Fraud on the Court, or Fraud upon the Court, is where a material misrepresentation has been made to the court, or by the court itself. The main requirement is that the impartiality of the court has been so disrupted that it can’t perform its tasks without bias or prejudice.
Some examples of fraud on the court include:
- Fraud in the service of court summons (such as withholding a court summons from a party)
- Corruption or influence of a court member or official
- Judicial fraud
- Intentionally failing to inform the parties of necessary appointments or requirements, in efforts to obstruct the judicial process
- “Unconscionable” schemes to deceive or make misrepresentations through the court system
It’s important to note that fraud on the court only involves court officials or officers of the court, such as judges or court-appointed attorneys. The fraud must be directed at the “judicial machinery” itself. Fraud on the court generally does NOT mean:
- Fraud between the two opposing parties
- Submission of fraudulent documents
- Perjury or false statements by witnesses
Fraud on the court is one of the most serious violations that can occur in a court of law. If fraud on the court occurs, the effect is that the entire case is voided or cancelled. Any ruling or judgment that the court has issued will be void. The case will usually need to be retried with different court officials, often in an entirely different venue.
For the official who acted in fraud upon the court, they may very well be required to step down from their position and may even be subjected to criminal consequences like a fine or a jail sentence. It could also result in other serious consequences, such as an attorney being disbarred, or a judge being removed from service.
If a court official is found to be biased or prejudiced even before fraud occurs, they are required to excuse themselves from the case, and a different official must be appointed. In some jurisidictions, a trial tainted by fraud on the court will be vacated or set aside for a certain time period (such as two years), to be “reopened” at a later date.
Fraud on the court can be devastating, especially for a party that may be waiting to receive relief from the court. If you suspect that your legal claim may involve fraud on the court, it may be necessary to consult with a criminal attorney. It may even be necessary to contact a new attorney, especially if your current lawyer was involved in the fraud. Laws governing fraud on the court may vary slightly by region.