TheNewSaint wrote:While I appreciate the need to keep the court system open to everyone, people should be able to explain what they're filing and why. Anyone who can't should be summarily thrown out.
I also think technology could help with this. Surely it is possible to cross-reference phrases in filings with known sovcit docs on the Internet, or earlier rejected filings.
Locally, our problem has been in the county recorder's office, simply because that's where you go to file liens, and a lot of other vexatious paperwork like groundless quit-claim deeds and so on. My own run-in with this came about five years ago, and it came on the wrong end of the issue, as the one filing paperwork. I think it illustrates both your points at work, successfully.
I'd been playing at purchasing delinquent property taxes at the county auction, and had won a couple lots. Not a whole lot—just a couple of hundred dollars apiece. When you do this around here, you have to file a petition with the court after a certain redemption period in order to actually go to deed, and of course once that's done, you want to make sure that the case doesn't fall apart because the property got sold out from under you. So, I trooped down to the court house one morning to file for deeds, and then trooped across the street to the county offices to file lis pendens
on the properties. The clerk in the recorder's office looked at my lis pendens
, and then looked at me, and then looked at them again, and then said, "No, you gotta see Carolyn first," and pointed to an office off in the corner.
Carolyn (not her name) was apparently the person at the recorder's office whose thankless job it was to screen out the geeks and their bogus paperwork. She was deep in her task when I got there: debating with someone for about 20 minutes, someone who, best I could make out, was trying to record something to make her mortgage vanish. That someone finally left, disappointed, and my turn came to make my case.
Carolyn was clearly exasperated from her previous encounter, so I didn't rate my chances highly at first. I explained, as best I could, and she answered, and the problem became clear. I was, at the time, young and idealistic, and a staunch believer in the English language, and so I had signed all the paperwork with my name, "on his own behalf." This, apparently, was seen as an alarming way to sign a paper "pro se," and in hindsight it was alarmingly close to how a lot of sovcit papers get signed. As exasperated as Carolyn was, she also happened to be one of those civil servants who was able to get stuff done: one look at my filed tax deed petitions, and a quick scribble of my pen to put the magic words "pro se" next to my signature, and she escorted me back to the recording counter and gave the clerk strict instruction to get the paper filed and get me on my way ASAP. And he did.
I think I told this story once before, but two ways in which this worked are relevant. First, the counter clerk was paying attention, and caught a red flag: not even a technical problem with the papers, but just a funny variation from form (and the fact that I was filing three at once, which probably didn't help) that warranted investigation. I can understand that you don't want the desk staff doing legal work they're not qualified for, but they're often used to seeing things done according to a usual form, and are (or should be) eminently qualified to pick up on weird variations like that. Second, the supervisor had the ability to ask intelligent questions about what this paperwork was, and why it was being filed, and (at least on the outer edges) whether there was a legitimate basis for it.
This recorder's office has already done a lot to put the brakes on bogus filings. Another service offered is an email alert, so that you can find out about quit-claim deeds (and other papers) filed against your lot before they are on the record for too long. They haven't solved the entire problem, nor would I expect them to do so, but they're clearly making some good decisions on how to keep it in check.