Proposed Rules ArchivesGR 14 - Format for Pleadings and Other Papers
GR 9 Cover Sheet
Submitted by the Washington State Association of County Clerks
Purpose: The purpose of this General Rule 14 (GR 14) amendment request is to clarify existing language and intent. Specifically, the language in question is GR 14(b), which states:
“(b) Exception for Exhibits. This rule is not mandatory for exhibits, but the use of exhibits that comply with this rule is encouraged if it does not impair legibility.”
The Clerk’s Association’s position is the above GR 14 excerpt refers to trial and/or hearing exhibits and not to “exhibits” (attachments) to pleadings, motions, and other papers. Challenges by attorneys and pro se parties have been persistent, and the consistent challenge is that the word “exhibit” is synonymous with the word “attachment”.
The difference in interpretation is significant as attorneys and pro ses routinely file pleadings with the Superior Court (Clerk) that contain attachments that do not comply with the 8-1/2 by 11 inch requirement discussed in GR 14(a). Examples of non-complying documents or items that are attached to pleadings include, but are not limited to, cassette tapes, compact disks, and video cassette tapes, photographs, charts, plat maps, etc.
Because the County Clerks are statutorily required to preserve court records in perpetuity (permanently), accepting non-complying pleadings places an enormous records management burden on them. Specifically, non-complying documents often cannot be microfilmed and/or electronically scanned due to their size, which is the preferred and primary method of permanently preserving records. And, some items such as cassette tapes, compact disks, etc. cannot be preserved in any manner other than their physical form. The inability to capture records in either microfilm or electronic media due to size or physical constraints places an undue and unrealistic burden on Clerks who now must preserve these records, in perpetuity, in their physical form. Moreover, non-complying documents are not conducive with electronic filing of documents or with Electronic Document Management Systems (EDMS). The majority of Clerks in Washington state either have implemented and operate an EDMS or are in the process of developing and implementing one. And, several Clerks have implemented electronic filing which is statutorily authorized, and the movement towards this technology is being considered in several other Clerk’s offices state wide as the technology continues to evolve.
GR 31(c)(4) provides the definition of a “court record” and includes “exhibit” in that definition. Again, the Clerk’s Association maintains that the word “exhibit” refers to trial or hearing exhibits, which are managed and preserved differently, and does not relate to documents or other items attached to a pleading, motion, or other paper. Additionally, Clerks have also relied on Civil Rule (CR) 5(e) – Filing With the Court Defined, which states:
“…The Clerk may refuse to accept for filing any paper presented for that purpose because it is not presented in proper form as required by these rules or any local rules or practices…”
Further, Washington State Auditors have and enforce a strict document format and filing standard for documents submitted for recording. These requirements are outlined in RCW 65.04.045 and are similar in language to that of GR 14 with regard to paper size and format requirements. The Clerk’s Association strongly believes that similar unambiguous language is needed for court records to ensure these critical public records are preserved.
While many Superior Courts have adopted local court rules regarding format and filing of pleadings, to include the provision of “working copies” directly to the judicial officer, the conflicting and unclear language regarding “exhibits” in GR 14 continues to be an issue.
The enclosure provides proposed amended language to GR 14.
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