Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Judge Williams lets errant e-filer off the hook

In Cornett v. Weisenburger, Judge Williams of the W.D. Va. concluded that the plaintiff's counsel's efforts to file a complaint on the last day of the statute of limitations period were good enough, while expressing his view of local rules in general.

He wrote:

"The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia has never imposed upon attorneys a set of local rules that circumvent the spirit of the Federal Rules. The court has always liberalized its interpretation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to the extent that litigants are authorized to use the court to pursue the ends of justice. Just like this court’s long-standing interpretation and utilization of Rule 6(b), which allows any time period prescribed by the rules to be enlarged at the court’s discretion, the court can enlarge a local rule, in a manner consistent with the Federal Rules, to prevent injustice and allow the parties to proceed on the merits. . . .

When Rules 5(e) and 83(a)(2) are read in conjunction, it is evident that the Clerk cannot refuse to accept a filing merely because it is in improper form and a local rule of form cannot be enforced in a way that denies a party’s rights. Instead a judge must decide if the local rule should be put aside and if the complaint should be treated as properly filed. This court has never used a inadvertent mistake by an attorney to penalize an innocent litigant, especially a litigant who is already disadvantaged."

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