This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Marriage of:
Judith Kaye Jansen-Person,
John Lars Person,
Filed February 17, 2004
Hennepin County District Court
File No. DC 254653
John Lars Person, P.O. Box 23553, Minneapolis, MN 55423 (pro se appellant)
Nancy G. Moehle, 5939 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55417 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge
After a one-day trial, appellant argues the district court did not allow sufficient time to present his case. We affirm.
The parties were married in 1986 and separated in December 1999. Respondent filed for dissolution of the marriage in January 2000. After numerous delays, an order was filed in April 2002 setting a trial date of May 8, 2002, at 9:30 a.m. on the issues of health insurance, spousal maintenance, property division, debt division, appellant’s parenting time, legal custody of the parties’ minor children, and child support. Both sides were to exchange exhibits and direct-examination written reports of expert witnesses by April 24, 2002. Respondent provided the required documents prior to trial, but appellant provided no documents.
On the day of trial, appellant appeared pro se a half-hour late. Appellant had read none of the exhibits provided to him. Appellant claimed to have forgotten his glasses and his magnifying lens and that, as a result, he was unable to read the exhibits as they were introduced. This caused considerable delay as the district court was forced to make arrangements to read or explain each exhibit to appellant.
When appellant took the stand on his own behalf, the district court gave appellant the option of discussing legal custody or the property division first. Appellant chose to make an opening statement despite the district court’s caution that such a statement was both unnecessary and unwelcome. Then, appellant chose to dispute physical custody, even though appellant had previously stipulated that respondent was to have sole physical custody. Appellant then addressed legal custody. After some time, the district court instructed appellant to address the financial matters.
When discussing the property division, the district court ordered appellant to produce his bankruptcy documents that listed the property of the parties. The district court gave appellant one week to produce his bankruptcy documents and refused to allow appellant to testify about the value of items that should have been declared in the bankruptcy filing unless and until the district court saw that those items had been declared in the bankruptcy filings. The district court ordered appellant to obtain a copy of the bankruptcy filings and to highlight the property that appellant wanted; the district court said that it would consider admitting more testimony if and when appellant provided the bankruptcy filings. The trial was ended before appellant said all he wanted to say and before respondent had a chance to cross-examine appellant.
Appellant provided the bankruptcy documents, but he did not highlight any property that he wanted. Further, the bankruptcy documents contradicted appellant’s testimony because property that should have been included in the filings was not listed. The district court decided to hear no further testimony. Appellant moved for a new trial on the ground that he did not get his “day in court.” The motion was denied, and this appeal followed.
Appellant’s entire argument is that he was denied his “day in court.” The district court is authorized and directed to exercise control over trials and the evidentiary aspects thereof in order to, among other things, “avoid needless consumption of time.” Minn. R. Evid. 611(a); see Minn R. Civ. P. 1 (requiring rules of procedure to be construed and administered “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action”). Review of a district court’s handling of matters of trial procedure is reviewed on an abuse-of-discretion basis. See Kroning v. State Farm Auto. Ins. Co., 567 N.W.2d 42, 45-46 (Minn. 1997). “Pro se litigants are generally held to the same standards as attorneys.” Heinsch v. Lot 27, Block 1 For’s Beach, 399 N.W.2d 107, 109 (Minn. App. 1987).
Appellant’s argument is incorrect, both literally and figuratively. Appellant’s trial was scheduled for one day. A one-day trial was held. Appellant attended and participated in the trial. Thus, appellant’s argument he was denied his day in court is simply wrong.
Moreover, any prejudice to appellant’s case was due solely to his conduct. Appellant caused the half-hour delay at the outset, he did not prepare himself for the trial, he did not bring his glasses, and he chose to avoid discussion of the property division, despite the district court’s advice that he address that issue. The district court allowed for the possibility of additional trial time if appellant could substantiate his statement that there was more property. But the district court properly refused to accept additional testimony because the bankruptcy pleadings submitted by appellant contradicted, rather than supported, his testimony. The district court has an obligation to prevent needless delay and did precisely that in this case. Minn. R. Evid. 611(a); Minn. R. Civ. P. 1.