Update: Stop the presses. This rule has already been repealed.
We have a new rule in Maryland: Rule 1-322.2:
Rule 1-322.2 shall take effect and apply to all actions commenced on or after July 1, 2014, and insofar as practicable to all actions then pending.
(a) Certificate Required. Every pleading or paper filed in an action on or after July 1, 2014 shall contain either:
(1) a certificate of compliance with Rule 1-322.1 that is signed by an individual who is (A) the party filing it or an attorney for the party, or (B) if the paper is filed by a nonparty, the person filing it or the person’s attorney, employee, or agent; or
(2) in an affected action under Title 20 of these Rules, a certificate that complies with Rule 20-201 (f)(1)(B).
Cross reference: For the definition of “affected action,” see Rule 20-101.
(b) Action by Clerk. The clerk shall not accept for filing any pleading or other paper requiring a certificate under section (a) of this Rule unless the pleading or paper contains the certificate.
Source: This Rule is new.
Why the Rule?
Besides the death of more trees, this new rule requires that all pleadings with the court make every effort to keep out Social Security numbers and drivers’ license numbers to protect the privacy of the person identified and, presumably, limit identify theft from court pleadings. That is what Maryland Rule 1-322.1 is all about.
Personally, I think we are all a little too crazed about these privacy concerns. I know I’m in the minority but I don’t mind the NSA listening to my calls or tracking my movements. Have at it. But people are concerned and we should be doing what we can to make sure to limit the pain they feel because they choose to avail themselves to the civil justice system.
Turmoil That Is Almost Sure to Ensue
Lawyers job is, in part, to help clients navigate around the rules. There is just one catch. Many lawyers do not know the rules and they specifically do not know new rules. A perfect example is the ad damnum rule that stopped the madness of people filing small soft tissue injury lawsuits for $10 million and the media making a federal case out of it. Few Maryland lawyers know about it so we continue to get media reports of attorneys filing for millions of dollars.
So the question becomes just how tough the court (or the clerk’s office) is going to be. Are they going to kick back pleadings that do not comply with this rule or are they just going to send out a nastygram? The biggest concerns are complaints and answer to complaints. Actually, the only real concern is complaints. Technically, you are in default if the court were to deny the filing of your answer for failure to comply. But that default will get sorted out. The statute of limitations is another matter. Too many personal injury lawyers believe that claims should be filed on the eve of the limitations deadline. In a bizarre coincidence, these are the same attorneys that will not know about this new rule. So how courts approach this is going to determine how many new legal malpractice lawsuits get filed in Maryland because lawyers did not know this rule.