eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017 – Last Call!

Polish your Oregon eCourt knowledge and avoid potential malpractice traps with this 2017 CLE update.

Topics include:

  • Relation Back Malpractice Traps – Defining filing “acceptance,” notification of rejected filings, the process for seeking relation back, right to object, judicial discretion, system errors, multiple filing attempts, and what to do if your relation-back request is denied.pexels-photo-60626-medium
  • Ever-changing Rules and Software – Recent out-of-cycle amendments to the UTCRs, proposed UTCR changes for 2017, and upgrades to the Odyssey eFile & Serve software (Silverlight vs. HTML 5).
  • Common Reasons for Rejected Filings – A review of 12 of the most common filing errors and where to find OJD standards for electronic filings in circuit courts.
  • How to Avoid eCourt Malpractice Traps – Where and how to get help with OJCIN, eFiling, and questions about rules plus key resources from the Professional Liability Fund, Oregon Judicial Department, Odyssey, and others.

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time.  This is a live, online webinar. Watch from your desktop computer or mobile device. Connect to audio via telephone or computer/device speakers.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office managers, administrators, and staff.  If you want to avoid common malpractice traps, need a refresher on changes to the Uniform Trial Court Rules or eFiling software, or want to discover the most common mistakes made by Oregon eFilers, attend this CLE.

Does the Program Include Written Materials?

Yes.  Written materials will be distributed electronically to all registered attendees prior to the event.

Ask Questions/Participate in Live Polling

Questions are welcome during the live event.  Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

Registration Fee

$25 – Visit the CLE Events page, click here, or choose the Register button below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

MCLE Credits
2.0 Practical Skills/General MCLE Credits pending.

Eventbrite - eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings of eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017 will be available to download along with the program materials following the April 5 CLE. Price: $25. Contact me for more information.

All Rights Reserved [2017] Beverly Michaelis

eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017

Polish your Oregon eCourt knowledge and avoid potential malpractice traps with this 2017 CLE update.

Topics include:

  • Relation Back Malpractice Traps – Defining filing “acceptance,” notification of rejected filings, the process for seeking relation back, right to object, judicial discretion, system errors, multiple filing attempts, and what to do if your relation-back request is denied.
  • Ever-changing Rules and Software – Recent out-of-cycle amendments to the UTCRs, proposed UTCR changes for 2017, and upgrades to the Odyssey eFile & Serve software (Silverlight vs. HTML 5).
  • Common Reasons for Rejected Filings – A review of 12 of the most common filing errors and where to find OJD standards for electronic filings in circuit courts.
  • How to Avoid eCourt Malpractice Traps – Where and how to get help with OJCIN, eFiling, and questions about rules plus key resources from the Professional Liability Fund, Oregon Judicial Department, Odyssey, and others.

Date/Time/Location

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time.  This is a live, online webinar. Watch from your desktop computer or mobile device. Connect to audio via telephone or computer/device speakers.

Who Should Attend?

Lawyers, office managers, administrators, and staff.  If you want to avoid common malpractice traps, need a refresher on changes to the Uniform Trial Court Rules or eFiling software, or want to discover the most common mistakes made by Oregon eFilers, attend this CLE.

Does the Program Include Written Materials?

Yes.  Written materials will be distributed electronically to all registered attendees prior to the event.

Ask Questions/Participate in Live Polling

Questions are welcome during the live event.  Attendees are also encouraged to participate in live, anonymous polling.

Registration Fee

$25 – Visit the CLE Events page, click here, or choose the Register button below. Secure payment processing powered by Eventbrite. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express accepted. Program materials included in the registration price.

MCLE Credits
2.0 Practical Skills/General MCLE Credits pending.

Eventbrite - eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017

Can’t Attend?

Video and audio recordings of eCourt Malpractice Traps 2017 will be available to download along with the program materials following the April 5 CLE. Price: $25. Contact me for more information.

All Rights Reserved [2017] Beverly Michaelis

eCourt Malpractice Traps and Relation Back

eCourt is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Convenient? Absolutely! But with convenience comes risk.

