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Call it a gremlin in the Fulton County, Ga., Superior Court clerk’s computer software. Fulton Superior Court Clerk Juanita Hicks and a chief deputy clerk say they have no clue why Atlanta attorney Patrick D. Deering was listed in computer case files until June 2 as the attorney of record for 900 cases that don’t belong to him. The glitch had judges calling Deering, wanting to know why he wasn’t in court. One angry litigant filed a bar complaint against Deering, later withdrawing it. Judges’ clerks wanted Deering to file motions to withdraw from cases that were never his to begin with. Hicks said June 2 that technicians with The Software Group (TSG), which installed the software in 1998 that computerized the county’s civil case files, had been unable for weeks to resolve the problem. Deputy clerks repeatedly had tried manually to delete Deering’s name from the 900 files but Hicks said it kept reappearing. “It’s a dilemma for us,” Hicks said last week. “We can’t understand why if we’re taking it [Deering's name] out manually, it keeps coming back. It’s definitely a computer error. It’s not something we are doing.” But June 2 — less than a day after the Daily Report inquired about the problem — Hicks called to say the “gremlin” finally had been dispatched and Deering’s name had been removed from all the cases erroneously listing him as counsel. NO EXPLANATION FOR DELAY “We have no idea why it took so long,” Hicks said. “They [TSG technicians] have not explained to us what caused this … I for one am hoping this is solved.” Hicks said she was planning to notify Deering June 2 that the repeating computer error had been corrected. However, on June 6, Deering said he had heard nothing from Hicks’ office, but that “I hope it’s fixed. I hope it stops.” Tiffany Wylie, a TSG supervisor, declined to discuss the situation, saying the firm does not release information regarding its clients. Deering was the only attorney singled out by the computer, Hicks said, adding that Deering seemed to appear randomly on cases, including many where at least one litigant is pro se. “It’s funny, but it’s also not funny,” Deering said before the problem was resolved. “It’s aggravating to me. I have to call these courts and say, ‘It’s not me.’ It’s also aggravating to people who are trying to litigate the cases. There doesn’t seem to be any reason why it couldn’t be corrected quite easily.” Deering said he has been attempting since April to resolve the problem that may have begun as early as last winter when he realized his office occasionally was receiving notices to appear in court on cases that weren’t his. Deering said he usually ignored them or called the respective judge’s chamber. But by spring, Deering said, his office was receiving four civil appearance notices a week for cases that didn’t belong to him, and “We keep getting more every week.” Deering said it appeared he had become “the default lawyer for every pro se litigant.” When Deering called the clerk’s office to complain, he said Al Clark, the court support manager, told him that what he was describing was just not possible. “He assured me he doesn’t see how it could be happening,” Deering recalled, “but it just continues.” The clerk’s office subsequently sent Deering a list of 923 cases, going back four years, for which he was listed as the attorney of record. Four more came in last week. But only 23 of the 927 were his, Deering says. Deering said the erroneous listings generated problems for his practice. During court appearances, Fulton judges asked Deering why he had failed to prepare pretrial orders on other cases also before them. “I’ve gotten calls from judges’ clerks saying I was supposed to have appeared in court and that I was listed as an attorney for this case,” Deering said. “I had a few tell me to file motions to withdraw� . That’s putting me in the position where I’m withdrawing from a case I was never in.” CALLS FROM LITIGANTS Deering said he also received calls from pro se litigants who were barred from filing motions with the court because Deering was listed in computer records as their lawyer. They wanted to know “why I was attempting to represent them,” he said. “I had never met them. They’ve never met me.” One of those litigants filed a formal complaint against Deering with the State Bar of Georgia. The judge in that case had told the plaintiff, “He couldn’t file any more pleadings because he now had a lawyer,” Deering explained. After Deering apologized and explained the problem, the pro se plaintiff dropped the complaint. Deering said he was listed as the plaintiff’s lawyer in some cases brought against state agencies such as the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole and the state corrections department. Deering said he often defends both agencies. Because of that, he said he is prohibited from suing a state agency. “I have to stop it,” Deering said of his erroneous computer listings. “Something bad is going to happen. Not just to me. Someone is going to lose their case. Some pro se litigant is not going to be able to file a motion. First, they are going to blame me. Then I’m going to have to prove I didn’t do it. Then they will be just out of luck.”

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