Nice article in Texas Lawyer about what's been going on in the Harris County District Clerk's office under Loren Jackson.
Lawyers handling civil suits in Harris County district courts will soon have fewer excuses for missing a court hearing.
On Jan. 17, the Harris County District Clerk's Office began testing an automated docketing feature that sends an e-mail to lawyers each weekend with a listing of all of their court hearings for the next week. By clicking on links in the e-mail, the lawyers have online access to docket information and all of the documents filed in the suit, which can help them prepare at home for their hearings.
The new automated docketing feature is one of several online-access additions the clerk's office plans to launch in May or June. Significantly, District Clerk Loren Jackson says, the office also plans to offer searchable online access to criminal cases, including links to some documents such as indictments and judgments.
Jackson, a Democrat who defeated Republican Theresa Chang in the November 2008 election, says he's doing his best to fulfill a campaign pledge to use technology to save people a trip to the courthouse.
"I want to make those records accessible. I feel very strongly about that," says Jackson, who was a trial lawyer at McLeod, Alexander, Powel & Apffel in Houston before he was elected as district clerk. "That's the reason I ran."
Jackson, who was sworn in on Nov. 18, 2008, says his information technology department started testing the automated docketing feature a few weeks ago with a group of about 15 to 18 lawyers who mostly do civil work. The response from most of the lawyers in the test group has been favorable, he says.
"It's fantastic, it's innovative and it's going to be an asset to every lawyer who has business in Harris County," says Randall Sorrels, a partner in Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels & Friend who is one of the lawyers in the test group.
Sorrels says that after he received his e-mail on a recent Saturday, he saw what he had coming up on Monday, and read the court documents from home.
"I was able to go into the office and put my hand on the documents in the file quicker because I knew exactly what I was looking for," Sorrels says.