Judge Easterbrook analogizes electronically filing a document to actually filing a document with a clerk

June 6th, 2012

Yet it does not take a reference to Cinderella to show that midnight marks the end of one day and the s tart of anothe r. Ele ct ronic f iling systems do extend the number of hours available for filing. Instead of having until the clerk’s office closes, litigants have until 11:59 PM. But e-filing does not increase the number of days availabl e for filing. A document entered into the electronic system at 12:01 AM on a Thursday has been filed on Thursday, not on “virtual Wednesday.” Rule 6(a)(4)(A) is explicit on this point. It says that the last day allowed for filing ends “for electron ic filing, at m idnight in the court’s tim e zone”. Just as court s lack the power to grant ext ensions of time under Rule 6(b)(2), so the judic iary lacks the power to say that one day ends at 4 AM or 9 AM of the next day when an e-filing system is used. Computers can crash, and a court’s e-filing software can have bugs. If Justice had tried to file at 11 PM on November 22, only to discover that the system would not accept his document, then he could take advantage of Rule 6(a)(3), which ext ends the t ime when the clerk’s office is inaccessible. What’s more, we held in Farzana K. v. Indiana Department of Education, 473 F.3d 703, 706–08 (7th Cir. 2007), that a document tendered to an e-filing syst em is de emed filed on the day of the tender, even if a programmer’s failure to anticipate all possible combinations of circumstances leads the system to reject the filing. See also Vince v. Rock County, 604 F.3d 391 (7th Cir. 2010). Just as a document deposited physically in a clerk’s office is filed on that date even if mishandled by the clerk, so a document transmitted electronically to the court is filed on the date of transmission no matter what the e-filing system does in response. See Fa rz ana K., Vince, and Royall. But Justice did not transmit his Rule 59 motion on November 22, only to have the court’s software balk; he transmitted it on November 23 and must live with the consequences. Courts used to say that a single day’s delay can cost a litigant valuable rights. See, e.g., Johnson v. McBride, 381 F.3d 587 (7th Cir. 2004). With e-filing, one hour’s or even a minute’s delay can cost a litigant valuable rights. A prudent litigant or lawyer must allow time for difficulties on the filer’s end. A crash of the lawyer’s computer, or a power outage at 11:50 PM, does not exte nd th e deadline, even though unavailability of the court’s com – puter can do so under Rule 6(a)(3)

John C. Justice v. Town of Cicero.

I hope to use this for any students who fail to meet an electronic deadline. In law school whenever I had a deadline, and I was at home, I always submitted it an hour in advance. If, for whatever reason, my home computer, or internet connection died, I would be able to run to school (or somewhere else) and upload it. I know plenty of people who submitted things at 11:59 p.m. Very, very foolish.