In some cases, it is possible for a court to make a ruling to correct an earlier or previous ruling. This mechanism allows a court of law to change the legal records after the fact in order to correct an error, whether substantive or procedural. The basis of this ability is referred to as nunc pro tunc.
This Latin phrase translates to “now for then” as it provides a current court to correct any errors committed in a previous ruling or judgment. However, nunc pro tunc cannot be used at any moment to correct an error perceived by the court or brought to the attention of the court by a litigant or third party. The use of nunc pro tunc is limited to instances wherein the court can prove or demonstrate that it created an error that interfered with the dispensation of justice. This condition is set in order to prevent the abuse of such a legal concept, which is the case when people force the issue of changing the legal records of a previous case.
For example, it is possible that a court clerk file a divorce decree improperly. When this happens, the court may order that the divorce decree be filed again and backdated in order for the divorce to have taken effect on the date that it originally was supposed to have been filed. Thus, nunc pro tunc allows the decree to be backdated to avoid any trouble or dispute that may have risen due to the improper filing.