Service by email coming January 1
[A version of the following article by Chicago writer Maria Kantzavelos will appear in the January Illinois Bar Journal as part of a longer piece about the Illinois Supreme Court's e-filing initiative.]
Effective Jan. 1, attorneys and parties involved in civil cases in circuit courts statewide must include an email address for service of documents on appearances and on all pleadings filed in court. The amendments to Supreme Court Rule 11, announced in October, make the following changes:
Rule 11. Manner of Serving
Papers Documents Other Than Process and Complaint on Parties Not in Default in the Trial and Reviewing Courts
(a) On Whom Made. If a party is represented by an attorney of record, service shall be made upon the attorney. Otherwise service shall be made upon the party.
Papers Documents shall be served as follows:
(6) by transmitting them via e-mail to the designated e-mail address of record for the attorney or party; or
(7) by transmission through a service provider that provides an electronic in-box for those parties registered to use the service.
(d) E-Mail Address. A party or an attorney must include on the appearance and on all pleadings filed in court an e-mail address for service of documents.
In addition to striking the word “papers” and replacing it with “documents,” the amended rule permits litigants to serve those documents using the designated email address of record for the attorney or party. And – importantly – it requires lawyers to receive documents served by email as valid service.
The rule amendment expressly allows transmission through a service that "provides an electronic in-box" for those registered to use it, a change that should help avoid the file-size limits and other problems inherent in sending email with large attachments.
But electronic documents come in countless formats – does the new rule mean lawyers must acquire software for every conceivable format so they can convert each document to a readable form? “I think good manners solves this problem,” said Chicago lawyer Bruce R. Pfaff, chair of the Supreme Court’s Special E-Business Committee. “If someone sends a lawyer material in a format that cannot be downloaded, a simple request to provide it in another format should solve the problem.
“If it truly cannot be converted to a basic format like PDF, you then have a special problem,” he said. “When lawyers have special problems that cannot be resolved, they need to go to court. I suspect the instances will be rare and no more so than in present litigation.”
For lawyers who wonder how they will verify receipt of service, Pfaff said, “You don’t. When you serve by regular mail, you don’t ‘verify receipt of service’ and you don’t need to do it when serving by email. If service is challenged at a hearing, the sender may wish to print the sent email showing the correct e-address or verify that she hasn’t received a bounce back.”
E-business committee member Trent Bush of Sterling said the email service will be “convenient for both sides” in a lawsuit. “Traditionally, I would have to mail a copy of everything I file with the court to opposing counsel and parties,” Bush said. “Now you can do that electronically, rather than sticking it in the mail.
“People have accepted communicating by email as…appropriate, economical, and convenient….I think that the ability to serve parties by email will be welcomed by Illinois attorneys,” he said.
Before the rule change, Bush said, a lawyer walking into the office on a Monday morning might discover that the pleading sent by an opposing counsel on the previous Friday had been sitting at the fax machine all weekend, or is in the day’s bundle of snail mail.
With the popularity of smart phones and the amended rule allowing documents to be served via email, Bush said, “You’re going to know that that pleading is out there, rather than maybe catching up with it a few days later.…It will allow attorneys to be a little more on top of their cases.”