Lawyers: Keep your email address current with the courts' electronic filing systems.
Seriously. It could make or break your case. And you could be publicly shamed. By the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, no less.
This record-keeping reality check emerged from WorldCom's 2002 bankruptcy. MCI WorldCom Communications, Inc. (MCI) sued Communications Network International (CNI) to recover for allegedly unpaid telecommunications services. CNI counterclaimed for fraud, intentional nondisclosure, breach of contract, and defamation and sought both compensatory and punitive damages.
Motions followed. Orders were issued. CNI appealed.
The district court affirmed the bankruptcy court's rulings in a 2010 memorandum decision. The rulings were entered on the electronic docket, and notice was automatically emailed to CNI's sole counsel of record, W. Mark Mullineaux, at the email address which he previously had registered with the clerk's office for the purpose of receiving such notifications. But that was an old email address.
Mullineaux's new email address was listed in his motion to appear pro hac vice in the case, but he hadn't updated his profile in the electronic case files (ECF) system. As a result, Mullineaux didn't receive the court's notification and failed to file a timely notice of appeal.
The district court excused the delay, finding that Mullineaux didn't get timely notice of a judgment and that MCI wasn't prejudiced by late filing. The Second Circuit, however, concluded that the district court had abused its discretion by reopening the filing period, Reuters reports.
District Judge Lewis Kaplan, sitting by designation, wrote, "There is nothing in the history of the rules ... to suggest that the drafters sought to provide relief when the fault lies with the litigants themselves" and that "CNI's failure to receive Civil Rule 77(d) notice was entirely and indefensibly a problem of its counsel's making, and Rule 4(a)(6) was not designed to reward such negligence."
It's not hard to update your email address in the ECF. Even if you're technologically challenged, it won't take more than five minutes. So save yourself the embarrassment of being associated with an "indefensible" failure. Keep your ECF profile update-to-date.
- In Re: WorldCom (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- Late Appeal Denied for Lawyer Who Didn't Update Email Address, Divided 2nd Circuit Panel Says (ABA Journal)
- Jacoby & Meyers Will Get Merits Ruling on Non-Lawyer Firm Ownership (FindLaw's Second Circuit Blog)