4/9/10

Is a Texas Court's Requirement to File Exclusively Through LexisNexis a RICO Violation?

Texas resident Karen McPeters has brought a class action lawsuit against Montgomery County Judge Fredrick E. Edwards, Montgomery County Court Clerk Barbara Gladden Adamick, and LexisNexis claiming that requiring her to exclusively file documents through LexisNexis' FileandServe product is a violation of US and Texas laws, and that the county and LexisNexis are engaged in RICO violations with their exclusive agreement.  McPeters, through her San Antonio attorney, Robert L. Mays, Jr., has filed the class action suit in the US District Court Southern District of Texas in Houston (Civil Action No. 4:10-CV-1103).

McPeters' claim states that Court Clerk Adamick requires all of Judge Edwards civil cases to go through LexisNexis FileandServe, and will stamp any documents filed directly with the Court Clerks office with a "VOID" stamp and return the documents unfiled.  In her complaint, McPeters states that Adamick is relying upon an unsigned order from Judge Edwards from February 10, 2003, and there "is no standing order, signed by all of the District Judges in Montgomery County, establishing e-filing requirements for one, or more, of the courts of Montgomery County."  According to the 2003 Judge Edwards order, only civil litigants are required to file through FileandServe and that criminal defendants are not required to use FileandServe.  Judge Edwards also excluded the following from the same requirement:

  • The State of Texas
  • Child Protective Services
  • Adoption Agencies, and
  • New divorce and annulment cases that are resolved within 90 days.
McPeters claims that the agreement between the courts and LexisNexis is a RICO violation through what she calls the "Plan" between the court and LexisNexis that requires her and other litigants "to pay filing fees, service charges and taxes that are no authorized by statute, and that exceed the amounts required by statute." She believes that the "Plan" also financially benefits the county and that Judge Edwards and Court Clerk Adamick have gone beyond their official powers to require electronic filing and refusing to accept or file any documents presented directly to the Court Clerk's office.  
The claim goes on to add that the exclusive agreement violates McPeters' and other litigants' due process rights, equal protection under the US Constitution as well as the open courts and due course of law rights under the Texas Constitution.  McPeters is seeking exemplary damages and wants the County enjoined from requiring that the court documents be filed exclusively through FileandServe.
It is always interesting when courts get into these agreements with private vendors where the court gives the vendor the exclusive rights to something like electronic filing. Yes, it does make things convenient for many of us who file regularly with the court, but what is convenient for some may not be for all litigants.  Requiring someone to only use a private vendor to file court documents, while at the same time refusing to accept the physical documents through the Court Clerk's office seems like one of those situations where a Draconian Rule overrode common sense. It will be interesting to see how this suit takes shape over the next few months and what affect it will have over other courts that have exclusive contracts with vendors for e-filing, and if they can force everyone to use (and pay) that vendor while the court clerk refuses to accept any documents filed directly with his or her office. 
Thoughts??


Bookmark and Share

4 comments:

Toby Brown said...

It seems to me any mandatory fee associated with court filings - is by definition a filing fee. So I would agree with the complaint.

Walks like a duck, quacks like a duck ... must be a duck.

Lee Keller King said...

Hmmm. Interesting idea.

Could a court order litigants to use a specific copy shop? Or a specific notary public for verifications?

The whole seems a bit odd to me. Is it a RICO violation? Maybe not, but it doesn't pass the smell test, to me.

Donna said...

Is there a constitutional problem -- denial of due process? The litigant is denied access to the courthouse by a private company with the help of the court clerk.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree that any fees associated with filing documents with the courts are filing fees. Should courts be allowed to require a litigant to file only with a specific e-file service? I think not. Is this barring access to courts, I think so. Are the fees outrageous? Definitely!

 

© 2014, All Rights Reserved.