February 2019 Second Example Ten-point Answers to Virginia Essay Questions
February 2019 - QUESTION 6 – VIRGINIA BAR EXAMINATION
On June 8, 2018, Jerry went to Bob’s house in Tazewell, Virginia, to collect a debt. When Bob refused to pay, Jerry punched him in the face several times. Bob sustained injuries during the assault that required medical treatment, so he filed a personal injury action against Jerry in the General District Court of Tazewell County seeking $1,500 as compensation for his medical expenses.
A trial was held in the General District Court on Thursday, October 4, 2018. At the trial, Bob testified about the assault, the extent of his injuries, and the cost of his medical treatment. Jerry did not testify. At the conclusion of the trial, the General District Court entered a judgment awarding Bob $1,500. Jerry decided to appeal the General District Court’s decision to the Circuit Court of Tazewell County. He filed a Notice of Appeal in the General District Court on Monday, October 15, 2018. He then followed the appropriate procedural steps required to perfect his appeal.
Before a trial was held in the Circuit Court, Bob filed a Motion to Dismiss the case claiming that Jerry had failed to timely file a Notice of Appeal. The Circuit Court denied Bob’s motion and the case proceeded to a jury trial. At trial, Bob testified consistently with his previous testimony from the General District Court trial. After laying a proper foundation, Bob also moved to admit into evidence video footage from his home security camera that clearly showed Jerry attacked him. Jerry objected to the admission of the video footage. Although Jerry admitted that the video footage was relevant and highly probative, he argued that Bob could not introduce evidence during the Circuit Court trial that he had failed to introduce during the General District Court trial. The Circuit Court overruled Jerry’s objection, and the video was admitted into evidence. After the video was played for the jury, Bob’s neighbor, Phil, testified about a conversation that he had with Jerry’s wife regarding the assault. Jerry did not object to Phil’s testimony. Jerry did not testify at the trial or put on any defense evidence. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in Bob’s favor and awarded him $1,500. The Circuit Court subsequently entered a judgment consistent with the jury’s verdict.
Jerry appealed the Circuit Court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Virginia, following all of the procedural steps required to perfect his appeal. On appeal, Jerry argued that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict. Additionally, Jerry argued that the Circuit Court erred by admitting hearsay testimony from Phil. Jerry also filed a notice stating that he intended to present additional testamentary evidence to the Supreme Court about the alleged assault.
|(a)||Did the Circuit Court err by denying Bob’s pretrial Motion to Dismiss Jerry’s appeal? Explain fully.|
|(b)||Did the Circuit Court err by overruling Jerry’s objection to the video footage? Explain fully.|
|(c)||Should the Supreme Court address Jerry’s argument regarding Phil’s testimony? Explain fully.|
|(c)||Should Jerry be permitted to present the additional evidence to the Supreme Court? Explain fully.|
February 2019 - QUESTION 6 – EXAMPLE ANSWER #1
A. The Circuit Court did not err denying Bob's motion to dismiss Jerry's appeal
The Circuit Court did not err in denying Bob's motion to dismiss because the notice to appeal was timely filed.
Parties to a General District Court action may file an appeal to the Circuit Court. This notice of appeal must be filed with the General District Court where the judgment was entered within 10 days of the judgment. However, if the 10th day falls on the weekend, the appellant may file the notice on the following Monday.
Here, Jerry filed his appeal with the General District Court on October 15, 2018. While the judgment was entered 11 days prior on October 4, 2018, October 14th was a Sunday, so Jerry was entitled to file his appeal on Monday, October 15th.
Therefore, the Court did not err in denying Bob's motion to dimiss.
B. The Circuit Court did not err by overruling Jerry's objection to the video footage
The Court did not err by overruling Jerry's objection to the video footage on the basis that it wasn't introduced in the General District Court trial.
Appeals from the General District Court to the Circuit Court are de novo. Therefore, the parties start over from the beginning and put on the entire case again. Evidence used in the prior trial may be used again, but does not have to be. Similarly, evidence that was not used in the prior trial may be introduced in Circuit Court.
Here, Jerry's video footage was appropriately authenticated and entered into evidence. As a de novo appeal, there is no basis for Jerry's objection.
Thus, the Circuit Court did not err in overruling Jerry's objection to the video footage.
C. The Supreme Court will not hear argument regarding Phil's testimony
The Supreme Court will not address Jerry's argument regarding Phil's testimony because the issue was not preserved for appeal.
Objections during trial must be made timely and with specificity as to the basis of the objection. If a party does not make an objection during trial, the matter will only be addressed on appeal if it constitutes plain error. There is plain error where, absent the mistake, the outcome would have been completely different.
Jerry failed to make a timely objection to the hearsay evidence. He needed to object at the time of the testimony in order to preserve the issue for appeal. Additionally, in this situation, there is no plain error. There was plenty of evidence, especially through the security video, to find Jerry liable for the assault even if the hearsay had been excluded.
Therefore, because Jerry did not make a timely objection, the issue was not preserved for appeal and will not be addressed by the Supreme Court.
D. Jerry should not be permitted to present additional evidence to the Supreme Court
Jerry should not be permitted to present additional testimentary evidence to the Supreme Court because the appeal must be based on the record from the trial.
Appeals to the Supreme Court are not de novo proceedings. They are based solely on the record from the trial, including transcripts, exhibits, and pleadings. The burden is on the petitioner to make sure the Court has an full record on which the Supreme Court will make its determination.
Jerry had the opportunity at both the General District Court trial and the Circuit Court trial to testify himself or to put on evidence. However, he did not do so. It would be inappropriate to allow him to present evidence now to the Supreme Court because their review is based solely on the prior record.
Therefore, Jerry should not be permitted to present additional evidence to the Supreme Court.
February 2019 - QUESTION 6 – EXAMPLE ANSWER #2
A. The Circuit Court did not err in denying Bob's pre-trial motion to dismiss. Decisions in General District Court are appealable to the Circuit Court as long as the judgment amount in dispute is more than $20. A notice of appeal must be filed with the General District Court (GDC) within 10 days of the judgment. If the deadline falls on a weekend or a holiday, the deadline is extended to the next business day. Assuming here that the judgment was entered on the day of trial in GDC, October 4, 2018, the appeal deadline was October 14. The facts state that Jerry filed a Notice of Appeal on Monday October 15, 2018. The original deadline fell on a Sunday, therefore Jerry's filing on Monday October 15 was timely.
B. The Circuit Court did not err in overruling Jerry's objection to Bob's video footage. Appeals from GDC to Circuit Court are heard de novo. GDCs are not courts of record and the Circuit Court can hear any relevant and otherwise admissible evidence. A party need not make the same arguments or introduce the same evidence in Circuit Court as it did in GDC. Here, the Circuit Court was not limited to considering the evidence presented in the GDC, therefore it did not err in overruling Jerry's objection.
C. The Supreme Court should not address Jerry's argument regarding Phil's testimony because Jerry failed to make an exception at trial. In order for the Supreme Court to consider an issue on appeal, the party must have preserved their objection with reasonable certainty at trial. An objection cannot be preserved by a general statement such as "errors" of law but must be stated with particularity.
Here, Jerry did not object at all to Phil's testimony at trial and therefore the Supreme Court should not consider the question of admissibility of the evidence.
D. Jerry should not be permitted to present additional evidence to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court does not hear cases de novo but gives deferrence to the lower court absent reversible error. The Supreme Court decides civil cases based on the trial record or a summary of the trial as well as the pleadings, briefs, and arguments of the parties. If Jerry wanted additional evidence to be considered he should also file a motion for the Circuit Court to re-hear the case within 30 days of the judgment.