E-Filing a written pleading is often the first step in raising a legal issue before the court. As a result, knowing the correct procedures to file a legal document electronically with the court clerk can help avoid disaster. Most of the clerks in Central Texas have different procedures for E-Filing. Historically, a filer would have taken their signed paper pleading and a few copies down to the clerk’s office. After physically providing the documents to the clerk’s office, the clerk would file-stamp the original and place those documents in the court’s physical file. Next, the clerk would file-stamp the copies and the filer would serve those physical printed copies on opposing counsel.
Statewide Rules Governing Electronic Filing in Criminal Cases
For criminal cases, the process of filing written pleadings officially changed in 2017. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reached the conclusion that electronic filing would promote the efficient and uniform administration of justice. Henceforth, attorneys were required to electronically file all documents in criminal cases. While all documents must now be e-filed, the rules made exceptions for (1) documents filed under seal or presented in camera; and (2) documents to which access is otherwise restricted by the law, court order, or the Statewide Rules Governing Electronic Filing in Criminal Cases. See, Statewide Rules Governing Electronic Filing in Criminal Cases, April 24, 2017.
In general, e-filing has streamlined court filings and the Statewide Rules made it possible for parties to e-file a document at any hour of the day or night. Most clerks review court filings between 8AM and 5PM, Monday through Friday and we usually receive an electronic file-stamped copy by the same or the next business day. Also consider that pleadings no longer need to be printed since they are transferred, served, stored, and signed electronically although a filer should provide paper copies of e-filed documents upon request by a court. If the email address of the attorney to be served is on file with the electronic filing manager then an e-filed document must be served electronically . Otherwise, the document must be served on that party as permitted by law.
Who Administers E-Filing?
On December 24, 2020, the Texas Office of Court Administration contracted with Tyler Technologies, Inc. where Tyler Technologies was chosen to continue eFileTexas through 2027. The contract is valued at $98 million over five years and is supposed to feature upgrades to the current system. See, Texas OCA Signs New eFiling Contract.
How to Register for E-Filing
All filers must register prior to using the service. In order to start e-filing, a user needs to select an Electronic Filing Service Provider. An EFSP acts as the intermediary between the user and the eFileTexas.gov system. Electronic Filing Service Providers.
For privacy reasons, a document containing sensitive data may not be filed with a court unless all sensitive data is redacted. Sensitive data consists of:
(1) a driver’s license number, passport number, social security number, tax identification number, or similar government-issued personal identification number;
(2) a bank account number, credit card number, or other financial account number;
(3) a birth date, home address, or personal phone number; and
(4) the name of any person who was a minor when the underlying suit was filed unless, under Texas Family Code Section 54.02, a juvenile court has waived its exclusive original jurisdiction and transferred the individual to a district court.
Statewide Rules Governing Electronic Filing in Criminal Cases, Part 4. Privacy Protection for Filed Documents April 24, 2017.
TRAP, Rule 9.10 vs. the Statewide Rules
Note that the Statewide Rules and the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rule 9.10 — Privacy Protection for Documents Filed in Criminal Cases — and are not identical. The Statewide Rules require redaction of personal phone numbers while TRAP 9.10 does not. Additionally, the Statewide Rules require redaction of home addresses, while TRAP 9.10 states that the redaction requirements do not apply to the defendant’s address. Finally, both the Statewide Rules and TRAP 9.10 require redaction of the defendant’s social security number and driver’s license number. Court filings that are prepared before the filing of a criminal charge are exempt from the redaction rules.
By way of example, an Affidavit for Warrant of Arrest containing a person’s sensitive data may be filed without redactions since the Affidavit is prepared before the filing of the criminal charge. In contrast, a Personal Recognizance bond prepared after the filing of charges (namely the arrest), should not be e-filed unless the sensitive data has been redacted. Similarly a pre-indictment subpoena should not be e-filed unless the sensitive data is redacted.
The filing party must retain an unredacted version of the filed document during the pendency of the case and any related appellate proceedings filed within three years of the date the judgment is signed.
E-Filing with Each Clerk’s Office is Different
While the rules governing e-filing were designed to promote the efficient and uniform administration of justice, each clerk’s office has its own rules for accepting and rejecting e-filed documents. Primarily, filers need to be aware of the separate rules governing lead documents, proposed orders, and attachments. A lead document is the pleading that you want the court to consider. The lead document usually receives a file-stamp indicating the date it was accepted by the clerk’s office. A proposed order is a separate document that the court will sign either granting or denying relief. A proposed order does not receive a file-stamp until after a judge signs the order. Attachments can be any assortment of documents that pertain to the pleading and assists the court in ruling on the pleading. Knowing that these rules are subject to change, here is a list of some of the District and County Clerk offices in Central Texas and their e-filing practices:
CLERK E-FILING PRACTICES:
|Travis County District Clerk Criminal Division||File Proposed/Unsigned Order with its accompanying Motion as one lead document or as an attachment. Do not file the Proposed Order as a separate lead document.|
|Travis County District Clerk Expunctions||File Proposed/Unsigned Order with its accompanying Motion as one lead document or as an attachment. Do not file the Proposed Order as a separate lead document.|
|Travis County Clerk Criminal Division||Do not submit Proposed/Unsigned Order. Signed Orders should be submitted by the Judge or the Court Administrator by email to Misdemeanor.Courts@traviscountytx.gov.|
|Travis County Clerk Nondisclosures||File Proposed/Unsigned Order as a separate attachment.|
|Hays County County Clerk||File Proposed/Unsigned Order and its accompanying Motion as separate lead documents.
Letters of Representation should include the Attorney’s State Bar Number included in the signature block.
|Williamson County Clerk Criminal||File Proposed/Unsigned Order and its accompanying Motion as separate lead documents.
All criminal filings should be marked as “Does not contain sensitive data.”
|Williamson County District Clerk Expunctions||File Proposed/Unsigned Order, Notice of Setting, and accompanying Petition as separate lead documents.|
|Williamson County Clerk Nondisclosures||File Proposed/Unsigned Order behind the Motion as one lead document.|
|Brazos County District Clerk||File Proposed/Unsigned Order behind the Motion as one lead document. Misdemeanor cases are filed with the District Clerk’s Office.|
Austin Criminal Defense lawyer
David Frank has been an Austin Criminal Defense lawyer since 1993. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. An attorney who is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Criminal Law must have experience in the preparation and trial of serious criminal matters. The attorney must also have extensive knowledge of state and federal constitutional law, evidence, procedure and penal laws involved in the trial of these matters