Thursday, June 14, 2007

Validity of Unsigned Court Orders

Question: Are orders without judge's signature valid? I got a preliminary injunction that has judge's rubber stamp, but it is not signed by the judge and the clerk. I think they are afraid to sign it because the plaintiff made up evidence to get the injunction. Can I ignore the injunction? Will they hold me in contempt? Is the order valid?

Answer: The order with the rubber stamp is called the "conformed" copy. The clerk stamps this copy and gives it to the attorney or party without an attorney. The signed order is in the file. If you go to the courthouse, you can usually obtain a copy of the signed order, at 50 cents per page. Using the judge's name stamp to provide a conformed copy of an order is a very common practice.

Technically, you don't even need to be served with a copy of the order in order for it to be valid. To be held in contempt of the court, the opposing party must provide 4 elements: (1) existence of a valid order; (2) your knowledge of the order; (3) ability to comply; and (4) willful disobedience. The most common way of proving knowledge is to have a process server hand delivery a copy of the order, but your presence in court when the order is made is sufficient to establish knowledge.

About the Author:
Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

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