Today, I’m going to discuss court rules. When you work in civil litigation, like I do, and when you practice in two different states on both a state and federal level, doublechecking the rules becomes second nature. But, as I learned recently, searching out just the local rules is not always enough.
A couple of months ago, I made two mistakes that involved instructions that were not in the local rules. The first mistake I made was to submit the proposed Scheduling Order in the wrong manner. The local rules of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri don’t say anything about the way to submit a Scheduling Order. However, on the Western District of Missouri Local Rules webpage, under the Procedures tab there is a “CM/ECF Administration Guide” which instructs that unlike other proposed orders, which are submitted to chambers in Word, Proposed Scheduling Orders are actually filed through the CM/ECF system. There is no real way of knowing this without looking at the Administration Guide.
The second mistake I made was also in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, but it was in a different case which was a minor relief. I hate making mistakes, and I certainly hate making multiple mistakes. This time it involved the MAP order. MAP is the Western District of Missouri’s “Mediation and Assessment Program.” Every civil case that’s filed in this District is subject to an order that is entered shortly after the Complaint is filed. This order compels early mediation sometimes through a Judge and sometimes parties are allowed to agree upon an outside mediator from an approved list. The order compels mediation by a certain date, and in this case we wanted to extend that deadline. So what did I do? I filed a motion for extension. However, in the MAP Order it clearly states that if the parties would like to request an extension to mediate then they have need to contact the MAP Director. Oh! if only I had read the order.
Anyone who works in civil litigation knows that the rules of each jurisdiction are many and various, but we should also remember that the local rules do not always contain all the pertinent information.
We all do ourselves a huge favor if we take the time to familiarize ourselves with the websites of the courts we are working in and with the phone numbers and emails to the clerk’s offices, to ensure we are actually in compliance.