Not Newly Discovered Evidence

January 29, 2020 § Leave a comment

When the chancellor awarded Amanda Prestwood rehabilitative alimony, his opinion pointed out that the record was bereft of evidence of daycare expenses, an itemization of debt she claimed she owed to her father, credit card debt, and student loan debt. Believing the award inadequate, Amanda filed a R59 motion to alter or amend the judgment, or, in the alternative, for a new trial. She asked the court to reweigh the evidence at trial, along with additional evidence attached to the motion, which included: a daycare cost sheet; a lease agreement; a promissory note; credit card statements; and her student loan debts. The court overruled the motion, and Amanda appealed.

The COA affirmed in Prestwood v. Prestwood, decided December 10, 2019. The opinion by Judge McDonald, is a routine analysis of rehabilitative alimony. You can read it for yourself.

The point I want to make here is that you should not use R59’s new trial provision to try to get before the court evidence that you did not, for whatever reason, at the trial. R59(a) specifies that the court in a non-jury case may grant a new trial “for any of the reasons for which rehearings have heretofore been granted in suits in equity in the courts of Mississippi.” Griffith says that, after completion of the term, the court could only grant a rehearing for newly discovered evidence or “supervening facts.” Newly-discovered is self-explanatory. Supervening facts would include factual circumstances that have changed since entry of the judgment which, had they been known to or foreseen by the court, would have changed the court’s ruling. Amanda’s post-trial proof fits neither category. Unless the opinion neglected to mention that all of her attachments to the motion were newly-discovered, she could have presented every bit of it at trial. Here is what Justice Griffith said about it:

It is the earnest desire of courts, and especially of courts of equity, to render decision only upon a full and fair exposition of all the pertinent material facts, and the courts will always be interested in any presentation that discloses any material fact not theretofore brought into the case. Nevertheless the law requires diligence from suitors, and when a trial has been had the question is not always whether justice has been done but whether the party complaining could, by the exercise of proper diligence, produced a different result … for while righteous results in specific cases are the great ends to be attained in equity decrees, it is also essential that there be an end to litigation, without unrighteous delays.

Griffith, Mississippi Chancery Practice, 2d Ed., 1950, § 632.

You need to think of final hearing as your one shot to get everything into the record that you will need to win the case on appeal, if necessary. The judge can’t give you a second chance without prejudicing the other party.

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