What happens to pleadings filed with the Clerk of the Court
A frequent question here on Avvo is why nothing has happened after a Motion has been filed, and why hasn't the Judge ruled on a Motion. Here is an explanation.
1) How are pleadings filed with the Clerk?In Florida, attorneys are required to file pleadings electronically, by way of computer, through an electronic portal.
Individuals who do not have an attorney can file pleadings the "old-fashioned" way by taking or mailing the originals of pleadings to the Clerk's office, and just recently using an electronic portal was opened up to unrepresented parties.
An advantage to using the portal is that when the document is filed the portal will send copies of the pleading with a date and time stamp to all the parties, including the party filing. The party filing must check a box to make that happen. The portal is 24/7 [with some down time for maintenance]. So, no more trips to the courthouse or the post office.
2) What does the Clerk do when it receives a pleading?If filed over the counter, the clerk takes the document, stamps it in, and scans the document into the Clerk's electronic server. Frankly, I do not know what happens to hard copy but I suspect that it is shredded. The document/scan is then sent to a clerk who "dockets" the pleadings. That means making a notation on an electronic ledger to show the date the pleading was filed, by which party, and the name of the pleadings.
3) What happens after the Clerk dockets the pleading?NOTHING. The Clerk's job is to maintain the pleadings. That is it.
As with everything in life, there are exceptions--responses in eviction cases, applications for continuing writ of garnishments against salary or wages, domestic violence applications, and other limited situations--where a Motion goes to the judge..
But, for the most part, nothing happens in the case in response to a pleading.
Many people think that the Motion goes to the judge to be reviewed, and that is furthest from the truth.
Ours is an "adversary" legal system, which means that it is up to the parties to make things happen.
For the most part, if a Motion is made, it is up to the party who/which filed the Motion to have a hearing.
It is at a hearing that the judge can consider the reason for the Motion from the party filing it, hear the other party's reason for objecting to the relief requested in the Motion, and render a ruling.
How does a hearing get set?Each judicial circuit has its own set of rules, called Administrative Orders or Local Rules, and then each judge has his/her own set of rules also. Checking the divisional instructions of the judge is essential. In Florida, the rules, orders and instructions can be found on-line.
The party wishing to set the hearing must make an effort to 1) resolve the issue before setting the hearing and 2) coordinate the hearing, which means contacting the opposing party or their lawyer to select a day and time for the hearing to be set.
In Florida, there are hearing which do not need to be scheduled with the judge's office--they are called hearings on a Uniform Motion Calendar. The hearings are for, typically, simple matters, where the Motion will not require more than 10 minutes to be heard. That is 10 minutes for all the parties, not 10 minutes each.
Hearings which require more time, or which require evidence to be presented, are set specially. Some judges require that an Order be submitted that sets the hearing to be heard.
Once the date and time are coordinated with the opposing party, the moving party will either have to 1) file a Notice of Hearing and serve a copy of the Notice on all other parties, or 2) submit an Order to the Court setting the hearing specially. If an Order is required, the moving party must also submit to the judge's office copies of the Order to go to the parties, the Motion to be heard and other pleadings to which the Motion pertains and pre-addressed stamped envelopes for the judge to mail the copies of the Order to the parties. If all parties are filing and serving pleadings on the portal, some judges will file the Order through the portal, which then sends copies to all parties; if not all parties are filing on the portal, then envelopes with stamps are needed for those who aren't.
ConclusionUnrepresented parties are taking on the role not only of attorney in presenting their case, but also the role of legal secretary or paralegal making sure that action on pleadings is taken. The filing of a pleading is just the start of the process, and the unrepresented party has much more to do to have their day in court.