Thursday, January 10, 2008
Not long ago, a California district court denied as untimely a motion for about a million dollars worth of attorneys' fees. The prevailing party had 14 days from entry of judgment to file its motion. The deadline was 4pm on the 14th day. On the 14th day, at 3:14 pm, the lawyer for TAIS, the prevailing party, delivered the motion to the courier service. The courier got stuck in traffic and missed the deadline (reportedly by one minute). The court denied the motion as untimely. The court reasoned, in part:
[E]ven a good faith mistake that does not result in prejudice to the other side is not a sufficient reason to enlarge the time period for requesting fees, absent some other evidence of 'compelling circumstances.'
[T]he reason for the delay was entirely within the TAIS' control and TAIS has not offered a good reason for the delay. Given that the Ninth Circuit has held that a good faith misunderstanding of local rules is not sufficient to rise to the standard of excusable neglect, the entirely foreseeable obstacle of traffic in Southern California in the late afternoon cannot justify an enlargement of time. ... Because [the lawyer] made a conscious decision to wait until the final hour to file his motion, he assumed the risk that ... his risk would run out.