How Mistakes Made by a Court Clerk Happen
You would probably think that mistakes made by a court clerk seldom, if ever, happen. However, the following scenario, or something like it, occurs all the time. People do not think of the courts as “human,” but like the rest of us, they can make mistakes. Imagine this:
You file a case. You spend years litigating the case. After all of the hearings, motions, and trial, you finally get a judgment. You expect to feel overjoyed, but when you get a copy of the judgment from the court, you notice that the court clerk recorded the judgment incorrectly. They wrote in $10,000 when the judge clearly awarded you $100,000. This oversight threatens the entire outcome of the case. You must take action.
Here’s another scenario. You file your divorce case. When checking the court docket, you see the Court Clerk entered the case as a legal separation, not a divorce. Your petition clearly shows filing for divorce. What do you do now? Surprisingly, these errors happen all the time. Consequently, they can cause delays in the case and lots of frustration if you don’t know what to do.
Identifying Eligible Clerical Mistakes
Under California Code of Civil Procedure §473(d), “The court may, upon motion of the injured party, or its own motion, correct clerical mistakes in its judgment or orders as entered, so as to conform to the judgment or order directed, and may, on motion of either party after notice to the other party, set aside any void judgment or order.” Either party may file a motion under §473(d). Although this may be true, keep in mind not every clerk or clerical error requires filing a motion. You may have other options.
There are many types of mistakes eligible for correction under §473(d). For example, if the clerk misspells your name on a judgment, you could have a hard time collecting. The court may amend the judgment in this scenario and, similarly, if you change your name from a maiden name to a married one. You might also be able to apply for an amendment if the recorded terms of the judgment do not match what the judge declared in court (as in the example above) or if the clerk left out the judge’s order that one party must pay the other.
Clerical mistakes tend toward logistical issues, as you probably are beginning to see. However, sometimes, the nature of these mistakes can make you feel very powerless. In that type of situation, A People’s Choice becomes an ideal ally. Remember, we are far less expensive than an attorney but can help you get everything properly identified and filed to get the results and changes you need.
Problems with the Judgment
Sometimes, a clerical error signifies just the beginning of an issue with your judgment. For example, you may also want to file to address mistakes made by a court clerk if the judge forgets something. For instance, in a case for child support, a judge may rule on the support itself but fail to rule on retroactive support. Another typical case involves adding the name of a sole proprietor business owner to a judgment against a sole proprietorship business. You may also request amendments when a court order is just too ambiguous to enforce correctly.
How to Correct Clerical Mistakes
Unfortunately, correcting mistakes made by a court clerk will not merely involve a little whiteout or a good eraser. For most errors, you must file a motion under §473(d). In that motion, explain the details of the mistake and how to correct it. Next, you must then serve the motion on the other party. Particularly in cases of financial stress while awaiting a judgment, this process may feel intimidating and hopeless. A People’s Choice is an affordable (and more practical) alternative in this type of scenario. Furthermore, in most cases, you should not need an attorney to assist with this process.
Although you may not have a time limit on your §473(d) motion, failing to resolve this type of error can make it challenging to collect on or enforce a judgment. Once you have filed your motion, the court decides if the mistake in question was indeed a clerical error. The decision may involve a hearing, but not always. Once the court makes its decision, they will either deny your motion or correct the judgment. If the court denies your motion, you still have the option to appeal.
Can I Correct Clerical Errors in Small Claims Court?
It is not uncommon in Small Claims to discover an error in the defendant’s name. For example, the Judgment may show a name of Lisa H. Smith but it should be Lisa H. Smithe. To correct an error in small claims court, you should file a Request to Correct or Cancel Judgment and Answer (SC-108). Federal courts have a rule similar to §473(d)- Federal Rule 60(a). As with any other clerical error, you must file all forms correctly and handle the process correctly. Otherwise, no matter how serious or trivial the mistake, the courts are unlikely to fix it on their own. A People’s Choice can help you navigate this process for less cost than an attorney and, in many cases, with far more attention to your case. Contact us for more information on getting your clerical issue resolved as soon as possible. Call us today at 805-648-5540.