Protect Your E-Filing Passwords

It wasn’t long ago when filing deadlines forced attorneys to rely on the speed and reliability of their process-server or messenger. How many filings were missed due to a flat tire or traffic? If the filing wasn’t stamped before the court closed at 4 PM, the filing could be considered late and the attorney left answering to the client. The dawn of electronic filing has changed this process. Many courts accept filing up to midnight of the due date and hand-delivery is no longer a requirement. But how many of you have considered some of the risks of e-filing? How about the importance of monitoring your filings and safeguarding your e-filing password? Consider the lesson taught to an attorney subject to discipline in New York for allowing non-attorneys to use his e-filing information without proper oversight.

An NY attorney faces public censure by the Southern District of New York and the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department for allowing non-attorneys to use his username and password to electronically file bankruptcy petitions. Reportedly the attorney utilized paralegal students to assist him with preparing legal documents. The attorney the students to use his federal ECF password in cases he was involved in. However, unbeknownst to him, students also used his password to file in cases in which he had no involvement.

When the misuse of the password came to light, the bankruptcy court held a sanctions hearing. At the hearing the paralegal student body admitted that they had filed the documents without his permission or consent to use the attorney’s password. For his part, the attorney admitted that he failed to properly monitor the use of his password but emphasized that he was not involved in the filings. Notwithstanding his lack of involvement, the attorney was censured for the unauthorized use of his password and failure to monitor filings under his name.

This situation provides a reminder to safeguard all passwords and to oversee any filings or submissions bearing your name. Certainly it is appropriate and efficient to work with support staff and others to effectuate filings but ultimately it is the attorney who is responsible. This is an important risk management tip for attorneys to take into consideration.

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