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United States District Court for District of Maryland Finds that Hand Delivery of Pleading/Paper is Insufficient where Electronic Filing is Otherwise Required

Jones v. Family Health Centers of Baltimore, Inc., et al.
Civil No. 14-762, ___ F. Supp. 2d ___ (D. Md. May 5, 2015)

by Wayne C. Heavener, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)

Available at: http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Opinions/14-762%20MemOp%20re%20M%20Leave%20to%20File%20Out%20of%20Time%20FINAL.pdf

In Jones v. Family Health Centers of Baltimore, Inc., et al., the United States District Court for the District of Maryland held that the hand delivery of papers to the Clerk’s Office, which were otherwise required by Local Rule and Standing Order to be filed electronically, was insufficient to effectuate timely filing. In reaching its decision, the Court drew a distinction between the form of a filing and the method by which it was filed. The Court determined that the Local Rules' electronic filing requirement was a restriction on the method of filing, rather than the form of filing, and therefore a permissible limitation under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Tiffany Jones (“Plaintiff”) filed a lawsuit against her employer and co-worker (collectively, “Defendants”) on May 15, 2015, alleging sexual harassment and negligent hiring and retention claims. On May 23, 2015, Defendants moved for summary judgment, and Plaintiff had until April 9, 2015 to file a response in opposition. The Court granted Plaintiff an extension until April 22, 2015. On April 17, 2015, Plaintiff’s counsel attempted to file Plaintiff’s Opposition by physically handing a hard copy of the paper to an employee in the Clerk’s Office. The Clerk’s Office assumed that Plaintiff’s Opposition was a courtesy copy, only, as Local Rules and Standing Order 2003-8, Misc. No. 00-308 required the electronic filing of papers in most cases. Plaintiff’s Opposition was, therefore, not docketed. The deadline for Plaintiff’s response in opposition expired, and Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File Out of Time, which Defendants opposed. Plaintiff argued that the Local Rules’ requirement that papers be filed electronically ran afoul of Federal Rule of Civil Procedures 5(d)(4), which provides that “[t]he clerk must not refuse to file a paper solely because it is not in the form prescribed by these rules or by a local rule or practice.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 5(d)(4).

The Court held that Plaintiff failed to file timely her Opposition. The Court acknowledged that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5(d)(4) prohibited the Clerk’s Office from rejecting a filing based on the form of the paper. The Court held that the electronic filing requirement was not a limitation on the form of filing, but rather the method of filing. The Court determined that limitations on the form of filing pertained to such things as a proper case caption or conformation with style guidelines. Because the Court’s electronic filing requirement limited the method of filing, and not the form of filing, it did not contravene Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5(d)(4). The Court, nonetheless, held that Plaintiff could submit her Opposition, finding that Plaintiff’s mistake constituted “excusable neglect.”


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