Texas studies online legal filings
- By Brian Robinson
- Sep 17, 2002
Texas attorneys and individual filers of legal documents will be able to
send their documents to county courts electronically by the end of October,
as part of a pilot study that could lead to development of a statewide online
filing system within the next three years.
The pilot project initially will make online filing available to the
legal community in Bexar County, an area that includes the city of San Antonio.
After a couple of months, during which the initial feasibility of the system
will be tested, "the spigot will be turned on slowly," and more firms and
counties will be brought on board, said Reagan Greer, the district clerk
of Bexar County.
Up to 10 counties could be involved in the pilot project during its
expected length of two years, he said.
The study will use the official state portal TexasOnline (www.TexasOnline.com), and filers will be able to select from several service
providers through which to send their documents. Counties will be allowed
to choose their own internal case and document management systems.
The service provider will pass documents through the TexasOnline electronic
"post office" to the clerk of the court, who will then pass "stamps" back
to the filer acknowledging receipt of the forms. Passwords and personal
identification numbers that the filers select when they first register on
the system will be used as electronic signatures for the documents.
"It offers obvious savings for the court system," Greer said, "and attorneys
are excited because they see it as a saving to the public. They bill by
the hour, and this will save them the time it takes for someone to hand
carry the documents to the court."
The pilot project took two years to set up after the request for proposals
was first published, he said. Most of that time was taken up by establishing
the rules for filing the documents, as well as defining the terms that would
be used by the system. Another big problem was finding the money to pay
for the study.
KPMG Consulting Inc., which helped establish TexasOnline in partnership
with the state government, will provide the $6.4 million needed, Greer said,
as well as the state-of-the-art security that will surround the online project.
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be
reached at email@example.com.
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.