Rules are the foundation of any litigation practice. Rules of civil procedure. Rules of evidence. Local rules. Chambers rules. The list goes on. And one of the most important questions that any litigator faces is how to comply with those rules (or mitigate the consequences of any mistake).
A case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Campbell v. Wilkinson et al., No. 20-11002 (5th Cir. Feb. 19, 2021), discusses this issue in the context of a particularly notorious local rule: the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas’s general requirement that each case have “local counsel” residing or maintaining the principal office within that district. Shortly after filing his client’s Title VII discrimination case, the plaintiff’s attorney received an electronic-case-files (ECF) notice about the local-rules requirement and giving him 14 days to comply. But the plaintiff’s attorney decided that the rule did not apply: He had practiced for decades in the Northern District of Texas and maintained a residence and office less than 10 miles away in the neighboring Eastern District of Texas. The district court judge, however, disagreed and dismissed the case under Rule 41(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure about six weeks after it was filed. The plaintiff then took an appeal after his motion to reconsider was denied.