The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure have recently undergone several changes that significantly affect the day-to-day litigation practice. Most of the changes center around the technology advances that have occurred over the last few years. We want to set out some of the most important ones that are in effect as of January 1, 2014:
1. Prior to the changes, when a document was served on another party via fax (called “telephonic document transfer” in the TRCP), three days would be added to the time the other party had to respond. Under the new revision, the responding party can NOT add three days to the deadline to respond if the item is received via fax. This change occurs in Rule 4 and Rule 21a(c) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
2. Rule 21 now requires that every pleading (trial and appeal) contain at least one attorney’s email address in the signature block on documents electronically filed. This is found in Rule 57 of the TRCP and TRAP Rules 6.1(c), 6.2, and 9.1.
3. Rule 21a has been expanded to allow service of documents on other lawyers via email at the email address provided in the signature block.
4. Rule 21 states that documents that are served, filed or issued by a court or clerk is considered signed if there is “a /s/ and name typed in the space where the signature would otherwise appear, unless the document is notarized or sworn;” or an electronic image or scanned image of the signature is used.
5. Electronic service is now considered complete when it is served on the serving party’s electronic filing service provider.
6. Documents filed electronically must be served electronically “through the electronic filing manager if the email address of the party or attorney to be served is on file with the electronic filing manager.” TRCP 21a (a)(1) and TRAP 9.5(b)(2).
7. Items electronically filed are considered timely any time before midnight (in that court’s time zone) unless required to be filed by a certain time of day. TRCP 21.
8. Items not electronically filed can be served by the usual methods (mail & fax) or now by email or commercial delivery service (meaning Fed-Ex, UPS, etc.). TRCP 21a(a)(2) and TRAP 9.5(b)(2).
9. Rule 21c is a new rule for sensitive data. Do not put driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, passport numbers, tax-id numbers, bank account numbers, credit card numbers or other sensitive data into a document being filed. Also, with minors, the minor’s name should be redacted by putting, “a/n/f of XXXXX XXXXXXX” (note the X should replace each omitted digit or character). And the date of birth and home address should not be filed either.