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What to do when the statute and rule are different?

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Anytime there are two governing bodies declaring different rules, things can get complicated.

California recently updated its statute to state that documents submitted between 12:00 a.m. and 11:59 p.m. are to be considered filed on that same business day. While this increased option for filers was welcomed by many, the less than comprehensive communication about the change was met with uncertainty by others.

Many county courts did not widely confirm their adherence to this change, which caused filers to worry “Will my court honor my filing time?”

Generally speaking, the answer is: yes, the new deadline of 11:59 p.m. will be and should be honored in most cases. When we learned this statute was coming, I touched base with each of our eFiling courts to find out how they intended to react. We then updated our list of California eFiling deadlines to reflect their comments.

For the few courts that weren’t ready to confirm, we had left their previous eFiling deadlines in place until further notice. As of now, we have confirmed with every eFiling court in California that they will be adhering to the 11:59 p.m. deadline.

Of course, there’s always a little more to the story when the statute and rule are different:

Important things to know

Whether it’s a rule change or a local preference, there are a few things to consider when determining how to navigate the differences.

The statute trumps the rule

This is true in most cases where there is a conflict; the entity with more authority wins. So regardless of what is or is not confirmed on the court website, you will be able to make a case for the deadline listed in the statute.

The next rules cycle is in July

If the local courts did not know enough in advance, they wouldn’t have had time to make changes to their official local rules. And as rule changes are only implemented twice a year, events such as a new deadline may not be reflected in local rules until July 1, at the earliest.

The EFMs have been updated

The electronic filing managers (EFM), systems used by the court to accept documents, have made some configuration changes. The new “trigger” within the systems treats documents filed by 11:59 p.m. as filed that same day. This means that the clerk would have to override the EFM’s file date to enforce the narrower window, making the later deadline the far more likely one to apply.

The judges have been made aware

The judges at every eFiling court in California has been notified of the statute change. It’s always possible that details can be overlooked, however, so attorneys should feel free to remind court officials if needed.

Other things to keep in mind

It’s never a court’s intention to be deliberately confusing or make things harder on the filer. Many have not made changes to their website due to:

Lack of resources

There is not always time or ability on the court’s side to spend on updating the website or filer-facing information about deadlines. And since the new deadlines provide wider limitations on filing times, not narrower ones, there is likely less of an incentive for them to do so.

Risk of confusion

For courts where physical filing is still in place for certain case types or where eFiling is still in the voluntary (aka permissive) phase, multiple filing deadlines could become confusing. It’s a good idea to confirm whether the case type in which you are filing is filed physically (counter or drop-box deadline, depending on the court) or electronically (11:59 p.m. deadline). Since our platform addresses these distinctions, you are good to go when submitted documents to us. No guesswork for you!

Happy eFiling!

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