The Alaska Democratic Party filed three late motions in support of the Riley plaintiffs' challenge to Alaska Redistricting Board's plan. The judge's decision to accept the late filings was short and philosophical.
What exactly does this mean? That the court is leaning toward the challenge? I decided I needed to know whether accepting late challenges is common, normal, rare or what?
"The Alaska Democratic Party [ADP] filed its motins several days late. Counsel for ADP contends he miscalculated the due date and then was unable to file the motion due to electronic difficulties. Basically ADP requests relief due to excusable neglect, i.e., the ordinary frailties of mankind. The Riley plaintiffs support accepting the late filed motions. The Board does not given the unique nature of the case and the expedited briefing schedule.
The troubles of today are sufficient unto themselves and the troubles of tomorrow will take care of themselves. The court accepts the ADP motions as filed as of 16 September 2013 and any opposition to those motions are due ten days from that date and replies are due accordingly in five days. The troubles of tomorrow will not be appreciably increased by this modest exception."
While waiting for an attorney friend to return my phone call, I tried to find out on line. Either this isn't addressed, is on very low ranking websites, or I just used the wrong search words. I found various court statistics, but nothing that addressed my question.
But I did find a video tape of the Supreme Court of Ghana accepting a late petition on an election appeal in July this year. I couldn't quite understand all the words, but the Justice established some criteria for waiving the deadline:
This seems like a better list than 'frailties of mankind.'
- Counsel should be guided by the reasonable foreseeability test.
- Must not lightly be thought that court orders are any but solemn matters which ought to be treated as such.
- Close [couldn't catch] of the delay filed at 9am this morning
- Sins of the counsel should not be on the head of the client
- Convenience of the Court
- Sheer magnitude and gravity of this case
The video is really short and it's a reminder that despite our stereotypes, other countries, even African countries, use the rule of law.
But what's common in Alaska courts. My attorney friend called back and said:
- it is very common for late filings to be submitted
- it is equally common for them to be accepted
The only time when a motion to waive a deadline is not accepted, if you can show it is significantly prejudicial to the other side. This means, as I understood his explanation, that the other side would not be able to respond because of the delay. He gave an extreme example of a client who went into a coma during the delay and so they wouldn't be able to respond to the filing.
He couldn't think of a reason for other the attorney to strongly object.
However, if a party has made a practice of filing everything late and is delaying the case, then it it taken more seriously by the court. The closer you get to a trial date or resolution date, the more problematic. But even then, the real assumption is that pleadings will be accepted.
Supreme Court will review and no judge wants to be seen as rule obsessed or pedantic.
The Supreme Court, he said, is far more serious and the assumption there is the opposite. Won’t be accepted unless you have a good reason. But they require it be accepted in lower courts.
The point he made at the end was:
If the judge had enforced the deadline, you could say the judge was prejudiced.So waiving the deadline means nothing. It's routine.
What are the motions that were filed? I've looked at them, but am not ready to post about them. Briefly they cover:
1. Challenge to the splitting of the Matsu and Kenai Boroughs
2. Challenge to the splitting up of TCC/Doyon villages in the Interior into four different districts.
3. Challenge to the lack of compactness of Fairbanks districts 3 and 5.
You can see the three motions at the Redistricting Board's website here. Documents 385, 386, 387.