Seidemann: Sometimes justice really is blind

From the other side of the bench

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The phrase justice is blind has been interpreted throughout the ages in a variety of ways. None so literal for me as the story I’m about to tell. I had been practicing for only a few months some 20 years ago at a law firm that specialized in personal injury cases. In one case I was working on, the defendant filed a motion with the court to dismiss our client’s case on certain legal grounds. The motion was received by the law firm’s file clerk and erroneously placed in a law firm’s diary. We failed to appear on the return date of the motion and thus the comedy of errors began.

The defendant’s motion was granted on default due to our failure to appear. The defendant, however, followed up on our error by failing to mail a copy of the judge’s order to us. In the interim, we discovered our office diary error and filed a motion to vacate the order of dismissal, citing inadvertent law office failure. The courts have long recognized such an explanation as one that is valid enough to vacate a default.

The court granted our motion, recognizing and accepting the law office failure excuse, but instructed us to re-file the motion for some other technical reasons with the appearance of our papers. As required when filing a motion of that sort, the movement must include all prior pleadings which now included the defendant’s original motion papers and all of their voluminous exhibits; our original motion to vacate the default and all of the accompanying exhibits; and now this third motion with all of its exhibits.

We mailed a copy of this third motion to the defendant as required but, unbeknownst to us, their offices had moved and they hadn’t notified us of their new address. Our motion to vacate the default was, you guessed it, granted on default for the defendant’s nonappearance. Now it was the defendant’s turn to file a motion to vacate on order granted on default against them. This motion by the defendant had all the prior motions and all of the prior exhibits attached to it.

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