This afternoon at 2:00, the Texas Supreme Court will hold a public hearing to explore the feasibility of a statewide uniform system for electronic court filings. The hearing will take place in the Supreme Court Courtroom and will be webcast live here.
The Court is considering whether Texas ought to implement a system modeled to some degree after Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), the federal courts’ electronic document portal. In conjunction with the Case Management-Electronic Case Filing (CM-ECF) feature, PACER allows litigants to file documents electronically at no charge, 24 hours a day. Parties and the public may access the docket online and may view and download listed documents for a fee.
Followers of this blog know that I have advocated e-filing for years and have watched closely as our state e-filing processes have developed. Texas has made great strides in this area, but the current system is far from perfect. PACER/CM-ECF has its flaws too, but it has been implemented successfully in federal trial and appellate courts and provides a reference point to something other than the state courts’ filing-fee driven model.
A system that is not fee-based at the filing stage would level the playing field for everyone with access to a computer and an internet connection, and a uniform approach to e-filing and online document access would be inherently valuable. We should applaud the Supreme Court for considering the need for and benefits of a uniform system and for taking the initiative to gather more information about the options going forward.