July 2011Volume 99Number 7Page 330

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Vendor-neutral citation comes to Illinois

Beginning July 1, the official version of Illinois opinions will be published publicly on the court's website, not privately in bound volumes.

Ill 2d will never progress to Ill 3d, nor will Ill App 4th ever see the light of day.

From now on, the official texts of the opinions of the Illinois Appellate and Supreme Courts will reside in the cloud, not on paper.

On May 31, 2011, the Illinois Supreme Court announced that it will no longer contract for the publication of its opinions and those of the Illinois Appellate Court in the bound volumes of the Illinois Official Reports. Instead, the official text of those opinions will reside on the supreme court's website, equally accessible to lawyers, judges, and the general public, Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride said in the court's press release.

Cites to NE2d, Ill Dec still optional

To implement its decision, the court amended Rule 6, governing case citations, and added new paragraph (h), Public-Domain Case Designators, to Rule 23. On the same day, it also entered an administrative order, MR No 10343, regarding assignment of public-domain case designators and internal paragraphing of opinions. Both rule amendments are effective July 1, 2011.

As amended, SCR 6 now provides that citation of Illinois cases filed before July 1, 2011, and published in the Illinois Official Reports shall be to the Official Reports, though citations to West Publishing's North Eastern Reporter and/or Illinois Decisions may be added. For cases filed on or after July 1, 2011, and for any case not published in the Illinois Official Reports before then and for which a public-domain citation has been assigned, the public-domain citation shall be given. Additionally, where appropriate, pinpoint citations to paragraph numbers are to be given.

Citations to the North Eastern Reporter and/or Illinois Decisions continue to be optional. When citing the decisions of other jurisdictions that have also ­adopted a public-domain citation system, that jurisdiction's public-domain citation is to be given along with pinpoint citations to paragraph numbers, where appropriate. As when citing Illinois decisions, parallel citations to other case reporters shall be optional. Correspondingly SCR 23(h) now provides that opinions or orders entered under its provisions must be assigned public-domain case designators and internal paragraph numbers as the court's accompanying administrative order sets forth.

What the new format looks like

The court's administrative order and the official comment to SCR 6 prescribe the format for case citations. The districts of the Illinois Appellate Court are to assign public-domain case designators to opinions filed on or after July 1, 2011.

Each designator will be unique and include the year of decision, the court abbreviation, and an identifier composed of the final six digits of the docket number. In the case of a consolidated appeal, the identifier will be the final six digits of the initial docket number, with no hyphen.

As an example, a case from the first district of the Illinois Appellate Court would be cited as People v Doe, 2011 IL App (1st) 101234. A case from the Illinois Supreme Court would be cited as People v Doe, 2011 IL 102345.

The official comment to SCR 6 also provides for the possibility of a subsequent opinion being filed under the same docket number, as when a matter has been reconsidered after remand. In that event, the reviewing court is to append a sequential capital letter to the case's unique identifier number, even where the year of the citation is different. An example of such a citation is People v Doe, 2012 IL App (1st) 101234-B.

Orders filed under SCR 23 will have the letter "U" appended to their identifier numbers. An example of this citation is People v Roe, 2011 IL App (5th) 101237-U.

Reviewing courts will also number the paragraphs of their opinions or orders. An example of a pinpoint citation to a paragraph of an opinion is People v Doe, 2011 IL App (1st) 101234, ¶21-23. The office of the Reporter of Decisions will add internal paragraph numbers and public-domain designator numbers to opinions filed before July 1, 2011, but not released for publication until after then.

Lawyers have questions

With the court's order, Illinois joins about a dozen other states who use public-domain citation systems. In its press release, the court said the change is part of the court's movement to integrate electronic technology toward achieving greater court transparency and efficiency. The court also noted that its new policy will save tax dollars.

Lawyers greeted the court's announcement with questions about its implementation. Might the court consider making its opinions available in formats in addition to PDF, such as HTML or Word, one blogger wondered at www.symphora.com/?p=2484? Other lawyers wondered whether reviewing courts will reject briefs that are not in compliance with the new rules.

Some also expressed frustration with the court's search engine and the hope that the court's action may presage a move to enhance it. A court spokesman noted, however, that the court's website is hosted on the infrastructure of the Department of Central Management Services of the State of Illinois, so that the court does not have control over that function.

To read comments of other ISBA members about the public domain citation system and add your own, navigate to http://www.isba.org/discussions and log in.

Helen W. Gunnarsson is a lawyer and writer in Highland Park. She can be reached at <helengunnar@gmail.com>

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