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Potential Implications of Revised Methods of Service

In a Litigation Summary published recently in the Texas Lawyer, attorney James Walker discusses the revised Rule 21a, entitled “Methods of Service.” In particular, Rule 21a(1) states:

Documents filed electronically. A document filed electronically under Rule 21 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. If the email address of the party or attorney to be served is not on file with the electronic filing manager, the document may be served on that party or attorney under subparagraph (2).

Rule 21a(2) goes on to state:

Documents not filed electronically. A document not filed electronically may be served in person, by mail, by commercial delivery service, by fax, by email or by such other manner as the court in its discretion may direct.

So for all pleadings, pleas, motions or other filings done under Rule 21, these new electronic filing rules will apply. Walker points out though that while the rule allows for electronic mail service, “it does not explain what constitutes proof of service by this means.” And while formal proof of service is usually provided when documents are filed with the court through an electronic filing service provider, proving service is not near as clear when other documents are served by electronic mail when an electronic filing service provider is not used. The author recommends looking to Rule 21a(e) to establish prima facie proof of service, as well as the acceptable methods of contesting proper or lack of service.

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