Sometimes during a lawsuit, one of the parties dies before everything is over. Even more rare, sometimes between the time when a judgment is entered orally on the record and when the judgment paperwork is finalized someone dies. It doesn’t happen very often but apparently it happens enough for there to be a number of cases and statutes addressing how to handle it. You might blame this on the slow moving courts, because why else would this even be a thing.
Husband’s attorney later requested the judgment be entered nunc pro tunc so that it would be effective prior to his client’s death. The family court judge entered a nunc pro tunc judgment on December 20, 2012 but later changed his mind and decided that he didn’t have jurisdiction to do that. The judge vacated his prior order on July 3, 2013.
On appeal, the California Court of Appeal concluded that the family court judge was proper to enter a nunc pro tunc judgment the first time and sent the case back instructing the family court judge to re-enter the prior judgment from December 20, 2012.
“Because the court had decided to dissolve the marriage and reserve jurisdiction over all other matters before Alejandro’s death, the court maintained the authority to enter the December 11, 2012 nunc pro tunc order and the December 20, 2012 amended judgment recognizing the date of dissolution as May 7, 2012.”
Also, because the judge had reserved jurisdiction over the remaining issues in the case when the judgment was entered on May 7, 2012, the Court of Appeal said that the family court judge can go on to address those remaining issues as well. By deciding that he didn’t have jurisdiction to enter the nunc pro tunc judgment, the case was delayed over a year. Hopefully nobody was waiting for the property split.
Though the case doesn’t say exactly why Husband’s attorney was eager to ensure that Husband died a divorced man, perhaps his marital status would have had a significant impact on the distribution of the assets in his estate.
Professor Shaun Martin wrote a humorous take on this case on his blog California Appellate Report because he shares the same last name.