Tempted by the generous schedule, Clickhere_medFLT_490x250it is easy to form the habit of postponing filing until shortly before midnight on the day the filing is due.

While far from ideal, last-minute filing will succeed if your document is accepted. But therein lies the trap. Acceptance is not instantaneous. It may take one to three court days before the clerk processes your document. What happens if the statute of limitations expires during this time?

If you receive notice that your filing was rejected after the statute of limitations has run, your only hope is to request relation back. Beyond strict compliance with the rules – which lay out a detailed scheme for resubmitting your filing and seeking relation back – there are other nuances in play. Handling relation back correctly means your client’s case goes forward. Mishandling relation back may result in a legal malpractice claim.

To understand what is at stake, and the specific steps you need to take, let’s begin by reviewing the filing process:

When is a Filing Accepted?

As noted above, eCourt filings are not automatically accepted when submitted. Every filing is reviewed by a court clerk:

  • If the court accepts the document for filing, the date and time of filing entered in the register relate back to the date and time the electronic filing system received the document. When the court accepts the document, the electronic filing system will affix the date and time of submission on the document, thereby indicating the date and time of filing of the document. UTCR 21.080(4).
  • If the court rejects a document submitted electronically for filing, the electronic filing system will send an email to the filer that explains why the court rejected the document, unless the filer has elected through system settings not to receive the email. The email will include a hyperlink to the document. UTCR 21.080(5).

Resubmitting a Rejected Filing

If you receive notice that your filing has been rejected after the statute or deadline is expired, follow UTCR 21.080(5)(a) to the letter. Correcting your original filing mistake and resubmitting your document is not enough to receive relation back.

To apply for relation-back to the original filing date, follow these steps:

  1. Diagnose and fix your filing error. The rejection notice issued by the electronic filing system will explain why the court rejected your document.
  2. Resubmit the document within 3 days of the date of rejection. If the third day following rejection is not a judicial day, then resubmit the filing the next judicial day. Resubmission means submission of the document through the electronic filing system or physical delivery of the document to the court. UTCR 21.080(5)(a).
  3. Include a cover letter with your resubmitted filing that contains the following information:
    1. the date of the original submission
    2. the date of the rejection
    3. an explanation of the reason you are requesting the date of filing to relate back to the original submission
    4. include the words “RESUBMISSION OF REJECTED FILING, RELATION-BACK DATE OF FILING REQUESTED” in the subject line of your cover letter. UTCR 21.080(5)(a)(i).
  4. If your resubmission is filed electronically the words “RESUBMISSION OF REJECTED FILING, RELATION-BACK DATE OF FILING REQUESTED” must also be included in the Filing Comments Field. UTCR 21.080(5)(a)(ii).

Mistakes Happen

If you apply for relation back and realize that you did not fully comply with UTCR 21.080(5)(a), what should you do? If you are within the three day window for resubmission, there is no harm in trying again. The rule does not limit filers to a single resubmission attempt.  Resubmit your filing a second time, with the proper cover letter and required information in the filing comments field. Be aware that getting relation back – even when you meet the technical requirements set forth in UTCR 21.080(5) – is within the court’s discretion and not guaranteed. While every effort is made to ensure uniform application of the rules, practices may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Furthermore, responding parties may object to a request for relation back within the time limits as provided by law for the type of document being filed. UTCR 21.080(5)(b).

These are important points for eFilers to grasp. Even if you fully and timely comply with UTCR 21.080(5), getting relation back is not an automatic right. Your best defense is to do it right the first time and follow the tips at the end of this article.

Technical Difficulties

There is one other basis for requesting relation back. If the eFiling system is temporarily unavailable or if an error in the transmission of the document or other technical problem prevents the eFiling system from receiving a document, the court may, upon satisfactory proof, permit relation back. UTCR 21.080(6).

A filer seeking relation back due to “technical difficulties” must follow the same steps as any other filer resubmitting a rejected filing. (See the steps described above in Resubmitting a Rejected Filing.) In addition, the filer is permitted to attach supporting exhibits that substantiate the system malfunction.

