A document was filed in a case, which provided a key piece of information that the Court was required to consider. Party 2 learned of the filing six months later, states that he did not file it and objected that he had never been served with this document, and furthermore the title of the document was misleading as to the contents, and the contents were both incorrect and prejudicial to his case. Party 1 states that she never filed it. Party 2 states he was deprived of due process and wants reconsideration/relief. What factors might a court consider in these circumstances? Is it true that anyone can just walk up and file a document in any case, with no requirement to identify themselves?

1 Answer 1


What factors might a court consider in these circumstances? Is it true that anyone can just walk up and file a document in any case, with no requirement to identify themselves?

If nobody admits to filing a document, it is likely that the court would grant a motion to strike the document and disregard it (revising a past ruling if the issue was raised within the six months allowed for reconsidering rulings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) or the state equivalent).

A court document must, on its face, indicate a filing person and be signed to be accepted by the clerk of the court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 or the state equivalent. But, if the document appears on its face to be legitimate, the person filing it will not generally be required to prove their identity.

This happens even less often now than it used to (in the past, fake filings were often made by members of "sovereign citizens" movements to harass governmental officials), because in both the state courts were I practice and in federal court, documents must usually be filed with the court by lawyers via e-filing using a password protected e-filing account.

Usually, only parties without lawyers and out of state lawyers who are still in the process of setting up their e-filing account file court documents in person. When documents are filed in person, they are also often delivered via courier rather than by the person who actually signed the documents. And, as a matter of practical reality, third-parties almost never file fake documents in court (in part, because there is usually someone present who is in a position to call attention to the fraud to the court).

Still, this can happen, although it is very rare. I've only seen a situation like this come up once in twenty years of practice. (My account below oversimplifies some of the technical details of what happened to get to the gist of the points relevant to this question.)

In that case, a lawyer was representing an ex-husband in a post-decree alimony modification case that had been appealed filed a bill of costs that she sought to recover on behalf of her client for the appeal, but she filed it in the wrong court (she filed it in the appellate court where she had represented her client, rather than, as required, in the trial court where another attorney had represented the ex-husband).

When an order awarding him costs was not entered by any court, the ex-husband filed an (untimely) bill of costs in the trial court under his appellate lawyer's name using the appellate filing as a model, without her consent, by forging her name on the document.

The lawyer didn't discover this (because she was retained only in the appeal and had never entered an appearance in the trial court and thus didn't have access to the trial court file, and because the court doesn't automatically send you a copy of your own filings) until I responded on behalf of the ex-wife to the forged bill of costs alleging that it was untimely which I served a copy of upon the ex-husband's lawyer as required by the rules.

At that point, the ex-husband's lawyer immediately called me and the court to explain that she did not file this document and that it was forged (otherwise should could have been sanctioned for knowingly filing the bill of costs knowing that it was out of time and was frivolous at that point and could have been deemed to be responsible for further trial court proceedings of the ex-husband in the case, like keeping him appraised of deadlines, court rulings and filings by other lawyers in the case, since it appeared that she'd participated in the trial court case).

Ultimately, the court declined to award the costs because they were filed in an untimely manner and because they were not really filed by the lawyer as claimed. So, the the court disregarded the bill of costs and denied this relief to the ex-husband. (If I was the judge, I would have hauled the ex-husband into court and held him in contempt of court sua sponte, but in this very busy court where hearings in divorcees are often scheduled two or more years out from the scheduling date, the judge didn't have the time to devote to issues like that.)

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. As it turned out, not quite so dramatic as your story, the COURT had filed the document after "helpfully" filling in some blank information onto a document that had already been signed. Court did not notify any party that it had done so, leading to confusion.
    – J. Win.
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 9:04

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