Electronic Filing in Denton County
By: Clinton S. Zettle, Associate
Most Denton County attorneys began 2014 with a new task: learning how to electronically file (e-file) after Denton County mandated e-filing on January 1. The law firm of BROCKLEGAL, PLLC, was arguably the first Denton County firm to utilize e-filing way back in 2010. Gone are the days of filing documents directly at the court house. E-filing is now the preferred method most U.S. courts use to file documents.
E-filing works by using a service provider to upload documents on the court system’s online database and is generally much easier and convenient than the alternatives. While e-filing is generally less burdensome than filing in person at the courthouse, it does require some technological know-how and autonomy as there is no one present to guide you through the process. This article seeks to explore and inform the reader of e-filing.
The steps to E-filing are as follows:
- Service Provider: The first step to becoming a successful e-filer is to select an e-filing service provider. Basically, these providers provide the avenue necessary to upload the document to the court’s database. The court’s “in house” service provider is called E-file Texas Courts and is a good default service to use. There are many other service providers who provide the same service but may add benefits such as reviewing the documents for a small fee. The court’s in house service provider is the cheapest route to go but users may find the convenience and added benefits of other providers to be worth the extra cost.
- Accuracy: After you’ve selected a service provider you’re comfortable with, it’s time to review your document for accuracy. The first step to successful filing is making certain your document is accurate. Simply put, make sure whatever you are filing is filled out correctively and accurately. While this is true for traditional filing, it is especially true for electronic filing as there is no one present to check your work. It is also important to scan the document for any sensitive or confidential information and either redact it or file it in camera as the file will become public information.
- Upload: Once you’re certain the document is in order, it is time to upload the file on to the court’s electronic database utilizing whatever service provider you’ve selected. The most important step here is to make certain that you select the correct options to describe the document. The options available on the drop-down menus help route the document to its intended destination.
- Fees: Next, it is time to determine the appropriate cost of e-filing the document. It is crucial to select the correct options so that the document may be filed and the associated costs paid. A court will reject a document if the fees have not been adequately covered. Thus, make certain you’ve selected the correct payment options when filing the document. The service provider you’ve selected will have all of the different filing types and costs listed and it is your responsibility to select the correct choices.
- Rejection: It is not at all uncommon for the court to reject a document that was electronically filed. In this instance the transaction is not completed and the filer gets another chance to upload the document correctly. The courts understand that this e-filing is relatively new to most in Denton County and have shown patience as a result. Denton County is constantly revising the interface of its filing software in an effort to make it more intuitive and user friendly. The best advice to mastering e-filing is by doing it. The worst that can happen is a rejection which can best be interpreted as a “do over.”
Why does electronic filing matter to you as the client? For one, it’s cheaper. It saves on courier costs and attorney/paralegal costs as it takes less time to accomplish. It is also (arguably) more secure as sensitive documents no longer pass through a third party (the courier) or through the mail. The database the court stores the documents on is encrypted and secured. Documents containing sensitive information can either have portions redacted or be filed “in camera” which means the document is kept private.