Monday, March 5, 2018

Word of the Month for March 2018: Mispleading

Mistakes show you're human
If there is one thing that most everyone can agree, mistakes really slow things down.  In law and legal stuff, mistakes can really damage a person's calm.  Take court forms like the Petition for Divorce package.  It has about 967 boxes, lines, and places to screw it up (and yes, I counted them all).  

Soooooo, if you mess up and either check a box that shouldn't be checked or fail to check a box that should have been checked, the court clerk will mark the mistake and send it back to you.  Of course, what they won't tell you is that if you made any more mistakes in the form - just that you made that one. 

Now, if there is another mistake, and you don't have an attorney to help tell you what you did wrong, you will probably correct the mistake, send the form back only to have the form sent back to you with the next mistake identified so that you can re-submit that form over and over and over.  It's maddening, I tell you!

This brings us to our word of the month:  MISPLEADING. According to Black's Law Dictionary, MISPLEADING means:
Pleading incorrectly.  A party who realizes that its pleading is incorrect can usu. amend the pleading, as a matter of right, within a certain period, and can thereafter amend with the court's permission.
Note that line: "a party who realizes..."  Thing is, in the heat of passion (or in this case, the heat of filing a pleading), most people aren't all that clear-headed and are wont to make lots and lots of mistakes.  Take, for example the lady who was standing in front of me not 10 minutes ago.

Seems lady had filed a complaint for Negligence against the guy that rear-ended her a year prior.  Seems Lady had filled out the Complaint incorrectly (i.e. she made a mistake). Seems the other party caught the mistake, filed a demurrer and asked the court to dismiss the complaint.  Seems the court took pity on Lady and granted the demurrer with leave to amend her complaint.

Nice judge.  

Lady is now in front of me asking how to correct her mistake. I suggest she take a look at California Forms of Pleading and Practice (Lexis; Vol. 3, Chp. 21 - Amended & Supplemental Pleading) and off she runs to correct her mistake.  Law and the practice of it is like that - you make mistakes and, as long as they are not really big ones, you correct yourself and move on.  

Good thing there are county law libraries around to help you when you mess up.  Sure is.  When next you mess up, we'll be around to help you get up and going.