These are the most basic, general rules related to e-filing case documents. If you are an attorney, you know that sometimes general rules do not apply. Here is a copy of the Supreme Court's Rules for Criminal EFiling for you to read yourself.
If you are not an attorney, you should not interpret anything on this page as legal advice. Every case is different, so these rules may or may not be applicable to you.
Setting Everything Up
The first thing you will need to do is set up an account with an E-Filing Service Provider. You can think of an E-Filing Service Provider like a car--the service provider is the vehicle you will use to e-file documents. There are multiple E-Filing Service Providers (or simply "EFSPs") that you can use in Texas. Some are bare-bones but free, others come with more bells and whistles but cost money.
eFileTexas.gov has created a breakdown of each E-Filing Service Provider, which compares the different providers across a variety of areas. Click here to access that document.
Once you have an account set up with the E-Filing Service Provider of your choice, you are ready to begin filing.
An Overview of the
The basic process that an electronically-filed document goes through is very much like the process a hand-filed document goes through. You can think of it in three steps: the envelope is the first, with document submission and envelope acceptance and return following.
Before you would go to the courthouse to file documents, you would get everything together to hand the Clerk. "The Envelope" is simply the digital version of that process you're already used to doing.
The Envelope is what you ultimately submit to the Clerk.
It is comprised of 4 categories:
(1) Case Information; (2) Party Information; (3) Filings; and (4) Fees.
Case information has the most basic information on the case: what court it's in (District or County); its classification (misdemeanor or felony); the case number; and the court to which it is assigned. The case information should be automatically filled in when you pull up your case. Here is more information about locating your case.
This category is where you can list all the parties involved in the case. It has party categories of Defendant, Defendant Witness, State, and State Witness. The defendant will be automatically listed as a party, but you may need to go in and add the State as a party as well. This is the category where you can add opposing counsel's email for service.
This is the category where you can actually upload the document(s) you're wanting to file. There are several fields in this category, but only some of them are mandatory.
Filing Type: In this field, you have two options - EFile (if you just want to file something with the court or EFile and Serve (if you need to serve the document(s)). This field is mandatory.
Filing Code: This is where you tell the Clerk what it is you're filing. You have 23 different categories to choose from. Some of the categories are things like answer/response, bond, election as to punishment, motions, proposed orders, and the like. This field is mandatory.
Filing Description: This is where you put the title of your document. This field is mandatory.
Client Reference Number: This is for attorneys and firms who assign their clients or cases numbers unique to the firm. This field is not mandatory.
Comments to the Court: This is where you can write notes to the Clerk. Usually, you can probably leave this field blank, but you can write things like "Thank You" or "This filing is a resubmission of Envelope SSS, filed <date and time>. Please honor the original filing date." This field is not mandatory.
Courtesy Copies: If there is someone you want to email a copy of the document to, this is where you would enter their email address. This field is not mandatory.
Lead Document: This is where you actually upload the document(s) you're needing to file. In order to upload your document, first, you click the computer upload button. When you click this button, your computer files will pop up, and you can select the document you want to upload and click "Open." This will download the document into your envelope. You will need to indicate whether the filing contains any sensitive data.
As you will see later, sometimes you may need to include several documents in one envelope (most likely when you're filing several pre-trial motions at once). If you need to upload more documents, click the "Add Another Filing" button, which is located underneath and to the right of the "Filing Code" field reference above. One more note about your document. You need to make sure that your document is in PDF when you upload it.
When you indicate in "Filings" that you need to "EFile and Serve," another category named "Service Contacts" will pop up. This is where you can select who all will be served with the document.
This is a field more relevant to non-criminal cases, where the parties may have to pay a fee associated with the filing. Of course, there are no fees associated with filing documents in a criminal case. Accordingly, even though you have to fill out the fields in this category, you will not actually be charged anything.
Under "Payment Account" your law office will likely be the only option, so go ahead and select it.
The "Party Responsible for Fees" will likely also only have one option - the Defendant - so go ahead and select his or her name. Remember you should be able to see on the "Total Filing Fee" that the amount to be charged is $0.00.
The fact that you are the "Filing Attorney" should already be selected.
Finally, you have to deal with the "Filer Type." The only choice you will have is "Not Applicable," so go ahead and select that.
Any time you make a change in any of these categories you should click "Save Changes."
Once you've uploaded everything and clicked all the "Save Changes" buttons, you are ready to either save your envelope as a draft or see a summary of your envelope. If you click "Save as Draft" at the bottom of the page, your envelope will not be filed. If you are ready to file your envelope, click "Summary" at the bottom of the page.
The summary page will give you a review of all the information and documents you have put into your envelope. If you see any errors, click the "Back" button at the bottom of the page. That will allow you to edit anything on the envelope development page. If everything looks good, click "Submit" and give yourself a pat on the back.
Document Submission & Service
Once you hit the "submit" button, your envelope will receive a special number. For the sake of this explanation, we'll call it "Envelope SSS."
At the time you submit a document, you can choose who all will receive service of that document, so you can serve opposing counsel at the same time you submit your envelope to the Clerk.
As soon as you click "submit" you will receive an automatically generated email titled "Filing Submitted for Case ###." If you have served anyone at the time you submitted your document(s), that person will also automatically receive an email titled "Notification of Service for Case ###."
Those emails will contain a link to the document(s) you have just submitted.
Acceptance or Return of the Envelope
Once you click "Submit," your envelope goes into the Clerk's queue. At that point, you are waiting for the Clerk to either accept or return your envelope. Just like in person, at this step the Clerk is simply verifying whether your document(s) meet the basic pleading requirements, ie they are in the proper form, they have the correct cause number, they're signed, etc. As mentioned, two things can happen at this point - the Clerk can either accept or return your envelope.
