Ruben and Paul Flores, the father and son arrested in connection with the disappearance of Kristin Smart, are facing lawsuits on top of their felony charges.
San Luis Obispo attorneys weighed in on the legal processes and said civil cases usually take a backseat when a defendant is also facing a criminal case.
In 1997, civil attorney James Murphy, Kristin Smart’s family attorney, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Paul Flores.
It resulted in the deposition of Paul and Ruben Flores and the 2007 dig of Susan Flores's Arroyo Grande home.
Over the years, judges have stayed the lawsuit.
On Thursday, Ruben Flores was hit with his own lawsuit and that civil case moves forward with discovery until Ruben's attorney asks for a stay, too.
“You can have the case stayed as to you, which means it doesn't dismiss the case. It just puts it on hold until the criminal case is resolved or until you are removed from suspicion,” explained civil attorney Gordon Bosserman.
Civil cases often are stalled by criminal proceedings.
“When there is a possibility of a criminal case being brought, the person who is a witness can go on the record and say, 'I decline to answer that on grounds it could incriminate me,'” Bosserman said.
He used the OJ Simpson trial as an example.
“In the criminal case, [Simpson] was found to be not guilty and yet the civil case was able to proceed," he said.
Paul Flores is also facing a charge of felony in possession of a firearm in Los Angeles County. Criminal attorney Scott Taylor said a defendant is required to appear in person for your first felony court hearing so you can waive time. Otherwise, your speedy trial rights are affected.
”When you have a situation like this where you have dual court cases at each venue, if you cannot get him on a screen in front of a judge, then you are going to have a warrant of some kind in order for the court to obtain some kind of jurisdiction," Taylor said.
He added that Zoom court appearances could give Paul a chance to waive his right to a speedy trial in that case.
"Mr. Flores can appear in the LA courtroom from SLO County Jail from coordination with the sheriff here and the sheriff there. I don't know if that's going to happen,” Taylor said. "If that coordination occurs for him and that some lawyer does get authority to appear for him, then that case down there would just get continued, continued, continued until his case is solved up here."
If Paul is convicted of murder and Ruben convicted of accessory after the fact as charged, the Smart Family attorney James Murphy will then ask a judge to lift the stay on the wrongful death lawsuit and move forward with both civil cases.
Paul's next Los Angeles County court appearance is scheduled for June 10 for his charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.