The Texas Supreme Court made statewide courts start cutting paper. Now to “lead by example,” it’s letting lawyers go paperless all the way in Supreme Court filings, said Blake Hawthorne, clerk of the court. But the high court’s move won’t prevent other courts from enforcing local rules that still require attorneys to file paper copies.
The Supreme Court on Jan. 14 eliminated its local rule that required lawyers who e-file also to send two to four paper copies, depending on the type of filing. Pro se litigants can still paper file, noted Hawthorne.
“I think the court is trying to take a leadership role in electronic filing, and I think you saw that with the mandate and trying to move all our courts into this century,” said Hawthorne. “I think the court, too, is recognizing there was a burden placed on lawyers to provide the paper copies, and they wanted to help alleviate that burden.”
Most justices now will read briefs on their computers, although some may still print documents, he said.
The e-filing rules say that court clerks can treat an e-filed document as the original but that courts also may enact local rules to require paper copies. For example, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Dec. 16, 2013, created a local rule requiring 10 paper copies.
Fort Worth criminal-defense solo Richard Henderson said he thinks the CCA requirement “makes zero sense.”
“I’m burned up about it,” said Henderson. He explained that he hired an information-technology specialist and installed a scanner to comply with the e-filing mandate. He experienced “a great deal of stress” in learning to e-file, then he still had to mail his paper copies.
“I just don’t understand why they do these kinds of things,” he said.
When asked to respond to Henderson’s comment, Abel Acosta, the CCA’s clerk of the court, “I can appreciate his frustration, but this is new to all of us.”
He said that his office keeps one paper copy, and the other nine copies go to each CCA judge’s office.
“The Supreme Court, they’ve been receiving electronic filings for some time now. We have actually just begun doing that. We still don’t have the TAMES case management system that all the other courts do. So, we’re not fully incorporated into the electronic filing yet. We’ll see what the future holds, but that’s up to the judges,” Acosta said, adding, “One step at a time.”