The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act or UELMA has been adopted in Texas! On Friday, May 25, 2019, Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 402 into law, adding Texas to the list of 21 other states that have officially committed to the preservation and authentication of public legal information. Further, by adopting UELMA, Texas has made clear its intention to provide trustworthy, reliable access to online legal content that is permanently available in unaltered form and offered to the public free of charge whenever possible.
Navigating the legislative process over several Congressional sessions to finally secure the necessary votes and the signature of Gov. Abbott was long and difficult, and Texans, especially those who championed UELMA throughout this process, deserve a chance to celebrate. Passage of UELMA in Texas would not have been possible without the determination and perseverance of government relations advocates, especially the indefatigable Barbara Bintliff, Director of the Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, who began her UELMA journey nearly 10 years ago when the Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act, as it was originally called, was drafted at the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
There are many next steps to work out in the implementation of UELMA in Texas — the law does not take effect until September 1, 2019 — but once fully realized, this legislation will introduce changes to the ways we all access legal information, the ease with which we find that information, and the confidence we have in knowing that the information is official, reliable, and authentic. This is definitely a win for the people of Texas and for those who champion open and equal access to justice for all.