Clerical error

A clerical error is an error on part of an office worker, often a secretary or personal assistant. It is a phrase which can also be used as an excuse to deflect blame away from specific individuals, such as high powered executives, and instead redirect it to the more anonymous clerical staff.

A clerical error in a legal document is called a scrivener's error.


In law

There is a considerable body of case law concerning the proper treatment of a scrivener's error.1 For example, where the parties to a contract make an oral agreement that, when reduced to a writing, is mis-transcribed, the aggrieved party is entitled to reformation so that the writing corresponds to the oral agreement.[1]

A scrivener's error can be grounds for an appellate court to remand a decision back to the trial court. For example, in Ortiz v. State of Florida,[2] Ortiz had been convicted of possession of less than 20g of marijuana, a misdemeanor.[3] However, Ortiz was mistakenly adjudicated guilty of a felony for the count of marijuana possession . The appellate court held that "we must remand the case to the trial court to correct a scrivener's error."

Notable clerical errors

  • The attack on Pearl Harbor was allegedly not supposed to be a surprise attack. The Japanese had intended to deliver a note declaring both war and their intentions at Pearl Harbor to the United States prior to the attack, but due to a clerical mishap the note was delivered late.[4]
  • 18½ minutes of the infamous "Watergate tapes" were, allegedly, accidentally erased by Richard Nixon's secretary in a clerical error which may have very well changed the course of American history.[5][6]


  1. ^ Flemings Fundamentals of Law/Farhod Azarbaydjani
  2. ^ 600 So. 2d 530 (Fla. App. 3 DCA 1992)
  3. ^ 893.13(1)(g) Fla. Stat. (1989)
  4. ^ John Toland, Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath (Berkley Reissue edition, 1986 ISBN 0-425-09040-X).
  5. ^ Time Magazine, December 10, 1973
  6. ^ Rose Mary Woods Dies; Loyal Nixon Secretary (


1.^ See Barkelew v. Barkelew (1946, Cal App) 73 Cal App 2d 76, 166 P2d 57, for example.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • clerical error — n. A mistake made while drafting or copying a document. The Essential Law Dictionary. Sphinx Publishing, An imprint of Sourcebooks, Inc. Amy Hackney Blackwell. 2008. clerical error A mistake made in a letter, paper …   Law dictionary

  • clerical error — An error in technique rather than in substance of thought; the misprision of a clerk or other officer of the court, causing a defect or omission in the record. As the phrase applies to the record of a judgment, it means the failure to preserve or …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • clerical error — Generally, a mistake in writing or copying. Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Corporation v. Los Angeles County, 22 Cal.App.2d 418, 71 P.2d 282. It may include error apparent on face of instrument, record, indictment or information, In re… …   Black's law dictionary

  • clerical error — copying or printing error …   English contemporary dictionary

  • clerical error — noun : an error made in copying or writing …   Useful english dictionary

  • clerical error — noun a mistake made in copying or writing out a document …   English new terms dictionary

  • clerical error — /ˌklerɪk(ə)l erə/ noun a mistake made by someone doing office work …   Marketing dictionary in english

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  • A clerical error — Clerical Cler ic*al, a. [LL. clericalis. See {Clerk}.] 1. Of or pertaining to the clergy; suitable for the clergy. A clerical education. Burke. [1913 Webster] 2. Of or relating to a clerk or copyist, or to writing. Clerical work. E. Everett.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • error — er·ror n: an act that through ignorance, deficiency, or accident departs from or fails to achieve what should be done procedural error s; esp: a mistake made by a lower court in conducting judicial proceedings or making findings in a case to… …   Law dictionary

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