Correcting a clerical error in a California judgment is the topic of this blog post.
Correcting a clerical error in a judgment in California requires that a motion be filed with the court under the provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 473(d).
This motion is used to correct inadvertence or errors in recording the judgment. However it should be noted that it cannot be used to contest the intended terms of the judgment. The motion can also request that the judgment be amended nunc pro tunc as of the date the original judgment was entered.
A motion to amend a judgment in California to correct a clerical error is filed on the grounds that the recorded terms of the judgment do not agree with the outcome indicated when the judgment was initially declared. This motion is a very limited tool as it is authorized to be used only to correct clerical errors.
However a trial court is given very broad discretion in classifying such errors as an omission or mistake in a judgment; a misdescription in a judgment, inadvertence in signing a faulty judgment, and an ambiguity in a judgment.
The characterization of an error in a judgment as clerical rather than judicial is critical as a clerical error can be corrected at any time, sua sponte by the court or on a motion from one of the parties, even years after the case has closed. But a judicial error can be only corrected on a motion for new trial or on a motion to vacate and enter a new judgment.
Thus the party who is seeking to persuade the court that the error was merely clerical must be very careful and also aware of how to properly characterize the error, and be sure that the error is in fact clerical and not judicial.
However it should also be noted that there are many instances in which an omission or mistake in a judgment has been characterized as a clerical error. These instances include:
An omission in the determination of an account and decree of distribution involving the probate of an estate;
The failure to include a direction that one party pay another party's attorney's and accountant's fees when recording a judgment;
The failure of a judgment to clearly name the defendants, and to state their liability to the plaintiff, and
The California Supreme Court stated in a case decided over 75 years ago that California Courts have the power to correct clerical errors in their judgments at any time, regardless of how much time has passed since the error was made or the judgment entered. See Estate of Goldberg (1938) 10 C2d 709, 717. In that case the Supreme Court stated that a hearing and the resulting order nunc pro tunc correcting a clerical error in a decree of final distribution of an estate 35 years after the original entry was valid.
The California Supreme Court has also stated in a case decided over 40 years ago that all courts have the inherent power to enter an order entering a judgment nunc pro tunc All courts have the inherent power to enter orders for judgments nunc pro tunc so that the judgment will be held effective as of the date on which it was actually entered.
Used in the right situations, a motion to amend a judgment to correct a clerical error can allow the moving party to correct a clerical error in a judgment, even if years or decades have passed since the date of the original judgment or decree. But the motion should only be used in the right situations.
Attorneys or parties in California who would like to view a portion of a 14 page sample motion to amend a judgment to correct a clerical error containing brief instructions, a memorandum of points and authorities with citations to case law and statutory authority; sample declaration, proposed order and proof of service by mail sold by the author can see below.
Attorneys or parties in California that would like more information on a California law and motion document collection containing over 90 sample documents including a sample motion to amend a judgment to correct a clerical error in California sold by the author can use the link shown below.
The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has created over 300 sample legal documents for sale.
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Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.
The materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.