PRACTICE TIP:  Slightly different language is required in the cover letter and filing comments field if relation back is sought under UTCR 21.080(6): “RESUBMISSION OF REJECTED FILING, SUBMISSION UNSUCCESSFUL, RELATION-BACK DATE OF FILING REQUESTED.”

CAVEAT: Technical problems with the filer’s equipment or attempted transmission within the filer’s control will not generally excuse an untimely filing.
UTCR 21.080(6).

What If Relation Back is Denied?

If relation back is denied, contact the claims attorneys at the Professional Liability Fund.

Staying Out of Trouble

Avoid falling into the relation-back malpractice trap by following these tips:

[All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis]

 

Oregon eCourt and Arbitration

Are Oregon arbitrators required to eFile arbitration awards and judgments? Let me answer that question with another question: were you conventionally filing awards and judgments prior to the implementation of mandatory eCourt?  If your response is yes, then odds are you must eFile.  Let’s step through the analysis with this caveat: please verify the necessity of eFiling with the OJD help desk [see endnote] or your friendly local court clerk.

What do the UTCRs say?

UTCR 13.210(5)
Within 7 days after the conclusion of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator shall send the award to the parties without filing with the court and shall establish procedures for determining attorney fees and costs.  Result:  In a non-dissolution case, the arbitrator files nothing.  The onus is on the parties.

UTCR 13.210(6)
In dissolution cases, the arbitrator shall send the award to the parties within 7 days after the conclusion of the arbitration hearing and shall direct a party to prepare and submit a form of judgment. The arbitrator, upon request of any party, shall give the parties an opportunity to be heard on the form of judgment. The arbitrator shall then approve a form of judgment and file the award, along with the approved form of judgment, per UTCR 13.220. Result: In a dissolution case, the arbitrator becomes the “filer.”  The rule expressly states the arbitrator shall … “file the award.” If the dissolution case is in a judicial district which has implemented mandatory eCourt, the arbitrator must eFile the award in compliance with UTCR Chapter 21 (text searchable PDF, under maximum file size, etc.)

Are There Any Exceptions to UTCR 13.210(5)?  What about Local Rules?

Ah ha, grasshopper – you have learned well!  The fly in the ointment is exactly that. If the case is in a jurisdiction that has adopted Supplementary Local Rules (most have), you must follow the SLR.  If the SLR requires you, as arbitrator, to file the award or judgment, you’re stuck.  Thus my question above: did you conventionally file awards and judgments prior to the implementation of mandatory eCourt?  If yes, nothing changes except the filing method.  If you are in a jurisdiction that has implemented eCourt, you must eFile. [Double-check with the OJD help desk or your local court clerk if you are unsure.]

A list of jurisdictions with SLRs (including links to the rules) can be found on the PLF website.  Select Practice Management > Forms > Docketing & Calendaring > “State Court Rules – UTCRs and SLRs.”

What is an Example of an SLR that Requires Arbitrators to File Documents?

By imposing conditions for filing awards, Multnomah County SLR 13.085 implies that the responsibility lies with the arbitrator:
(1) The arbitrator shall not file an arbitration award with the court until the issues of attorney fees and costs have been determined. The arbitrator shall certify on the award that no issues of costs or attorney fees remain undecided upon filing of the award. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, no amended or supplemental arbitration award shall be filed, regardless of whether judgment has been entered on the original.
(2) At the conclusion of arbitration, if the arbitrator attempts to file the award with the Court without the proof of service of a copy of the decision and award upon each party as required by ORS 36.425(1), the award will not be filed and will be returned to the arbitrator.

Key Points to Remember

  • If you previously filed awards and judgments with the court, nothing has changed. Filing is still your responsibility. The only difference is how you file, and that will depend on whether the jurisdiction has implemented eCourt.
  • Read the SLRs! At the present time, Multnomah County puts the onus on arbitrators, Washington County does not.
  • Know the UTCRs.  UTCRs govern where SLRS have not been adopted.
  • Communicate with the parties.  If it is the responsibility of the parties to eFile your award or judgment, say so and cite the pertinent UTCRs.

