Right now, attorneys in civil cases throughout Texas can file all their case documents electronically through a program called Texas Online. That program is run by a private company and there's an $8 fee for every 40MB of data filed. Harris County District Clerk Loren Jackson wants that to change.
"Local judges in Texas adopt local rules that govern electronic filing. Years ago, the Supreme Court wanted to have a statewide system for electronic filing, so there was a uniformity and a standard across the various counties. The only problem is those rules essentially helped to create a monopoly for e-filing with a publicly-traded for-profit corporation."
All 24 civil court judges in Harris County agreed to draft a new set of rules that would create a free local portal for e-filings.
"What we are trying to do in Harris County is to say that this system that's in place for e-filing lacks the infrastructures, it lacks the technology that we need."
About 18 percent of civil cases in Harris County are filed electronically, yet the county represents 50 percent of all e-filings in the state. Jackson says he believes if the county had a reliable, free system even more lawyers would file online.
But all of this hinges on approval by the Texas Supreme Court, the entity that created the state-wide for-profit filing system in the first place. It's unclear exactly how long it could take for the court to make a decision on the county's request.