Illinois Supreme Court makes electronic record accessible in DuPage, Ogle appellate cases
Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride and the Illinois Supreme Court announced Wednesday another step forward in doing court business through electronic means.
The Court approved a pilot project in the Second Judicial District Appellate Court that will allow attorneys, parties and appellate justices to electronically view, access and work from the official record of cases on appeal from DuPage and Ogle counties. However, the paper record will continue to be the official record on appeal pursuant to Supreme Court rule and will be available to parties who would rather use a paper record.
“It sounds like a small step but this should prove to be a big benefit for both attorneys and justices working on appeals,” said Chief Justice Kilbride. “With an electronic record accessible to those involved in appeals, attorneys and justices can view the record and work contemporaneously on a case.
“It is another step forward in developing and implementing e-business applications in the court system with an eye toward making it friendly, efficient and cost-effective.”
The Second District pilot project follows in the wake of an initiative announced in June by the Chief Justice and the Court to move Illinois courts forward in the electronic age with the formation of a special Supreme Court committee to propose new ways of doing court business to achieve efficiency and economy in the court system.
The pilot project is the fruit of DuPage County’s lead in e-filing and the systems developed to implement that goal. DuPage was the first pilot project selected for e-filing in Illinois in 2005 and currently almost 90 percent of all civil filings in the county are made electronically, said Appellate Justice Ann Jorgensen, formerly Chief Circuit Judge in DuPage County and now presiding justice of the 2nd District Appellate Court.
“If you pardon the expression, this is the cat’s meow,” said Appellate Justice Jorgenson of compiling an electronic record on appeal. “One of the most beneficial aspects of this new pilot project will be that all three justices involved in an appeal will have simultaneous access to the record. The same benefit accrues to the attorneys working on the case.
“It will not only provide economy and improve efficiency in appeals, but once fully implemented in the Second District and, hopefully, in all the Judicial Districts in Illinois, it will cut down on the immense costs of transporting and storing voluminous court records.”
The accessible electronic record will include transcripts of the trial and associated hearings, motions, other pleadings and documents. It will exclude exhibits such as photos and physical evidence such as weapons, clothing and the like.
Currently, once a notice of appeal is filed, the official record of the case is physically transported to the attorney of record on one side of the case. When that attorney concludes the filing of the necessary motions and brief, the record is then physically transported to the attorney on the other side of the case. If additional briefs are required, the record is transported back and forth between the attorneys. After the case is argued in the Appellate Court, the record resides with the Appellate Justice assigned to write the opinion. The two other justices hearing the case may request the record as well, but it must be physically transported from the justice in possession to the justice who requests possession.
The pilot project makes the physical transfer of the record unnecessary, removes the cost of repeatedly transporting the record back and forth from the 2nd District Clerk’s office in Elgin and provides a stream of efficiency in preparing and working appeals that benefits not only the lawyers and the court, but the clients being served.
Under the pilot project, one official record pursuant to Supreme Court rules will remain but a mirror record will be produced electronically with identical pagination.
Attorneys who file appearances in the case will receive a password providing access to the record, as will all the justices hearing the case. Depending on the computer programs available to the attorneys and the justices, they can word search the record by word or phrase, make notes to the record and print it or portions of it.
“The bottom line is that this is really going to expedite the process from the filing of a Notice of Appeal to the time a decision is rendered and the mandate issues,” said Robert J. Mangan, clerk of the Second District Appellate Court. “It is going to mean more cost efficiency for the client, allow the lawyers to work more effectively and the Court to operate more efficiently.”
The Second Judicial District was chosen for the appellate pilot project because of the success of e-filing in DuPage County under the direction of several chief circuit judges and Circuit Clerk Chris Kachiroubas. When former Chief Circuit Judge Jorgensen was selected Presiding Judge of the 2nd District Appellate Court she and Kachiroubas began formulating a plan for the electronic access of appellate records, informed Supreme Court Justice Robert R. Thomas of the Second District who brought the plan to the Chief Justice and the Court for approval as a pilot project.
“We have been working on this for months,” said Mr. Kachiroubas. “We’re using a web-based program that will be the train tracks to drive information from the Circuit clerk’s office to the Appellate clerk, who will then control access from his office to the attorneys, the parties and the justices. We wanted to create a system that is so simple that smaller counties would be able to use it, and that’s why Ogle County is included in the pilot project.”
The 2nd District handles about 1,300 appeals each year. In 2010, the number originating in DuPage County was 355. Ogle County had 14 appeals in 2010.
“It is a high honor to have been selected and approved to work closely with the 2nd District Appellate Court to develop this highly interactive and progressive software that will ultimately save thousands of tax dollars in Ogle county and throughout the state of Illinois,” said Ogle County Court Clerk Ron McDermott. “We anticipate a smooth implementation process by the target date of October 1.”