In a June 17 news release from his office, Harris County District Clerk Loren Jackson announced a major step in the effort to promote the value of electronic filing in his county. Jackson says in an interview that if the Texas Supreme Court gives its approval, local rules adopted recently by Harris County civil district judges authorize construction of a free, open portal that people can use to file suits electronically through the clerk’s office. Under the current system, Jackson says, an e-filed document goes first to an electronic filing service provider, which files it through the state-operated Texas Online, which then files the document with the district clerk’s office. Each entity charges a fee, he says. Recently, because of exhibits attached to a pleading, a lawyer had to make 229 separate filings and pay $8 for each one, Jackson says. “We all saw there was a bit of a problem with the cost model,” he says. Jackson says the free portal, if it encourages more e-filing, is projected to save Harris County taxpayers about $800,000 a year on the costs for paper, storage, imaging and rubber stamps. People still would be able to file through Texas Online if the free portal is built, but they would have the choice to go the free route, Jackson says. On June 15, the Harris County civil district judges sent the proposed rule to Second Administrative Judicial Regional Presiding Judge Olen Underwood for forwarding to the state Supreme Court. If the high court approves the rules, it will take six to eight months to build the portal, Jackson says.
-- Mary Alice Robbins