All Rights Reserved [2015] Beverly Michaelis

Oregon Judicial Department Help Desk –
Monday through Friday 7:00 am to 6:00 pm

503-986-5582 or 1-800-922-7391
ETSDHelp@ojd.state.or.us

Avoiding eCourt – Waivers and eFiling “Lawyer Buddies”

Oregon eCourt is nothing less than revolutionary.  It is transforming how we file pleadings, meet deadlines, pay filing fees, and access court documents.  For those who were hoping to retire or transition to another career before eCourt became mandatory, the change is especially rough.

Initially, eCourt requires an investment – buying a scanner and purchasing software.  It also demands that lawyers learn new technology and adapt to changing court rules and practices.

If you are on the cusp of making a transition away from the private practice of law, but fall within the boundaries of mandatory eCourt, you may want to delegate this task – or find an eFiling lawyer buddy.  Before you do, consider the following:

Is it ethically permissible to delegate eFiling?

Short answer: Yes, qualified.  (Read the remainder of this post.)

Whether you use an eFiling lawyer buddy (contract lawyer who tends to the eFiling responsibilities of the case) or a non-lawyer staff person, you have the right to give others access to your eFiling account.

On November 19, 2014, I co-presented the OSB-PLF CLE, Oregon eCourt Update, with Daniel Parr from the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD).  At that CLE, the following questions were posed:

Q: Should an assistant be the Administrator and then the Attorney be under that same registration? Or should a legal assistant have a separate account?

A: In general this decision is up to you. Your group should register as a firm or as a unit on the system, even if you are a solo practitioner. You can choose who to assign as a firm administrator, and this can be multiple individuals. Some firms have chosen to have staff log into attorney accounts, and other firms have chosen to have the staff set up accounts directly.

Q: Are there any ethical issues with having non-attorney staff handle filings?

A: Staff are permitted to assist with this process, and non-attorney staff are already eFiling on behalf of attorneys. Obviously it is up to the attorney to review and supervise any work done by non-attorneys, and the attorney is responsible for the result.

While we did not explicitly receive a question about using a contract lawyer to handle eFilings, the result is the same – contract lawyers (eFiling lawyer buddies) are permitted to eFile on behalf of the attorney of record.  As attorney of record, it is up to you to supervise your eFiling lawyer buddy, and you are responsible for the result.  There are some other considerations, discussed below.

Is it possible to avoid eFiling entirely?

Short answer:  Yes, upon “good cause” shown, with the court’s permission.  Any lawyer can apply for a waiver of the eFiling requirement.  The waiver may apply to an existing (singular) case (UTCR 21.140(3)(a)(ii)) or all cases in a given judicial district for a specific period of time. (UTCR 21.140(3)(a)(i)).  Lawyers seek a waiver for an existing case by filing a motion; for all cases in a specific judicial district by filing a petition.

If the court grants a petition waiving the eFiling requirement in a specific judicial district, “the person obtaining the waiver must file a copy of the court’s order in each case subject to the waiver; and include the words “Exempt from eFiling per Waiver Granted [DATE]” in the caption of all documents conventionally filed during the duration of the waiver.” (UTCR 21.140(3)(d) and (e)).

Using an eFiling lawyer buddy (contract lawyer)

If you decide to use a contract lawyer to eFile your cases, follow these guidelines:

