“Why was my document rejected?”
It’s a question that comes up frequently in the world of electronic court filing. Whether law firms are filing into well-established eFiling courts or joining a court that is transitioning to eFiling for the first time, there are a variety of issues that can come up with documents that may cause them to be rejected.
InfoTrack has recently published the third annual Top eFiling rejection reasons report, covering all the details about why documents are rejected, what that translates to in the eFiling process, and how to avoid issues in the future.
One common thread rose above the rest, with more than one-third of documents rejected for this single reason: missing or incorrect information on the filed documents or in the eFiling workflow.
Why are documents rejected?
But wait, you may be asking, why does any document need to be rejected at all?
Filers used to be able to leave documents at the clerk’s window with a reasonable amount of certainty that they would be accepted, processed, and show up on the court’s docket. The burden was on the clerk to correctly review and input the data into any internal case management systems.
Now, when a document is eFiled, the information entered into the eFiling workflow is mapped directly to the case management system used by the court, saving the clerk the time of re-entering data. It is even more important, in this case, that the data is accurate. Otherwise, incorrect information will be entered not only into the eFiling provider workflow, but all the way into the court’s central system.
While this does require more effort on the part of the filer, the added layer of verification ensures greater accuracy. It is far less likely now that typos will persist, that names will be misspelled, or that incorrect attorney information will be left unnoticed.
In many courts, they do not use “rejected” at all. Instead, they refer to the document being “returned for correction.” This is overall a much more accurate reading, as the clerk is not refusing to file the document, they are notifying the law firm that it cannot be filed in its current state.
What’s the number one rejection reason?
Out of all the formatting, eligibility, and case-specific details that are cause for rejection and could bring about future issues with your case, our analysis found that eFilings are most frequently rejected due to missing or incorrect information on the documents or in the eFiling workflow.
Let’s discuss a little more about what that means.
Incorrect or mismatched information
This issue occurs when either:
- Details on the document OR in the eFiling workflow are incorrect
- Details on the document do not match what has been entered into the eFiling workflow
- If multiple documents are filed together, details are not the same across documents.
Here are some examples of common clerk comments:
“Attorney of record for cross complainant does not match the Court file.”
“Summons must match Complaint exactly; inclusive of descriptors and Does..”
“One of the defendants was entered in the eFiling field as an individual doing business as spectrum, however on the complaint all the defendants were listed separate…”
“Law firm name does not match court records.”
“All Judgment debtors must match judgment exactly. Please list all parties exactly as listed on judgment since no party has been dismissed.”
As may be obvious, this reason came up when required information was simply not present in the documents or in the eFiling workflow.
Missing information can typically be chalked up to an oversight on the part of the filer, an expected part of normal human error. The court’s technology vendor and the eFiling service provider work to develop the system in order to clearly indicate which information is required and which is not. But, ultimately, the nuances of each case are too unique and specific, there are bound to be aspects of each filing that only the professional themselves know that the court needs to know.
Here are some examples of common clerk comments:
“Case number must be listed on all subsequent documents.”
“Address of Plaintiff is missing on form. Parties address also need to be entered in the New Parties field.”
“Please provide date of settlement.”
Avoiding missing information
On one hand, solving for this issue can be summed up in a few words: check, check again, and triple-check your work.
But that is frustrating and not particularly useful advice when careful review is already a part of your process. So here are some more specific ways of looking at the information and understanding what the courts are looking for.
Know what’s listed on the court records
Documents were frequently called out for listing attorney or law firm information that didn’t match what the court had in its files. So, the first step would be to know for sure how each attorney and how the firm is listed with the court. Match that wording exactly, including or excluding middle initials or spelling out the full firm name as applicable.
Confirm party names
In a similar vein, courts are, understandably, incredibly particular about party names. Some never allow names to be capitalized while others require middle names to be entered. What is true across the board, however, is that all party names must always match across court records, all documents, and the eFiling workflow.
Verify the court location
Some of the largest courts with multiple courthouses accept certain case types in only one or two locations. Others handle all cases according to the location of the incident in question. If you’re at all uncertain of the correct court location, do the research to confirm, as listing an incorrect courthouse on your documents or attempting to submit into the wrong court location will cause problems with your filing.
Get comfortable with the case number
Even if you’ve chosen the right case number in the eFiling workflow, all subsequent documents must reflect that same number. If you’re filing four documents at once, it’s not enough to be on just some of the PDFs, it must be clearly listed on all of them.
Communicate with your team
Maybe that substitution of attorney never did get filed, the hearing date wasn’t available, or the party wasn’t actually dismissed. If misunderstandings are arising around these cases processes, figure out a way to keep all members of the firm well in the loop.
The more legal professionals are filing documents electronically into courts across the country, the less the risk of rejection will be. It’s a process of fine tuning approaches on both the court and the firm side, and combining efforts to ensure accuracy of data above all.
Until then, find out what you need to know about preventing your documents from getting rejected and keep on checking, double-checking, and triple-checking your filings.
Have you read the 2021 Top rejection reasons report yet? Download now.
Author: Lindsey Dean