“A clerk has a ‘mandatory, ministerial duty’ to file all documents submitted for filing,” according to a recent opinion issued by the Dallas Court of Appeals.  The court further held that the court, not the clerk, then has the power to decide the propriety of the filing.

In Sanders v. Sanders, No. 05-16-00248-CV, Appellant Pilar Sanders filed an affidavit of indigency with the Collin County District Clerk.  The affidavit contained three separate cause numbers on it.  The District Clerk filed the affidavit only in the first case number.  As a result, the court reporters for the other two cases were unaware of the filing of the affidavit.  The court of appeals later notified those court reporters of the filings, at which point the reporters filed contests to the affidavit.  At the hearing on the contests, the District Clerk testified that there was no timely filing of an affidavit and for that reason, the trial court clerk sustained the contests to the affidavit.

The appellant challenged the trial court’s order on appeal and the court of appeals reversed the order.  Noting that the affidavit was filed when it was put into the hands of the District Clerk, the court held that the District Clerk was required to file the affidavit and that it should have been deemed filed in each of the cases when it was delivered to the clerk.  The court’s opinion may be found here.

Notably, this opinion may be helpful in other circumstances, including supersedeas practice where Appellate Rule 24.1(2) establishes the initial authority to approve a bond with the trial court clerk, with the authority to review the bond resting with the trial court upon motion of any party.  This rule was intended to establish a uniform system for the initial approval of bonds.