The Texas appellate court websites suffered a ransomware attack on May 8, 2020. To minimize the damage, the Office of Court Administration immediately took the websites and the TAMES system offline.
This was a major event for both courts and practitioners. With the sites down, parties with pending appellate matters could not view online dockets, download records, or receive opinions or orders through the usual channels.
OCA established a temporary site (txcourts.net) that included pages where appellate-court orders and opinions could be published. And the Texas Supreme Court moved quickly to establish other workarounds. Among other things, the Court relied on Twitter and re:SearchTX to keep parties informed and keep cases moving.
Fortunately, the courts’ data was safely backed up, and the sites are now being restored. The e-filing system was not affected, so parties never lost the ability to submit filings through eFileTexas.gov.
Still, work in the 14 intermediate appellate courts has been substantially disrupted. Though e-filing submissions have remained possible, the appellate courts could not process filings as usual. A party with a briefing deadline could submit the brief or file for an extension, but the court could not receive or view it. Despite OCA’s and the Supreme Court’s efforts to mitigate the effect of losing online access to the appellate courts, litigants’ stress levels increased as the days passed and it became clear no immediate solution would be forthcoming.
Since May 19, several appellate courts (the First, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth Courts of Appeals) have issued blanket orders extending briefing deadlines to provide some relief from the uncertainty resulting from the ransomware attack. With a few exceptions, these blanket orders extend deadlines for filing briefs until June 30, 2020. The extensions apply whether or not a party has filed a formal motion.
Additional appellate courts may be following suit. I will update this post to include links to any new blanket orders as they come to my attention.
Meanwhile, litigants should not assume their deadlines will be extended automatically. If you have a case before one of the courts not listed above, check txcourts.net or the court’s txcourts.gov page. If still in doubt, call the clerk’s office to be sure.