Between the Lines: Top 4 E-filing Mistakes, Part II

Feb 16, 2021 6 min read

When e-filing, there are four areas e-filers can double-check to stay on top of their filing and limit court rejections. Last week, we reviewed areas to review on e-filed documents involving data consistency and file formatting. Those two categories of errors typically result from technological trip-ups and easy-to-forget fields. This week, we’re looking at the final two mistakes to check your files for when e-filing, common procedural missteps in e-filing as well as the three D’s - three things that you don’t want to mess up. 

3. Procedural Missteps

Procedural missteps stem from a shift in burdens. E-filing places different expectations for accuracy on attorneys, paralegals, and e-filing providers. There are certain things that filers need to get right when they file — or face rejection. The top procedural mistakes include selecting the wrong court for the filing and filing without sufficient funds.

Filing in the Incorrect Venue or Court Location

“Wrong Jurisdiction” leads Tarrant County, Texas’s list of common rejection reasons and is one of the nine basic ways to fail to comply with the e-filing process in Oregon. In some cases, selecting the right venue is difficult. Misalignment between the case type, the nature of the dispute, and the venue listed on your documentation could get your file rejected. 

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Selecting a court for a small claims case in Los Angeles, CA is a good example of how case details affect the venue. For small claims, depending on the lawsuit, you should file the case in the court closest to where the defendant lives, where a disputed contract was signed, or where property damage or an injury occurred. Alternatively, in some cases, if it makes it into the system with the incorrect venue, the defendant can dispute the claim. 

Filing With Incorrect Fees

One of the most frustrating issues with e-filing is when a rejection comes from a money-related issue. Michigan Legal Help’s list of common rejection reasons for e-filed documents. In their list, dedicated to pointing out errors seen by Michigan courts, “Rejected Payment” is listed first. 

Insufficient fees. Insufficient funds in Payment Account. Invalid credit card information. Incorrect fee. Payment not received. Fee waiver not accepted. Appropriate fee not accompanying the file. Different portals list it in different ways, but the theme is simple: be sure your payment method is acceptable and the account behind it has the funds to back up your filing. Be sure to pay attention to your case type and filing codes when submitting documents to e-filing portals. 

Procedural Checklist

  • The court where the case is being filed has jurisdiction over the case.
  • The proper amount of money is available to pay court fees.
    • The estimated amount is sent alongside the documents.
    • Credit cards or accounts associated with the filing have the funds needed.

4. The Three D’s: Duplicates, Disclosure, and Deadlines

The three D’s are three things you don’t want to forget when you e-file.  They don’t fall neatly into one of the previous three categories of missing information, file formatting, and procedural issues but are crucial to remember. In e-filing it’s best to avoid duplicating filings, disclosing personally identifiable information, and drawing up short on your deadlines. To make it easier to remember, think three D’s — duplicates, disclosures and deadlines. 

Duplicates: Don’t File Twice

Sometimes things go awry in submission and a change is needed in a file. When this happens and you find yourself needing to resubmit to a filing system, be sure to follow the rules for your portal explicitly. E-filing portals are not designed to house duplicate filings and most will reject files seen as duplicates. In fact, some portals will reject both the initial file and the duplicate if two identical files are found in the system. Duplicates can potentially occur if a case identifier is used twice. Accidentally submitting a file with the same case number or file name, for example, could lead to a rejection, even if the case information in each is different.

Disclosure: Redact Information Where Required

Privacy is vital to many legal clients. Redaction helps maintain a level of privacy in document filings by removing sensitive information or making it impossible to decipher. It is generally best to redact any personally identifiable information possible before releasing documents into the public record. This includes specifics of addresses not pertinent to the case, social security numbers, financial account numbers, and more. 

The Appellate Courts of Minnesota’s document detailing common reasons and solutions for e-filing rejections in their courts highlights that they will reject e-filed documents that have not redacted the appropriate information in a document outright. The courts in Illinois remind e-filers that separate documentation with personally identifiable information, if required for the case, should be submitted separately as a sealed document. Remember to review document redaction policies related to personal information and learn the best practices to ensure proper redaction of information on digitally submitted documents.

Deadlines: File by the Right Date

Deadlines drive the legal process. Certain documents must be filed before or after a specified time period to be considered valid. Be certain that you have a good grasp of the deadlines associated with your documents and how they translate to e-filing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of submitting at the eleventh hour when filing can extend past a physical court’s hours of business. Check to make sure you’re abiding by submission hours — the end of the day versus the end of the business day — and that you leave room for error. If a file fails to send or gets rejected, having enough buffer to make adjustments and send it back out can save your case.

3 D’s Checklist

  • Case identifiers and file naming are unique to the case.
  • Changes or edits to a file follow court guidelines and submission procedures.
  • Personally identifiable information is properly redacted per court and process. requirements.
  • The filing is far ahead enough of the deadline to offer a slight buffer if an error occurs.
  • Filing adheres to court-designated timelines for the case type.

How to Avoid Common E-filing Mistakes

Between these two posts you have a solid checklist to review when you e-file. While not all-inclusive, it’s a great place to start analyzing and assessing your e-filing and e-filing knowledge. If all of this seems overwhelming or if you’re looking for a new way to handle your e-filing, consider using an e-filing service provider or EFSP. These providers can offer a great deal of help or expertise depending on the services they can provide. Learn how to evaluate which EFSP is right for you here

A qualified EFSP, especially one that offers a range of legal services could change the way your firm e-files. Some of the common pitfalls listed above disappear. Companies, like ABC Legal Services deal with venue alignment and fee assessment often enough that they’ve developed automated tools to instantly perform venue selection for small claims cases and calculate potential filing costs. Additionally, e-filing specialized teams are able to do the double-check and follow-up for you, letting your team spend less time maneuvering in e-filing portals and more time with your clients.

About ABC Legal

With more than 2,000 process servers across the U.S. and 75 countries, ABC Legal is the nation’s leading service of process and court filing provider, as well as the Acting Central Authority to the U.S. Department of Justice. Our digital approach saves valuable time and resources, and our cloud-based solutions are compatible for use on desktop, browser, and smartphones. Docketly—an ABC Legal subsidiary—provides appearance counsel on a digital, custom-built platform that smoothly integrates with our applications and services. Learn more at www.abclegal.com

Heather Thomas

Written by

Heather Thomas
Product Marketing Manager, ABC Legal Services. Heather combines her natural curiosity and organizational skills to develop content and nurture stories at ABC Legal. A believer in good design and great brand experiences, she looks for opportunities to investigate, design, and create within the brand.

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