Before the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, lawyers who practice in the state’s most populated counties may want to review electronic filing rules that the Texas Supreme Court finalized in mid-December.
The draft e-filing rules only impacted civil lawyers, but criminal appellate lawyers should also pay attention to the final version.
The most significant change is that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has partially signed on to the Texas Supreme Court’s previous mandate—effective Jan. 1, 2014, in the 10 biggest counties—that lawyers use e-filing exclusively in most civil cases. The CCA has now mandated e-filing for attorneys who file appeals of criminal cases in intermediate appellate courts and the CCA.
CCA Clerk of the Court Abel Acosta said many intermediate appellate courts already allowed e-filing in criminal appeals, which factored into the CCA’s decision to mandate e-filing.
“It’s just the general progression of technology. I think that’s really it,” said Acosta.
High court rules attorney Martha Newton said she received about 75 public comments about the August draft version of the e-filing rules. They came from lawyers, trial and appellate court clerks, judges and the companies that prepare an e-filing to send to eFileTexas.gov, the state’s new e-filing system.
“We did receive several comments urging the court to make electronic service mandatory—or as mandatory as possible—which is one of the changes we made,” Newton said.
She noted that lawyers who wrote comments were afraid of what would happen if they submitted a document and a clerk rejected it. They asked, would they miss their filing deadline?
“That’s not the case. You will meet your deadline when you tender your document to the clerk, even if the clerk sends it back and says, ‘You need to fix some things,’” Newton explained.
There are revisions throughout the rules, but they’re still pretty similar to the draft. Lawyers need to review the final rules to learn how to format e-filings, what information to include or redact, which documents are prohibited from e-filing, what happens if there’s a system outage, how a criminal appellate lawyer can get out of e-filing, and more.