By the end of the year, the Lone Star State will have a PACER-like court records system.
The Texas Supreme Court took the next step in expanding re:SearchTX, which grants access to state court records electronically filed anywhere in Texas, so that lawyers can download documents in any case—and so can the general public—at a cost of 10 cents per page up to a $6 maximum per document.
The system has operated since February 2017 with limited access for judges, court clerks and attorneys of record to access documents in their own cases. This new order opens access further to attorneys—they’ll be able to access any case, not just their own—and other registered users who provide personal information like their name, address, phone number and more.
“It will be live before the end of the year,” said David Slayton, administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration.
The justices ordered OCA to implement the recommendations and also ordered all Texas courts, clerks and official custodians of records to make their e-filed documents available to re:SearchTX. The money the system collects for a record originating in a certain county will go back to that county.
Since e-filing has been mandated in Texas for years now, it’s enabled this system that provides “e-access” to court documents, which is more efficient and reduces costs for judges, clerks, lawyers and parties, the Supreme Court wrote in its Oct. 2 order that adopted recommendations from the Judicial Committee on Information Technology.
“By making court documents more readily available to the public, e-access provides greater transparency for the justice system that is critical to evaluating its operations, improving its procedures, and strengthening public trust,” said the order. “E-access also involves many difficult issues, including appropriate protections for legitimate privacy interests and funding for clerks’ offices and local governments to support the system.”
Records will have a watermark indicating they’re a copy from re:SearchTX, and there will be safeguards to ensure users don’t excessively download documents for data mining or selling records without permission. Some sensitive documents will not be available, and sensitive data will be redacted.
Slayton noted that re:SearchTX will soon include redaction technology to help attorneys and court clerks scan court documents for sensitive data and help automatically redact it, rather than the time consuming process of manually redacting records.
“We’re very excited about that,” he said. “We’re trying to make it easy for people.”
Angela Morris is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @AMorrisReports.