Submitted by M. R. Hamilton on
This article is dedicated to all of you court clerks all across these united states who so diligently keep track of court documents for perpetuity. You court clerks seem to be the scapegoats of the American jurisprudence industry in these united states. You may think that the judges who direct you cares about whether or not you get into any kind of legal issues when it comes to making decisions about the format or quality of a document when someone comes to you to file it. This article delves into exactly what a court clerk is permitted to do and what you are not permitted to do. It also explains what constitutes a filing and what can happen when the clerk removes a document from a file.
Let's get to the specific tasks that a court clerk is permitted to do. This is the shortest list to start with. Are your ready? It won't take long. Court clerks are merely permitted to warehouse papers or documents. That's it. There is nothing else that a court clerk is permitted to do. That is one of the reasons that many court clerk have a separate stamp to stamp paperwork when someone tells you to file on demand. That lets the judge know that the you tried to break the law and do what he asked of you, but your bluff was call by the people filing the document.
Now for all of the things a clerk is not permitted to do.
1. Remove a document from a file. This is a serious offense that can land a court clerk in prison for up to three years. 18 USC § 2071 provides that,
(a) Whoever willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
(b) Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. As used in this subsection, the term “office” does not include the office held by any person as a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the United States.
But contrary to what a you may have been led to believe, the document is not filed when you stamp it and sign it. It is filed when the individual hands it to you. As a matter of fact, the courts have ruled that a document is considered filed once it is delivered to a proper official.
it is settled law that delivery of a pleading to a proper official is sufficient to constitute filing thereof. United States v. Lombardo, 241 U.S. 73, 36 S. Ct. 508, 60 L. Ed.
As a matter of fact, the the court has even ruled that if someone goes to a deputy court clerk's home at night and hands it to you at your door, it is considered filed.
it was held that a pleading delivered to a deputy clerk at his home at night was thereby "filed." (Freeman v. Giacomo Costa Fu Adrea, 282 F. Supp. 525 (E.D.Pa. 04/5/1968).)
What this tells us is if someone hands you a document, it is filed. If you remove it from the file, you have committed a crime punishable up to three years in prison. The only purpose of stamping and signing the document is to mark a moment iIn time to give precedence to the document over those file after it in some case and before it in others.
A paper is filed upon delivering it (A) to the clerk. FPRC 5(d)(2)
2. Destroy or mutilate a document. If you read the above mention title, it includes mutilation. This once happen to me when I recorded my judgment in a case I was involved in. The deputy clerk after signing and stamping the document and finding out what it was, tore the front page of the two documents in half. This was an extremely serious crime. I did give him the benefit of the doubt for being conditioned to be ignorant. In this case I went home and reprinted the pages he tore and sent the orders in by certified mail to the clerk. I told the clerk about the serious offense and quoted the applicable statutes. I told him, "if the court gets no further interference from the clerks office, I would seek no further remedy for the crime that had been comitted." I received my copies of the orders the next day after they were recorded.
The clerk is not permitted to make any decisions about the quality or format of a document.
The clerk of a court, like the Recorder is required to accept documents filed. It is not incumbent upon him to judicially determine the legal significance of the tendered documents. In re Halladjian, 174 F. 834 (C.C.Mass.1909); United States, to Use of Kinney v. Bell, 127 F. 1002 (C.C.E.D.Pa.1904); State ex rel. Kaufman v. Sutton, 231 So.2d 874 (Fla.App.1970); Malinou v. McElroy, 99 R.I. 277, 207 A.2d 44 (1965); State ex rel. Wanamaker v. Miller, 164 Ohio St. 176, 177, 128 N.E.2d 110 (1955.).) (Daniel K. Mayers Et Al., v. Peter S. Ridley Et Al. No. 71-1418 (06/30/72,
As we see in these cases, as a clerk, you are not permitted to make any decisions about documents filed. It is for a tribunal to decide about paperwork. The clerk is only permitted to warehouse it.
The job of the clerk of the court “is to file pleadings and other documents, maintain the court's files and inform litigants of the entry of court orders.” Sanders v. Department of Corrections, 815 F. Supp. 1148, H49(N.D. Ill. 1993). (Williams v. Pucinski, 01C5588 (N.D.Ill. 01/13/2004).)
The duty of the clerk is to make his record correctly represent the proceedings in the case. Wetmore v. Karrick, 27 S. Ct. 434, 205 U.S. 141 (U.S. 03/11/1907 Failing to file documents presented and reflect the documents on the docket is a failure to perform the ministerial duties of the Clerk of Court.
So do not let a judge fool you into taking the rap for committing a crime by not allowing a document to be filed. The judge is not who will go to prison for removing a document from the file. You are. And since many people who know this are proceeding under common law, those statues that you think will protect you, won't, because there are not statutes in common law and common law is the highest law in The United States of America.
So if you as a court clerk see something like the attached Order to the Clerk, it would be best for you to use that as a way out of getting into trouble with whomever you report. Do do something that could cost you your freedom. File the documents your are presented and let the judge who wanted to scapegoat you take his chances.
So protect yourself and