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Computer Problems No Excuse For Missing Filing Deadline (aka The Perils of Electronic Filing)

Computer Problems No Excuse For Missing Filing Deadline (aka The Perils of Electronic Filing)

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I read a rather interesting case today from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where an attorney missed a filing deadline and attributed it to computer difficulties.

The case of Anwar v. Johnson concerned a creditor’s attempt to have the debt of two parties filing bankruptcy in two different cases declared non-dischargeable due to fraud.  Debts incurred by fraud, as well as some other types of debts, can potentially be declared non-dischargeable if the creditor files a complaint with the Bankruptcy Court within 60 days after the first date set for the meeting of creditors.  This period can be extended for cause if a motion seeking an extension is filed before the expiration of the 60 days.  Most bankruptcy courts now require the electronic filing of documents, and are considered timely if the document is filed before midnight on the due date.

In this case, creditor did in fact file a motion for and obtain an order extending the time for filing the complaints until April 13, 2010.  Despite the fact that the attorney started the process of opening the cases and filing the complaints at 9:00 p.m. that night, the complaints themselves were not filed until 12:26 and 12:38 the following morning because of technical problems with the attorney’s computer.  The defendants in those cases filed motions to dismiss the complaints as untimely; the Court agreed, and dismissed the cases.  The dismissal was affirmed by the District Court, and was again affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals rejected creditor’s argument that the attorney’s computer problems constituted grounds for relief from the filing deadline:

“[T]he advent of mandatory electronic filing systems does not upend this body of precedent, and the fact that [creditor’s] untimely filing stemmed from difficulty with an electronic filing system is immaterial. Paper filing systems present their own unique opportunities for parties to miss their deadlines; as the bankruptcy court in this case noted, the Arizona bankruptcy court’s electronic filing system made it easier for creditor’s counsel to timely file the complaints from his office in Oregon. In short, absent unique and exceptional circumstances not present here, we do not inquire into the reason a party failed to file on time in assessing whether she is entitled to an equitable exception from FRBP 4007(c)’s filing deadline; under the plain language of the rules and our controlling precedent, there is no such exception.”

The Court clearly had no sympathy for the creditor as it noted that “the fact that [creditor] missed the filing deadline by less than an hour is immaterial.”

I suppose this is a word to the wise and a reminder to heed the advice of our mothers who told us not to wait until the last second to do something on a time deadline.  Or, as the saying goes, “Failure to plan on your part does NOT constitute an emergency on my part!”  A backup computer wouldn’t hurt either!

This post is intended to be purely informational in nature, and cannot be considered legal advice.  If you have questions related to bankruptcy, please call our office at (503) 545-1061 (Oregon cases) or (360) 836-4238 (Washington cases) to schedule a free initial consultation.

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