It Is Not the Court Clerk’s Job to Be the Gatekeeper for What Gets Filed
Video Transcribed: The one thing court clerks must accept for filing. I’m an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma James Wirth and we’re talking about the role of the court clerk and what they have to accept for filing. I’ve been seeing a lot of interesting things lately with court clerks.
Sometimes you go down there and try to file something and they don’t like it and they want you to change something or they tell you, “You got to file something else.” Or they won’t help you out where you think that they should be able to help you out.
And I’ve been seeing more of that recently, particularly with people that are pro se, I may be down there as an attorney filing something. I see other people having some difficulties, but I’ve also run into some clerks here that were trying to tell me they didn’t want to file something.
I wanted to make this video to kind of explain the role of the court clerk and let you know the one thing that they have to let you file and what is that one thing that they have to let you file? It’s everything. It is not the court clerk’s job to be the gatekeeper for what gets filed.
It is the court clerk’s job to organize everything presented for filing. And there’s a statute specifically on point for this, it is titled 12 section 29, and I can read a section, subsection A for you.
It says, “It is the duty of the clerk of each of the courts to file together and carefully preserve in his office, all papers delivered to him for that purpose.” And then it has one exception in there. It says, “Except as provided in subsection B of this section, every action or special proceeding.”
Everything presented for filing, it is their job to accept it for filing and organize it in the court file so it’s available to the court and the judge. And then there’s one exception, the exception is listed in part B and we’ll get to that. Here it is. The court clerk may refuse to file any document presented for filing if the clerk believes that the document constitutes a sham legal process.
The only thing the court can refuse to file is what is a sham legal process. Meaning there’s some sort of fraud going on. But here’s the other exception. If the court clerk believes it’s a sham legal process, they still have to file it. You as the person trying to file it can petition the court for a writ of mandamus and there’s this form that’s listed in the statute, a notice of refusal, and the court clerk has to have that form.
If they refuse to file something you want to file, you request the notice of refusal form. You fill that out and then they have to attach it to that and still file it. And then at that point, you can file your petition for writ of mandamus requesting the court review whether you can file that thing or not, ie., is it a sham legal process or is it not?
Because they’re required to file everything regularly if it’s not a sham legal process. If they believe it is a sham legal process, they still have to file it, but the file is attached to a notice of refusal because their entire job is to accept things for filing, to stamp it, so you know whether deadlines have been made or not.
If they refuse something and you miss a deadline because of that, that’s a horrible situation that undermines the integrity of the whole court process, which is why they have to accept everything for filing. Unless it’s a sham legal process, in which case they still have to accept it for filing attached to a motion for refusal.
And the statute does go on to link to what qualifies as a sham legal process. And it talks about, falsely impersonating other people, things like that. If you’ve got something wrong with your pleading and it’s not perfect, even if it’s far from perfect, it’s completely wrong and there’s no way you’re going to get any relief on this because everything’s backward, that is an issue for the court. That’s an issue for the judge. It is not an issue for the court clerk. Their job is to stamp it, put it in the file, make sure it’s organized, and can present it to the court.
The judge then, as the gatekeeper and deciding what is appropriate and what is not, what followed the law and all those things, that’s decided then and the opposing party can get notified and they can get to object.
None of that happens on the level of the filing. All that happens is you present it, file a stamp and put it in there. Obviously, in order to be able to do that, it’s got to have a court case number. That is going to be a requirement as well.
But as far as the one thing that the court clerk has to accept for filing, the answer to that is everything. If you’ve got questions about that, how they apply to your circumstances, give me a call or you can go online to get the appointment scheduled by going to makelaweasy.com.