I confess to being a little confused at first when I read this.
A half-dozen Harris County departments will spend the rest of the year scrambling to fulfill a Texas Supreme Court mandate that all civil courts accept only electronic filings, starting next January.
In a ruling issued last December, the high court said large counties must get the job done by Jan. 1.
As it stands, Harris County is behind schedule and waiting on Commissioners Court to approve $5.4 million in funding so workers can begin the project, which will involve increasing the county’s bandwidth to accommodate up to 10 times the amount of electronic documents, as well as setting up servers to store them.
Officials, however, said they are “fairly confident” they will be able to get the job done in time.
Kevin Mauzy, chief deputy of the district clerk’s office, which is overseeing the project as the primary department affected by the mandate, said it took months to meet with all the affected agencies and figure out what it would take and how much it would cost to fully digitize filing in the civil court system.
The portion of the project officials are most concerned about getting in done in time, however, is not part of the court order.
The first few steps in the $5.4 million package presented to commissioners last week includes digitizing 16 million active family and juvenile court records, a job estimated to take six months.
[District Clerk Chris] Daniel, however, said that will allow the courts to avoid an inefficient, and more costly, “hybrid” paper-electronic system.
It would take $20 million to scan every court record, both old and active, a task commissioners decided against during budget hearings last fall.
My first thought upon reading this was “Aren’t all of the civil courts already doing e-filing?” I contacted Daniel’s office to ask about this, and was told that while that is true, other courts such as family, juvenile, and probate courts are not as yet. The main focus for the county at this point is getting current cases from family court digitized, since they have a high volume of paper and as noted in the story they want to avoid a “hybrid” system. County courts at law are also subject to this Supreme Court ruling, but that’s the County Clerk’s problem.