Apparently, the confusion over e-filing in Texas and House Bill 2302 passed by the legislature is widespread. There is a concerted effort from the fine people over at the Office of the Court Administration to explain the new system, but since this bill went through the Senate Jurisprudence Committee, where I was General Counsel for the 2013 Regular Session, I figured I would go ahead and address some concerns and hopefully provide some clarity.
In December 2012, The Texas Supreme Court mandated e-filing across the state. E-filing will be mandatory in the Supreme Court of Texas and in civil cases in the courts of appeals effective January 1, 2014. E-filing will be mandatory in civil cases in the district courts, statutory county courts, constitutional county courts and statutory probate courts according to the following implementation schedule based upon the counties’ 2010 Federal Census population:
a. Courts in counties with a population of 500,000 or more – January 1, 2014
b. Courts in counties with a population of 200,000 to 499,999 – July 1, 2014
c. Courts in counties with a population of 100,000 to 199,999 – January 1,2015
d. Courts in counties with a population of 50,000 to 99,999 – July 1, 2015
e. Courts in counties with a population of 20,000 to 49,999 – January 1,2016
f. Courts in counties with a population less than 20,000 – July 1, 2016
The Texas Legislature, with the assistance of the Supreme Court and the OCA, drafted and passed House Bill 2302 to address the concerns regarding the costs e-filing.
Currently, e-filing is done as a toll road model, where the filer may have to pay the Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP) a fee for every filing and every transaction.
The new law addresses the costly toll road model by providing uniformity and base fees to the e-filing system. First, it provides for a $20.00 filing fee on any civil action or proceeding requiring a filing fee and any counterclaim, cross-action, intervention, interpleader or third party action in the Supreme Court, District Court, County Court, Statutory County Court, or Statutory Probate Court. If any of these actions are filed in Justice Court, the fee is $10.00
This fee is being instituted to replace the statewide Electronic Filing Manager (EFM) and provide a free option for an Electronic Filing Service Provider (EFSP), which will be the TexFile EFSP. After paying the initial $20.00 (or $10.00 for Justice Court) filing fee, filers will be able to use the TexFile EFSP at no additional charge or fee for ANY subsequent filing. There will still be an option to use a different EFSP that charges their own fees, but there is no requirement to use one of these fee services.
The only other fee is the potential $2 per transaction fee the counties may choose to charge to recoup the costs of integrating with the e-filing system. To charge this $2.00 fee, counties first have to submit an affidavit to the Office of Court Administration (OCA) stating that they have costs to recover. The $2 transaction fee sunsets in 2019.
Widespread concern about the costs of filing cases in Texas skyrocketing due to e-filing are based on understandable misconceptions about the new system set to go into effect. Hopefully, this post has addressed some of those concerns and ensures lawyers and parties across the state that e-filing will not create unwieldy burdens or limit access to the courts.