The Texas Supreme Court last week set a hearing for Dec. 8 to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a uniform, statewide electronic-filing system that would allow parties to file documents and the public to access them. Through Nov. 15, the court will accept written public comments about the matter.
The high court’s Oct. 18 order that scheduled the hearing noted that 50 Texas counties offer e-filing, but several use different systems than the Supreme Court.
Carl Reynolds, director of the Office of Court Administration (OCA), explains that Harris County currently offers “free fax e-filing,” while Montgomery and Jefferson counties have contracted with Lexis for e-filing.
The high court’s order said, “While a uniform e-filing system may aid users by increasing convenience and decreasing costs, these benefits must be balanced against local concerns and individual counties’ desires. . . .”
The order adds, “The Court must also determine whether parties, the public, and practicing attorneys alike would benefit from a statewide PACER-type system, which would allow users to access court documents via a centralized service. . . .”
Reynolds says the Judicial Committee on Information Technology already made recommendations to the high court about statewide e-filing, and over the summer the OCA received 10 responses after issuing a request for information seeking companies’ ideas for the system. Reynolds says the next step is for his office to issue a formal request for proposal.
“Part of what we want, the OCA, is to have the Supreme Court hearing and hear from the court, ‘Yes, we want to go forward,” Reynolds says.
-- Angela Morris