.”

Christina Boyd of DeWitt, the opposing attorney, didn’t share Carruth’s confusion.

Boyd responded that she was prepared to begin the trial when Judge Henry asked the parties if they were ready to proceed.

Carruth told the judge that he came prepared for a hearing and not a trial.

“What sort of hearing did you come prepared for, Mr. Carruth?” Henry asked. “Well, that was the quandary as to what was necessary for a hearing,” Carruth answered.

The judge asked Carruth why he would assume the proceeding was a hearing when there were no pending motions to necessitate a hearing.

“This case was set, whether you call it a hearing or a trial, whatever you want to call it, it was set on Jan. 8,” Henry told Carruth. “There has been plenty of time, if there was any confusion, to have clarified any questions. And this was set for half a day. And any status conference usually can be handled in 30 minutes or an hour.”



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