  • Put it in writing.  As with all contract lawyering arrangements, document in writing the scope of the agreement, method of compensation, and other details.  For assistance with establishing contract lawyering relationships, see the checklist and documents available from the Professional Liability Fund (PLF).  On the PLF website, select Practice Management > Forms > Contract Lawyering.
  • Assess PLF coverage implications.  If the eFiling lawyer buddy is claiming an exemption from PLF coverage, he or she cannot operate independently and “take over” eFiling responsibility.  Contract lawyers who are exempt from coverage must function under PLF guidelines.  (For details, visit the PLF website.  Select Assessments & Exemptions > Exemptions, then “Law Clerk/Supervised Attorney Not Engaged in the Private Practice of Law.”)
    Your eFiling lawyer buddy is likely to be safe if she restricts her role to that of an assistant or secretary: uploading documents at the attorney of record’s direction, following the attorney of record’s instructions in selecting a filing code, etc.  The more independent your eFiling lawyer buddy becomes, the more likely she could be viewed as acting beyond the scope of the PLF contract lawyering exemption (if in effect).  The simple workaround: your eFiling lawyer buddy (aka contract lawyer) can obtain PLF coverage for more freedom in executing her duties.
  • Understand the acceptance/rejection process. As you define the scope of the eFiling lawyer buddy’s responsibilities, consider who will be responsible for processing and responding to acceptance and rejection notices issued by Tylerhost.net.  (Oregon’s eCourt vendor.)  For example, if the attorney of record eFiles a complaint on the day the statute runs and her filing is rejected, who will refile and seek relation-back?
    It stands to reason that each time an eFiling lawyer buddy files a document for the attorney of record, she needs to be engaged and available to assist with the filing until an acceptance or rejection notice is issued. This can take up to a week.  Specific terms should be added to the written contract lawyering agreement that address the eFiling lawyer buddy’s responsibility in rejection situations.  (Note: the attorney of record can instruct her eFiling lawyer buddy to add himself as a contact in order to receive acceptance/rejection notices generated by Tylerhost.net.)
  • Understand the court notice process.  Some lawyers who are tempted to hire an eFiling lawyer buddy might be operating under the misapprehension that they can completely avoid all associated technology.  However, court notices from the Oregon Judicial Department are sent only to the “filer,” in this case, the attorney of record.  The attorney of record is responsible for reviewing and acting upon court email on a timely basis.
  • Limit account access.  By necessity, an eFiling lawyer buddy will need access to the attorney of record’s eFiling account (Odyssey) operated by Tylerhost/Tyler Technologies. But this access can (and should be) limited in writing.  The eFiling lawyer buddy should only use the attorney of record’s eFiling account as needed, and at the express direction of the attorney of record.
  • Limit credit card access.  Ideally, the attorney of record will create the eFiling (Odyssey) account and enter the credit card information needed for payment of filing fees.  If the attorney of record needs assistance, she can call the Tyler Technologies support number and/or use the “GoToAssist” feature, allowing Tyler Technologies to take control of her computer to establish the account. This limits the eFiling lawyer buddy’s access to the attorney of record’s credit card account information.  Once the credit card information is entered, the eFiling lawyer buddy simply selects the payment account to pay filing fees.  If the eFiling account is configured properly, the eFiling lawyer buddy will not be able to see the credit card information.  The attorney of record should be the “administrator.”  The eFiling lawyer buddy should be a “user.”  Support staff at Tyler Technologies can help attorneys of record set up accounts using these distinctions.
    To further protect herself, the attorney of record should dedicate a specific credit card to use in paying eFiling fees.  By establishing a credit card solely for this purpose, it will be very easy to spot whether there is any inappropriate activity on the account.  The only charges that should ever appear on attorney of record’s billing statement are filing fees payable to OJD.
  • Provide proper supervision.  Regardless of how duties are divided, the real responsibility here still falls on the attorney of record.  This scenario presumes that the eFiling lawyer buddy’s role is to act only as a technical specialist.  The attorney of record must be sure at all times that eFiling lawyer buddy is doing his job.  The eFiling lawyer buddy is not responsible for the content or accuracy of documents filed; nor is it eFiling lawyer buddy’s responsibility to monitor filing deadlines.
  • Be aware of ethics traps in determining compensation. The attorney of record can cover the cost of using the eFiling lawyer buddy out of his own pocket as a cost of doing business.  If the attorney of record intends to bill clients for eFiling lawyer buddy’s services, the clients must consent.  The attorney of record should update his client fee agreements accordingly.  (Beware the limitations of modifying a fee agreement midstream – see OSB Formal Opinion 2005-97.)
    Alternatively, the attorney of record could also barter services in exchange, but should check in with OSB General Counsel about the ethics of such an arrangement.
    If the attorney of record plans to split her fees with the eFiling lawyer buddy, she must comply with the Oregon RPCs requiring disclosure and consent of the fee split to the client.

[All Rights Reserved – 2015 – Beverly Michaelis]