January 2016 • Volume 104 • Number 1 • Page 12
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DuPage launches mandatory e-filing
Effective January 1, DuPage County will be the first Illinois circuit court to require electronic filing for all new civil cases and any new filings in existing cases.
Since 2004, lawyers and litigants in the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit in DuPage County have had the option to e-file. On January 1, e-filing becomes mandatory, a move that will ultimately eliminate paper filing. While there may be a learning curve for the uninitiated, proponents expect the change to increase efficiency, be more convenient for litigants, and help ensure that documents are complete when filed.
The new system is available online at www.i2File.net. The court imposes no additional fee for e-filing, but the statutory filing fees still apply. Those can be paid by credit card for a small fee, or law firms can sign up for an automated billing system that automatically charges their account.
Making the transition
Chief Judge Kathryn Creswell says that, based on the Eighteenth Circuit's long experience, e-filing saves "time, labor, and [brings] convenience to the court, the clerk, and the litigants." One obvious advantage of e-filing is that documents filed as late as 11:59 p.m. are considered filed on that date, saving a 4:30 p.m. race to the courthouse. (For why last-minute filing isn't a best practice, see below.)
According to Creswell, DuPage has registered over 2,000 pro se litigants for the county's e-filing system. Although DuPage County has allowed e-filing since 2004, she says that "until you make it mandatory, you can't get everyone to try it."
Attorneys used to walking across the street to file a document may be apprehensive about using the e-filing system. To assuage those fears, the circuit court has held training sessions with the DuPage County Bar Association, and the results have been positive, Creswell said. "Once people try it, they see how easy it is." While confirming that his goal is to "implement mandatory e-filing January 1," DuPage Court Circuit Clerk Chris Kachiroubas says lawyers unfamiliar with the requirement will be given time to make the transition.
Pro se litigants will also be required to e-file. For those without ready access to a computer, the DuPage County Courthouse will provide dedicated terminals for e-filing beginning January 1 with "knowledgeable staff to assist" them, Kachiroubas confirms.
Creswell said the courthouse law library will also include some terminals, noting that a project for 2016 is to upgrade the self-help center in the library. She said the county recently hired a law librarian, who can assist people in need.
Making filings complete
Creswell said that under paper-based systems, litigants can blame incomplete filings on the clerk's office. However, mandatory e-filing means litigants will be responsible if incomplete documents are filed.
After a document is filed it will be reviewed by a clerk's office staffer. If the filing is rejected, staff will place comments in the i2File account, and the lawyer or litigant can correct and resubmit the filing.
A re-submitted filing will get a file date that reflects the resubmission. Those who file at the last minute run the risk they won't have time to address problems. A re-submitted document filed past the due date will not be considered timely filed without an order from the court.
The Administrative Office of Illinois Courts has not published a schedule for rolling out mandatory e-filing in other counties. However, Cook County and 12 others in addition to DuPage have e-filing programs: Clinton, DeKalb, Kendall, Lake, Madison, Marion, McHenry, Montgomery, Moultrie, Sangamon, St. Clair, and Winnebago. Will County is conducting a pilot e-filing program.
Chief Judge Creswell says that while it's "clear to everybody…that the Illinois Supreme Court wants everyone in the state to file electronically," some counties have more challenges than others in rolling out an e-filing program. Cash-strapped jurisdictions struggle to afford the infrastructure required to support e-filing, she says. Nonetheless, Kachiroubas says it's his understanding that several of these counties are considering making the switch to mandatory e-filing.