As the Texas judiciary prepares to go paperless, the Texas Supreme Court has released rules to guide the change.
On Aug. 16, the high court approved draft electronic filing rules and asked people to submit public comments by Oct. 31. The court could revise the rules based on public comment.
Starting Jan. 1, 2014, lawyers who file civil cases in the state’s most populous counties, and the appellate courts, must e-file all their court documents. The e-filing mandate becomes effective in other counties on a rolling schedule, based on population, running through July 2016.
According to the draft rules, lawyers subject to the e-filing mandate must use TexFile, the state’s new e-filing system that comes online starting in September, to e-file all of their documents. The rules make amends if TexFile goes down.
“If a document is untimely filed due to a technical failure or a system outage, the filing party may seek appropriate relief from the court,” say the draft rules.
The rules say an e-filed document is “the official court record,” and clerks don’t have to make paper copies. Attorneys don’t need to submit paper copies unless a trial court’s local rules require it. However, in the Texas Supreme Court and intermediate appellate courts, lawyers still must file one paper copy.
Among other things, the draft rules: make some exceptions from e-filing; explain how to sign e-filed documents; dictate the proper file format; approve electronic service and require lawyers to consent to it; and instruct lawyers to redact “sensitive data” like social security or bank account numbers.