IA Electronic Filing

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: electronic filing.

Blake James Jacobs v. Iowa Dept. of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division. IA electronic filing

This was a judicial review in Winnebago County, Iowa, of a driver's license revocation. The petition for review was filed electronically on the last day of the 30-day appeal period at 12:37 PM. However, the next morning, the court clerk sent a message to the attorney that the petition had been "returned not filedk" since the client's address was missing from the service list, and the case type was not properly listed.

No changes were made to the actual petition, and the attorney re-submitted it. The only changes made were on the electronic cover sheet on the EDMS website. The Department of Transportation moved to dismiss on the grounds that the appeal had not been timely, and the district court agreed.

On appeal, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed. On appeal, the DOT argued that the first filing was only an attempted filing and not an actual filing. It also pointed out that the rules caution not to "wait until the last moment" to file.

The Supreme Court noted that the act of returning the filing was discretionary by the clerk's office. Since the rules allowed the clerk to correct or disregard minor errors. If the clerk had done so in this case, there would have been no question that the filing was timely. The court also noted that the electonic filing website did not make clear that the address was required. Similarly, the court noted that the case type designation has "no legal effect in the action" under the rules, but had a dramatic effect in this case.

The court did limit its holding:

we hold today that a resubmitted filing can relate back to the original submission date for purposes of meeting an appeal deadline when the following circumstances converge. First, the party submitted an electronic document that was received by EDMS prior to the deadline and was otherwise proper except for minor errors in the electronic cover sheet—i.e., errors that could have been corrected or disregarded by the clerk. Second, the proposed filing was returned by the clerk’s office after the deadline because of these minor errors. Third, the party promptly resubmitted the filing after correcting the errors.

No. 16-0133 (Iowa Nov. 18, 2016).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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