In this U.S. Magistrate’s July, 2007 Order (which I just discovered today), the court found that attorneys’ non-receipt of emails from the U.S. Court, District of Colorado, caused by a firewall setting, was not excusable neglect to avoid the sanction of attorney fees for the firm’s attorneys’ failure to appear at a settlement conference.

The court heard evidence from the firm’s IT administrator that the firewall setting was modified without notice to these particular attorneys in response to complaints from some of the firm’s employees concerning sexually explicit junkmail.  Moreover, although the administrator added the Colorado state courts to the whitelists, he failed to add the (U.S. Court, District of Colorado) domain.

Although the magistrate found that the neglect was not willful or wanton, he nevertheless found that the attorneys were, “the responsible persons to adopt internal office procedures that ensure the court’s notices and orders are brought to their attention once they have been received.”  Thus, under Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(f), they were jointly and severally sanctioned for attorney fees and costs relating to the settlement conference and the additional hearings incident thereto.

This decision, `though not a precedent, is another salient reminder that attorneys are increasingly being required to keep up with technology that often is out-of-scope for their training and expertise or, alternatively, to retain competent staff.