So you went to trial or had your hearing and the judge ruled against you. When does the court order take effect?
Is it the day of the hearing? No.
Is it the day the order is set down in writing and signed by the judge? Nope.
Is it the day the clerk enters it? You got it.
An order is official only when it is “rendered” and becomes part of the record of your case. And only the clerk of court can make that happen.
What difference does it make, you might ask. An order is an order, right?
Well, suppose you want to appeal the order. You generally have 30 days to file the notice of appeal, or to file a petition in the appellate court. If you try to appeal the order before it’s rendered, your appeal will be rejected.
Of course, most of us are more interested in the deadline for appealing. It’s not 30 days after the ruling. It’s 30 days after rendition; i.e., after the order gets entered by the clerk. That date becomes important when the 30th day falls on a weekend, because your notice of appeal or appellate brief isn’t due until the following weekday.
Here’s another reason it matters. The order may require something to happen — or require you and/or other parties to do something — by a certain date. The date may be referenced in the order as “by May 15, 20YY”. This usually happens when the date is tied to an event relevant to the case, like the end of a child’s school year in a custody case.
But more likely the date will be referenced as “within X days of this Order.” In that case, Day X is the Xth day after the order is rendered, not after it’s signed by the judge.
So if your judge leaves the bench after making a verbal ruling and suffers a fatal injury, the order may never get written, signed or rendered by the clerk.
If the judge signs the order after hours and the building burns to the ground overnight, it may not be rendered for some time.
In either event, there is no order until the clerk stamps and enters it in the record of your case.
When an order recites, “done and ordered this 12th day of June, 2017” or whatever, pay no heed to it. That date means nothing. The date of the judge’s signature means nothing.
The clerk’s timestamp is all that matters.
Have you ever received a court order where the difference between the date it was signed and the rendition date mattered? Share in the comments below.