E-Filing in Municipal Courts

TMCEC has fielded questions regarding the authority of municipal courts to implement and use electronic filing, or e-filing, systems. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Texas and Court of Criminal Appeals issued an order, Misc. Docket No. 17-9039, requiring certain courts to adopt e-filing procedures. While municipal (and justice) courts are not included as requiring implementation, a careful reading of this order reveals that it certainly may apply to municipal courts. We would particularly direct attention to three of the rules.

First, although municipal courts are not required to do so, there is express permission to opt in and adopt an e-filing system for criminal cases.

Rule 1.1. The rules govern electronic filing of documents with the clerk in criminal cases in appellate courts, district courts, statutory county courts, and constitutional county courts… A justice court or municipal court may implement criminal case electronic filing. If a justice court or municipal court implements an electronic filing system, the system must comply with these rules.

Second, if a municipal court opts in, it must follow the rules set out in 2017. Once e-filing is implemented, all attorneys must, and all other defendants may, file electronically. However, courts may not reject paper filings from unrepresented parties.

Rule 1.2. … Once a court [implements] electronic filing, attorneys must electronically file all documents, pleadings, and materials filed in that court through the electronic filing portal provided or approved by the Office of Court Administration, except where these rules or other Texas law allow or mandate non-electronic (paper) filing. Attorneys must not file documents through any alternative electronic document filing transmission system, except in the event of an emergency or where these rules provide for the use of the alternative filing transmission system. Unrepresented parties may electronically file documents but it is not required.

Third, the rules specify what e-filing providers are acceptable, generally.

Rule 2.1. Electronic filing must be done through the electronic filing manager established by the Office of Court Administration and an electronic filing service provider certified by the Office of Court Administration or through another electronic filing portal approved by the Office of Court Administration.

The Office of Court Administration (OCA) currently contracts with Tyler Technologies to provide an e-filing system. Although OCA is in the process of re-procuring and restructuring this process, it appears that the new system will also be hosted by Tyler Technologies. Additional information is available here.

The system also allows filing through another portal approved by OCA. Courts considering adopting e-filing should contact OCA for additional information.

Published by markgoodner

General Counsel & Director of Education, TMCEC

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