83(R) - 2013
Relating to the establishment of the statewide electronic filing system fund and to certain court fees and court costs to fund the account.
The bill would amend the Government Code, Chapter 51 to create a $20 filing fee for civil cases at the probate, county, district and appellate courts and the Supreme Court. The bill would create a $10 filing fee for civil cases at the justice courts. The bill would also create a $5 court cost for criminal convictions from the county and district courts. The bill would permit a judge to waive these fees if the individual is indigent. The bill would require the counties to remit the entire fee to the state and require the Comptroller of Public Accounts to deposit the fees to a Statewide Electronic Filing Fund as an account within the General Revenue Fund that can be appropriated to the Office of Court Administration for an electronic filing system.
This bill would amend the Government Code, Chapter 72 to permit an appellate court or local government that uses the electronic filing system to charge up to $2 for each electronic transaction for cost recovery. The bill would also permit these entities to accept electronic payment methods, including payments made with credit and debit cards. The bill sets a September 2019 expiration date for the $2 fee and requires OCA to file a report with certain legislative members in 2018 on the number of local governments collecting the fee and the necessity of continuing it.
Since revenue deposited into the new account consists of fees on civil cases, the Comptroller of Public Accounts may construe use of balances in the account for non-court related purposes as a potential violation of the open courts provision of the Texas Constitution (Art. I, Sec. 13).
The bill would do one or more of the following: create or recreate a dedicated account in the General Revenue Fund, create or recreate a special or trust fund either with or outside the Treasury, or create a dedicated revenue source. The fund, account, or revenue dedication included in this bill would be subject to funds consolidation review by the current Legislature.
The criminal court cost created by the bill applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of the bill. The bill applies only to a fee made payable on or after September 1, 2013. The bill would take effect September 1, 2013.
The Comptroller of Public Accounts (CPA) indicated a state revenue gain to General Revenue-Dedicated funds from the civil and criminal fees created by the bill of $17.7 million per fiscal year. The agency uses criminal convictions and civil case statistics from the Office of Court Administration as the basis of its estimate.
Summary: Recently, the Supreme Court of Texas mandated electronic filing in civil cases by attorneys. The implementation schedule is based on county population. Currently, a fee is charged each time an attorney electronically files any documents related to civil cases. HB 2302 seeks to further offset the cost of implementing electronic filing.
- This bill establishes the statewide electronic filing system account in the general revenue fund and limits the use of this account.
- This bill requires a $20 fee on filing of any civil action, $10 filing fee for a justice court, and $5 fee on conviction of any criminal offense.
- This bill eliminates the per document fee system.
- This bill allows a local government or appellate court to charge a $2 fee for each electronic filing until September 1, 2019.
- This bill allows the fees to be waived if the individual is indigent
Analysis: Since the Texas Supreme Court created an unfunded mandate by requiring an electronic filing system for civil cases to be implemented starting in January 2014, the Legislature must fund the mandate. Under the current e-file system, fees are paid by litigants on a per-document basis to cover the costs of the electronic filing system. HB 2302 replaces this fee system by implementing a new fee system to be used with a new e-file system. Under this new system, litigants will be charged on a per-transaction basis. This maintains the status quo by meeting the Supreme Court mandate, it simply takes a different approach in a revenue neutral manner.