If the Clerk accepts your envelope, you will automatically receive an email titled "Filing Accepted for Case ###." That email will have a link where you can access a file stamped copy of the document(s) contained in that accepted envelope. That link is only active for 30 days, so you must download and save that file marked copy for your own records within 30 days after you get that email.
If the Clerk returns your envelope, you will receive an email titled "Filing Returned for Envelope SSS." In the email you receive, there will be a "Returned Comments" section where the Clerk will explain why your envelope is being returned. If your envelope is returned your document(s) is not considered filed.
If the Clerk returns your document, anyone you served will receive an automatically generated email titled "Notification of Returned Service for Case ###." That email will have the same explanation as to why the envelope (and document(s) contained therein) were not accepted.
What if you file your document on Due Date but the Clerk returns it After Due Date, meaning you have re-submit your envelope after the deadline. The Clerk will likely still honor your original filing date. But if you need them to count it as filed on Due Date, you clearly need to indicate that request in the "Filing Comments" section of your re-submitted envelope.
Viewing Envelope Status
Depending on your E-Filing Service provider, you can go into your account at any time and see which envelopes you have submitted and served and which are pending, accepted, or returned. You can also see if you have any drafts, meaning you have started an envelope but have not yet submitted it.
Locating Your Case
In your e-filing system, you will see 4 "locations" relevant to Lubbock County:
Lubbock County - County Clerk
Lubbock County - County Clerk - Criminal
Lubbock County - District Clerk
Lubbock County - District Clerk - Criminal
It's fairly self-explanatory, but you need to first select your location based on the case into which you are filing. Civil cases are simply cataloged under "County Clerk" or "District Clerk," whichever is appropriate for your case. Criminal cases are "County Clerk - Criminal" or "District Clerk - Criminal," again depending on the grade of the crime, i.e. misdemeanor and felony respectively.
What About Magistrate Cases?
Documents that need to be filed in magistrate-level cases should not be e-filed. You still need to file these documents over the counter.
Case Number Formats
Normally, Cause Numbers in Lubbock are styled like this: year - ###, ###.
For the sake of e-filing, the cause numbers are the same, you just have to take
out all of the non-numerical symbols, like this: year######.
For example, if you are looking for a case, cause number 2018-123,456
you would search for 2018123456.
The same rules apply if your case has a suffix. Taking the example above, you would search for 2018123456A or 2018123456B.
What if My Case is Not Listed?
It is possible that when you search for your case (using the correct format) you will be advised that "no cases match this filter" (or something to that effect). At that point, you should contact Sammy Smith at the Lubbock County District Clerk. His direct line is 806-775-1577 and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
E-Filing Pre-Trial Motions
You must e-file all of your pre-trial motions. The judges will not send pre-trial motions to the District Clerk any more, so the only way your pre-trial motion is getting filed is if you e-file it.
Multiple Pre-Trial Motions
Many times, you will have several pre-trial motions that you file all at once. When you file multiple pre-trial motions at the same time, in the e-filing system you must submit all those motions in one envelope but as separate lead documents.
Presenting Your Pre-Trial Motions to the District Court
Each of the District Court Judges and County Court at Law Judges has their own preference regarding you bringing them copies of your e-filed motions.
Judge McClendon of the 137th District Court
Judge McClendon prefers you file your motion(s) 48 hours prior to the hearing.
Bring your file-marked copies of your motion(s) with you to any hearings.
Judge Darnell of the 140th District Court
Judge Darnell prefers you file your pre-trial motion(s) one week prior to the hearing.
If you do not have your pre-trial motion(s) filed within 48 hours prior to the hearing, you need to bring file-marked copies of your motion(s) with you to show the Court.
Judge Eichman of the 364th District Court
Judge Eichman prefers you file your motion(s) 48 hours prior to the hearing.
Bring file-marked copies of your motion(s) with you to any hearings.
What About the Proposed Orders?
Proposed orders need to be submitted in a separate envelope (separate from the motions they are meant to accompany).
If you are submitting multiple motions at the same time, you treat the multiple proposed orders the same way you had to treat your multiple motions. In other words, you put all of your proposed orders together into one envelope but as separate lead documents.
Submit your motion first and the accompanying proposed order second. No matter what, use "Proposed Order" as your filing code.
Indictments will still be processed in the same manner.
Plea paperwork and other trial documents will still be generated on paper and processed as previously done.
Documents Filed Ex Parte, In Camera, & Under Seal
Any documents filed ex parte, in camera, or under seal should not be e-filed. These document should be filed over the counter as previously done.
When you submit a proposed order setting a hearing on an expunction case, you need to list the applicant's name on the proposed order to facility the setting with the court coordinator.
Is the Deadline Counted from End of Business or From Midnight?
Midnight. A document is considered filed any time before midnight in the court's time zone on the day of filing. So if you file a document June 1, 2018 at 11:45 pm, that document will be counted as filed June 1, 2018, even though the Clerk will not accept that document until the following business day. If you had a June 1, 2018 deadline, you have met that deadline even if the Clerk does not accept the envelope for several days.
Of course, if there is a statute, rule, or special court order in your case, then that special order will control. So if the judge tells you to file your document by 5:00 pm, you need to file it by 5:00 pm.
When is a Document "Filed"?
An electronically filed document is deemed filed when you hit the submit button on your envelope.
Except, if you submit your envelope on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, it is deemed filed on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. So, if you submit your envelope on Saturday, June 2, 2018, your documents in that envelope will be deemed filed on Monday, June 4, 2018.