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Failure to Monitor Dockets or Receive Court Emails Can Prove Costly

Two recent judicial decisions illustrate how today’s technology is creating new expectations of attorneys.
The first opinion addressed an attorney’s failure to timely file a Notice of Appeal of a court’s order. Six weeks after the deadline for filing had passed, the attorney discovered his mistake “and moved the Court to reopen the period within which [plaintiff] could file her notice of appeal.” The court denied the motion, stating:
The law is clear that “parties have an affirmative duty to monitor the dockets to inform themselves of the entry of orders they may wish to appeal.” Unlike a decade ago, when law firms often hired “runners” to physically go to the courthouse to check the docket, monitoring the docket of a federal case today does not require an attorney even to leave the seat in front of his computer. [Counsel] failed to undertake his simple duty of checking the docket, and he has not given a good explanation for his failure to do so.
In re Sulzer Hip Prosthesis & Knee Prosthesis Liab. Litig., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10712, *11-12 (S.D. Ohio 2006). The Sixth Circuit recently affirmed the trial court’s decision (In re Sulzer Hip Prosthesis & Knee Prosthesis Liab. Litig., 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 18975 (6th Cir. 2007)), and the Supreme Court of the United States decline to hear an appeal.
The second opinion concerned a firm’s unintentional blocking of emails from a court. Last spring, a federal district court magistrate judge sent, via email, a notice of a settlement conference to all the attorneys involved in a particular lawsuit. One of the law firms, however, did not receive the email because the firm’s IT administrator set the firm’s SPAM threshold to a level that inadvertently blocked emails from the court and that administrator did not “whitelist” the court’s domain name (so as to identify incoming emails from the court’s domain as not being SPAM). Because the firm did not receive the email, its attorneys did not appear for the settlement conference. The court, though recognizing that the administrator’s mistake was inadvertent, still concluded that it was inexcusable:
It is incumbent upon attorneys to adopt internal office procedures that ensure the court's notices and orders are brought to their attention once they have been received. This is just as true in these days of electronic noticing as it was when documents were sent by first class mail. To rely on procedures that treat the court's electronic notices as the functional equivalent of junk mail is not acceptable. Furthermore, it is counsels' responsibility to monitor the progress of their cases and the court's docket.
Pace v. United States Automobile Ass’n, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 49425, *9-10 (D. Colo. 2007) (citations omitted). Because of the IT administrator’s mistake, the firm had to pay the opposing law firm’s costs for showing up at a fruitless settlement conference and subsequent hearings related to it.
Today’s technology is creating new expectations of attorneys to be monitoring their cases through online tools. Fortunately, an easy solution to attorneys’ court notification needs exists: LexisNexis CourtLink Tracks. CourtLink Tracks automatically notify you of new developments that occur in lawsuits you are interested in – whether your own, the opposing party’s, opposing counsel’s, etc. Importantly, these Tracks come from a single domain, thereby making it easy for firms that use Tracks to set their filters to accept them (specifically, from *@*lexisnexis.com).