Fraud upon the court also known as fraud on the court in United States Bankruptcy and District Courts is the topic of this blog post. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(d)(3) states that nothing in Rule 60 limits a court’s power to set aside a judgment for fraud on the court. The one year limitations period for relief from judgment in Rule 60 does not apply to fraud on the court.
One year limitations period of FRCP 60(b)(3) does not limit court’s power to set aside judgment under “fraud on the court” doctrine. See Outen v Baltimore County 177 FRD 346, 348 (1998, DC Md).
Fraud on the court is distinct from other types of fraud in that it is generally applied only in the most egregious cases. For example, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated in Toscano v. Comm’r, 441 F.2d 930, 933-34 (9th Cir. 1971) that the term “fraud upon the court” must be construed narrowly in connection with Rule 60.
The existence of fraud on the court depends on the circumstances of the particular case. It is clear, however, that perjury or the fabrication of evidence alone, or fraud that is primarily inter partes, does not constitute fraud on the court absent the encouragement or involvement of the attorneys involved or other court involvement. In fact, any fraudulent or perjured matter which was actually presented and considered by the court in reaching its decision cannot ground such a claim under the doctrine of estoppel.” See Outen v Baltimore County 177 FRD supra at 349. (Citations omitted.) affirmed Outen v. Baltimore County 164 F.3d 625 (4th Cir. 1998).
However the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Pumphrey v. K.W. Thompson Tool Co., 62 F.3d 1128, 1131 (9th Cir. 1995) held that a lawyer’s failure to disclose evidence during discovery constituted fraud upon the court.
The United States Supreme Court has also noted the inherent power of courts to vacate judgments on basis of fraud upon the court. See Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 44 (1991).
Fraud on the court is extremely difficult to prove as the party alleging fraud on the court must prove it by clear and convincing evidence, and all doubts are resolved in favor of sustaining the prior court action. However if used in the right situations and backed up with competent and substantial evidence it is a very powerful tool with no time limitation.
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