On Thursday, December 8, 2011, the Supreme Court of Texas reviewed proposals for the electronic filing of court papers in the state courts. In federal courts, a system of electronic filing named PACER has existed for years. Under that system, when a party files a pleading with the court electronically, a copy is sent to all other parties automatically. In addition, citizens can research cases online from any location where they have access to the internet, and they can print copies of court filings and decisions.
Electronic filing in Texas has been a “bottom up” process, rather than the “top down” approach that was used to implement e-filing in federal court. Unlike the federal system that was decided at the national level for all courts, the state system of e-filing has sprung up on a county-by-county basis. Many, but not all, counties have some e-filing procedure. But the process and fees can vary from one location to another. So, among the ideas being considered is a top down, uniform state system of e-filing. The principal difficulty is the cost to install the system for the less populous counties. No final decisions have been made. But it is hoped that these fiscal issues can be promptly solved, because a statewide e-filing system will provide convenience and a cost savings to litigants, while making the judicial system more transparent and accountable to the public at large.